New York Giants: Andre Brown Is the Key to a Division Title

Travis WakemanCorrespondent IINovember 24, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 10:  Andre Brown #35 of the New York Giants carries the ball as Charles Woodson #24 of the Oakland Raiders defends at MetLife Stadium on November 10, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The New York Giants defeated the Oakland Raiders 24-20.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

After a shocking 0-6 start to the season, winning the NFC East was probably not on the minds of most New York Giants fans.

But following a four-game winning streak coupled with the inconsistent play of the rest of the division, suddenly it seems to be a possibility again.

The Giants have defeated Minnesota, Philadelphia, Oakland and Green Bay in succession and face a pivotal game with the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) on Sunday.

A win would draw them within one game of the Eagles, the current division leader.

The Giants' 2013 season couldn't have gotten off to a worse start, but their recent play has provided a glimmer of hope.

And as any fan of the team knows, all you have to do is make the playoffs in order to make something special happen.

So what has been so different for this team?

Quite simply, the fact that they have been able to establish a legitimate running game is making the entire team play better football.

After sitting out the first eight weeks of the season due to injury, Andre Brown returned in Week 10 against the Oakland Raiders and played the best game this season by a Giants running back—by far.

Brown carried the ball 30 times for 115 yards. The following week against Green Bay, he gained 66 yards on 18 carries.

During the first five games of the season, the Giants didn't have a running back go over 55 yards rushing in any game.

On top of that, they averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in those games, forcing the team to stray from their game plan.

Eli Manning began to play erratically, trying to make plays happen with the running game failing. Instead, he turned the ball over left and right.

New York Giants 2013 Season
GamesRecordRush Yards Per GameYards Per CarryComp. PercentageTurnovers
First 6 Games0-667.83.653.723
Last 4 Games4-096.22.962.96
NFL Statistics

But not only were the running backs on the roster not getting the job done on the ground, they were failing their quarterback by not protecting him and dropping passes as well.

In Week 1, the Giants trailed Dallas 29-24 late in the fourth quarter. Manning tried to hit Da'Rel Scott out of the backfield, but the ball went off his hand and into the hands of Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.

The look of frustration on Manning's face would be one Giants fans would see a lot more of during the first six weeks of the season.

It looked like the Giants would be in line for a very high draft pick next year, but they have managed to turn things around.

Now that they have a balanced offensive attack, they could easily be the best team in the NFC East.

Brown is getting just 3.8 yards per carry, but that's an improvement over what the team had before him. He has shown he can stay on the field and carry a full workload, and he has 13 runs that have translated into a first down.

When he is on the field, the Giants seem like a different team and Manning seems like a different, more confident quarterback than the one we saw in the first half of the year.

The Giants will still give David Wilson every chance to be their running back of the future, but if they are to go anywhere this year, it will be done on the legs of Brown.

Injuries have plagued Brown the last two seasons, and the Giants will have to hope he can stay healthy.

If he goes down, so do any hopes the Giants have of a playoff berth.