The last team in the NFL that you'd expect to panic is the New York Giants, so fans of a team that has been dominant in December and January in recent seasons aren't worried about Tom Coughlin and his boys.
But this isn't 2007 or 2011, and there's no guarantee history will repeat itself in 2012. So without placing too much emphasis on the past, here's our latest state-of-the-union-style look at the G-men...
What They Should Be Thinking
Glass Half Empty
We've now lost three of four games and have just a sweaty grip on the NFC East lead with the schedule and the tiebreakers not in our favor. While we've been here before and ended up in good shape, there's still a lot to be concerned about.
After a one-game recovery, our trademark pass rush wasn't able to sack Robert Griffin III once. In fact, it was the first time in RG3's young career that he wasn't taken down even once behind the line of scrimmage. We hit him as a result of the rush only twice and had only 10 hurries.
Plus, our passing game continues to look off, especially when it matters most. We've earned a reputation for coming up big in big moments, but our pass protection had trouble with blitzers like DeAngelo Hall and Rob Jackson in the fourth quarter Monday night, and as a result Eli Manning was only able to complete one pass on six dropbacks in the final frame (and that was a four-yard checkdown to Ahmad Bradshaw on 3rd-and-20).
Of course, we're not always going to come up big in the fourth quarter and clutch moments, in general, but that wasn't the first time we failed to rise to the occasion this year. It's especially difficult to do that when you're the defending champion and every opponent knows what to expect, which has us wondering if this season will end just the way it did in 2008, when we faded late in an attempt to repeat.
Glass Half Full
We've never been in cruise control in December before, and yet we've still won 40 percent of the last five Super Bowls. No reason to panic after three losses in four games, because at this point last year we had lost four in a row, and we still ended up rising to the occasion late and winning it all.
This year, we're healthier than we were on those previous late-season runs.
Of course we wish we had beaten the Redskins, but we actually played very well in a prime-time road game against a hot team. Manning was lights out on third down, we committed zero turnovers and we probably lost only because of bad field position and penalties. Considering that those aren't problems that usually plague us, that's an indication this was an aberration. And we only lost by a single point.
Plus, the defense held the mighty 'Skins offense to only 17 points despite only registering one takeaway. And it could have been much better than that had they not scored on a lucky break after a Griffin fumble in the red zone.
Since the bye, Green Bay and Washington—led by MVP-caliber quarterbacks—have averaged just 13.5 points per game against us.
We have the experience and the talent and we've yet to peak. If it happens again late, we'll have a very legitimate chance to make it three Super Bowls in six seasons. The key is to stay desperate.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (offense): Martellus Bennett
Bennett did have a drop against the Redskins, but he caught five of the six other passes on which he was targeted and was probably Manning's most reliable weapon. This has been by far the best year of his career, and he has a chance to start building some momentum now.
Stock Rising (defense): Michael Boley
It's been an off year for the linebacker, but he was on his game in Washington, recording a pair of stops and laying a hard, legal lick on Griffin. Pro Football Focus rated it as his best performance season Week 1.
Stock Dropping (offense): David Baas
It wasn't a great night for the offensive line, especially in big moments. Nobody gave up a sack, but Baas surrendered a season-high five pressures up the middle. He continues to be a model of inconsistency.
Stock Dropping (defense): Linval Joseph
He hasn't really been noticeable after a fast start to the season, and he played his worst game of the season against the Redskins. Alfred Morris was great on runs up the gut, with Joseph and Chris Canty failing to make plays.
Oh, and Joseph had zero pressures for the first time all season, per Pro Football Focus.
At this point, I really think it's about a 50/50 shot we win this division, but I think that's the way this team likes things. Even if we can't win in Atlanta or Baltimore and finish 9-7, we'll have a chance at the playoffs (and don't forget about the wild card).
I'm not willing to bet against the Giants at this point, but I'm still worried about our chances of repeating. The final four weeks are going to be wild.
View last week's report here
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