The New York Giants have reached midseason at 6-2. But that should be no surprise when you consider that they've won at least five of their first eight games in each of Tom Coughlin's nine seasons as head coach.
The question is whether they can continue to win at this rate, because historically they've been a below-average team during the second half of the year.
Here's a look at where the Giants stand with 50 percent of the regular season in the books.
What They Should be Thinking
We have officially recovered from that ugly start against the Cowboys and an early 0-2 hole within the division. We only have two more divisional games this year and if we win them, we're pretty much guaranteed to be NFC East champions again.
In fact, we'll probably win the division regardless. But we have struggled down the stretch quite often during the Coughlin era, so we aren't messing around here.
Besides, there are some clues that things still aren't quite right with us. Our defensive backfield struggled when it gave up 7.5 yards per pass attempt last year, but that number has skyrocketed to 8.3 this season. That has to do with injuries and a general lack of production in the secondary, but our pass rush hasn't been quite the same either. It hasn't been masking the deficiencies in pass coverage this year.
Eli Manning's completion percentage is up overall, but he's actually been just as inconsistent as in years past. He's completed fewer than 54 percent of his passes in two of the last three weeks and has more interceptions than touchdowns during that span.
But Manning's still making plays when we need them most and has again proven to be the NFL's most clutch quarterback. That might be all that matters. And the fact that he's being supported this year by a running game that's averaging 4.4 yards per rush (way up from 3.5 last season) and an offensive line that is actually doing a respectable job pass- and run-blocking should be key down the stretch.
We have 'em where we want 'em and can grab the top seed in the NFC. But we won't stress if that doesn't happen. We're sort of used to winning in January, regardless of where we're seeded.
Most Valuable Player: Eli Manning
The numbers really don't stand out until you get to the fourth quarter, when Manning is almost always lights out. He's already led three fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives thus far in 2012.
Defensive Player of the Half-Year: Jason Pierre-Paul
I have no idea where the Giants would be without Pierre-Paul, but it certainly wouldn't be 6-2. Without his pick-six, they probably would have lost to the Cowboys this past week. JPP's sack numbers have actually dropped off, but he's still making impact plays at an All-Pro-worthy rate.
Most Improved Offensive Player: Will Beatty
Looks like Manning has a left tackle for years to come. Beatty, who has delivered only a single negative performance in eight games, according to Pro Football Focus, should be neck-and-neck with Joe Staley for an All-Pro nod in his first healthy season as a starter.
Most Improved Defensive Player: Prince Amukamara
Guess his struggles last year had to do with that injury and/or the lockout, because Amukamara has emerged in his second season as the best and most consistent defensive back on this team. With Corey Webster struggling and injuries decimating the rest of the secondary, Prince has been simply shutting guys down. He's yet to give up a touchdown this year.
Offensive Rookie of the Half-Year: Rueben Randle
Gets the edge by default over David Wilson, but neither has played enough offensive snaps to really make a difference. Still, Randle has two 68-plus-yard games, which gives him an obvious edge.
Defensive Rookie of the Half-Year: Will Hill
Before being suspended for four games for using Adderall without clearing it with the league, Hill was emerging as a very reliable nickel cover guy for the Giants. With fellow rookie Jayron Hosley really beginning to struggle, expect Hill to get a ton of reps in slot coverage and elsewhere as soon as he returns.
Most Disappointing Player: Osi Umenyiora
It'd be easy to go with Webster or Chase Blackburn or even Justin Tuck, but considering how well Umenyiora played in limited opportunities last season, his problems this year are baffling. He has just three sacks on 334 snaps, according to PFF. He had nine on only 373 in 2011. Tuck's been embarrassingly ineffective, too, but I had higher expectations for Umenyiora.
Projecting the Final Eight
The way I see it, the Giants finish 12-4. If that finale against Philadelphia doesn't matter, I can see them losing it. But I still can't see them winning fewer than 10 or 11 games. That should be enough for a home playoff game and maybe even a bye, but I'm not sure they will catch the Falcons for the No. 1 seed.
And when all's said and done in early February, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Tom Coughlin's team celebrating in confetti again.
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