New York Giants: The Defending Champions Are Better Than Last Year

Adam Waksman@@AdamWaksmanCorrespondent IIIOctober 22, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 21:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants drops back to pass against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

The New York Giants always feel like underdogs. It's their thing.

As Eli Manning described it:

[We're] taking kind of the attitude that we still have something to prove. They called it a fluke and we got hot at the right time, but we were still not a great team. That should be the mindset [now]. We have to be more consistent. We have to be better throughout the whole season and not have these streaks of good play and bad play.

There is truth to the claims that the Giants had a Cinderella run last year. They were far from the best team in the NFL and were full of holes, especially on defense. As a result, they remain somewhat underdogs this year, and they have been placed fairly low in several power rankings.

That is why it's safe to say that the Giants are better this year than they were last year. Despite injuries at cornerback, their defense is playing well enough when it needs to, and the offense is better as a whole.

The level of play on both sides of the ball was higher against the San Francisco 49ers than it was at any point last season.

Even Eli Manning is better. Last year, he ranked sixth among NFL quarterbacks and too often needed luck to finish out games. This year, he ranks third so far and is looking more like a Pro Bowler than ever.

"He's like Joe Montana right now," said Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield.

"We have the best quarterback in the league," claimed Giants linebacker Michael Boley.

Manning led the Giants on go-ahead touchdown drives twice in the fourth quarter on Sunday, sandwiching an impressive touchdown drive by Robert Griffin III.

Do not think Sunday's game was a letdown due to the fact that the opponents were the 3-4 Washington Redskins. The Redskins have played admirable football this year and still have a positive differential.

The Giants—who normally start slowly—are 5-2 and are playing better than they did at any point in the 2011 season. That does not guarantee a second straight Super Bowl—far from it.

It does mean that the Giants are legitimate contenders in the NFC and one of the best teams in the NFL.


Adam Waksman is a featured columnist for the Bleacher Report New York Jets community. Be sure to follow Adam on Twitter to receive updates right away.