No, they're not kidding.
The Giants have played very poorly for three straight weeks after three cupcake games, one big win, and an easy game on opening day.
The Giants have not played their best against a good team in some time—probably not since the middle of 2008. Despite the win against the Cowboys, the defense was suspect.
I'm going to look at the team's individual problems, then assess the overall outlook for them and how they have to attack the second half of the season.
1. Offensive Rhythm and Playcalling
The offense's problems are easily diagnosed. Their offense has been out of rhythm against real NFL defenses for three straight weeks. Their gameplan is often tentative, clunky, and doesn't flow, or get going easily.
What I see is that the Giants aren't establishing any part of their offense. The Giants' style of passing game is one which is opened up by the run. Simply put, Eli Manning is a capable passer, with capable weapons in middle-of-the-field threat Steve Smith, big target Hakeem Nicks, and potential big-play guys Domenik Hixon and Mario Manningham. But this is not a passing game that can just rip through people and pick defenses apart. They did that against several teams this year, but all those teams had poor secondaries (Cowboys, Bucs, Chiefs, and Raiders).
Giant football is founded upon establishing a physical run game that eventually opens up the entire offense, retaining balance all the while. Even when establishing the run, passes have to be mixed in.
Since Plaxico Burress went down, the Giants have had trouble staying with their own brand of football. Against the Eagles, the Cowboys, and the Eagles again last year, their opponents were able to inhibit the running game enough early that they built an advantage.
Kevin Gilbride has seemed to get away from his gameplan when things don't work out early. Simply put, there is not enough patience for the Giants to get a running game going.
What the Giants have to do is both stick with the gameplan better-establishing the run early, and hitting quick passes for first downs, which can then open up play action passes and big running lanes throughout the course of the game.
Going along with this, the Giant offense has to start playing more physically, including the line, and the backs. They need to be running North-South. Similarly, Eli Manning has to be more conservative early, and the playcalling has to be gearing less towards Eli making big plays. That's not Giant football.
2. Defensive Gameplan
I think the Giants could do well (even though this won't happen) to watch film of Super Bowl 42 before every game.
In case you were living under a rock, the Giants blitzed Tom Brady constantly with diverse blitz packages, and got consistent pressure from their front four.
They did this with two solid corners, and frankly two mediocre safeties.
The Giants have almost the same defense, without Strahan (who Tuck replaced) and James Butler (who CC Brown has come to replace through injuries). Yes, Aaron Ross is out, but Terrell Thomas CAN fill the void.
The Giant's blitz packages have been awfully obvious and straightforward this year. They aren't executing well either. Their secondary is guessing too much, and getting burned.
The Giants are not a type of team that can ballhawk and guess. You saw CC Brown get burned by Desean Jackson today. Simply put, they have to get back to pressuring the QB into bad decisions and throwing the opposing offense out of rhythm. Simply, they have to stop giving up the big play.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Giants have played three similar types of passing juggernauts three weeks in a row. It seems they have a true weakness to such aggressive passing attacks, but there is time to fix that, and they don't have to face another one of these air-it-out types until they face Philadelphia again. They have time to figure these types of teams out-again, they stopped the same type of team in the Super Bowl. They CAN get back to that type of play.
3. Overall Philosophy
I've stated how the Giants have to get back to their type of football on both sides of the ball.
But they also have to start executing better and become more focused. They have committed more penalties than usual this year, particularly delay of game penalties and things that make playcalling more difficult, like delay of game penalties on 3rd-and-4. The coaching staff needs to get plays in quicker and get this team back in the right mindset. Heck, they could watch SB 42 as a confidence builder!
All in all, we have a lot of time left. That doesn't mean games can be thrown away, though. The remaining schedule:
All of those games are winnable. The Giants have enough talent to compete with anyone in the league. At their best, they ARE a Top-Five team in football, if not the best team in the league. The Giants should beat San Diego, Washington, and Carolina, even if they don't play good football. Now, I think the Giants, though, MUST play good football next week to beat San Diego.
But nothing says the Giants can't lose only two, one, or none of these games. Realistically? I think the Giants will go 11-5. This team just needs to get back to Giant football, find its confidence, and get on a roll.