Progress reports are less fun when teams aren't making progress. That's been an NFC East problem lately, and it's hit the New York Giants as hard as anybody in the division (except maybe Philadelphia).
The G-men have not played what I would consider to be a good game since they beat San Francisco in Week 6, causing everyone to wonder if the post-Super Bowl hangover is just hitting them a little later than usual this year (which was actually the case back in 2008, when they started 11-1 and then went one-and-done in the playoffs).
Here's a look at the state of the Giants as the defending champs enter their bye week.
What They Should Be Thinking
Yes, we always struggle in November, but we don't always win the Super Bowl. Just because we've recovered from these second-half dips twice in the last five years doesn't mean we'll do so this year. In fact, the odds are still out of our favor.
We're not panicking as much as usual because of our history of recovering and because we're mentally tough enough to get through this, but Eli Manning hasn't been this bad for this long in quite some time and the pass rush is no longer compensating for what's ailing us elsewhere. That's concerning.
What does it say about us that we've been winning turnover battles all season and have one of the best turnover ratios in the league, and yet we're 6-4? If those numbers begin to even out, which they did in Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, we could be in big trouble.
To boot, the Dallas Cowboys are putting the pressure on in the division. After our bye week, we draw the powerful Green Bay Packers in prime time. There's a very good chance that if we don't win that game, we'll lose sole control of the top spot in the division, with Dallas actually holding the tiebreaker over us.
What's also concerning is that the guys who we relied on down the stretch last year are letting us down lately. Corey Webster continues to get beat, Justin Tuck has been nowhere to be seen, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have lacked consistency and even Jason Pierre-Paul hasn't been quite as effective after a hot start to the season. With Manning not on his game and those guys delivering lame performances, we're nothing more than an average team.
Look, we went 1-3 last November and were dancing in confetti in early February, so we're chilling out. Our bye came late, which factored in here. We've been a little tired lately, after a short offseason filled with post-Super Bowl shenanigans. Now, we've got two weeks to let our fantastic head coach work his magic on us both mentally and physically. We'll be ready to send a message at home against Green Bay before making another strong run to finish the season.
Remember: We play our best when they're doubting us. We even experienced that earlier in the year when we creamed the 49ers after a pair of less-than-stellar performances turned us into clear underdogs for that matchup. We're in those shoes again now, and it should benefit us well.
Those key cogs who've been struggling are too good to not fight back and become dominant, or at least effective again. In the meantime, it's encouraging that Chase Blackburn's back, Keith Rivers is returning, Osi Umenyiora's playing better, and Nicks is showing glimpses of his former self. And while Ahmad Bradshaw's health situation is less than ideal, Andre Brown proved with a superb performance against the Bengals that he might be able to carry the load.
The point is that we're deep, and we're well-coached, and now we have time to dial up a game plan for the final six weeks.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (offense): Andre Brown
He had 94 yards on only 12 touches against the tough Bengals Sunday, giving hope to those who believed that more injuries to the banged-up Ahmad Bradshaw would cost this offense dearly. If need be, this guy is capable of carrying the load. The Giants couldn't say that about Brandon Jacobs last year.
Stock Rising (defense): Chase Blackburn
With two stops, four tackles and a 3.3 Pro Football Focus rating, Blackburn returned from injury to deliver what was probably the best performance he's had all season in Cincinnati. He was a big reason why the Bengals couldn't get much going on the ground against a run D that was embarrassed by Isaac Redman one week earlier.
Stock Dropping (offense): Victor Cruz
I know the coverage was good, but that Cruz was able to catch only three passes for 26 yards against the Bengals is close to unacceptable if this team wants to win consistently. Nicks needs Cruz, and Cruz needs Nicks. Nicks played OK in Cincy, but Cruz failed to beat the coverage all afternoon.
Stock Dropping (defense): Jason Pierre-Paul
He had only one hurry on 50 snaps against the Bengals, per PFF. Teams are accounting for him more than ever, and he's not getting a ton of support, but elite pass rushers fight through such obstacles and find a way to get to the quarterback. The Giants need more from JPP.
Two of their final six games come against first-place teams, with a third against the 6-3 Packers also looming. Washington, New Orleans and Philadelphia don't seem as daunting on paper, but the Giants haven't outplayed the Redskins since 2010 and lost to the Eagles earlier this season. Throw in that the rejuvenated Saints have won back-to-back games and will be hungry and there isn't a gimme remaining on the schedule.
But the Giants are aware of that, and they've proven to be quite skilled at beating very good opponents. With the bye week coming at a perfect time, they should be re-energized and ready to make a statement during the final six weeks. I still think the NFC East will belong to them come Dec. 30.
View last week's report here
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