For the Giants, today marks the start of a new season. That New York is ranked eighth in the conference does not matter. The last month of disappointing losses matters not a whit. Starting today, the Giants control their own destiny for the 2009 playoffs.
Week 10’s results could not have been kinder to the Giants. Atlanta lost to Carolina, 28-19. Dallas lost at Green Bay for only the second time – ever – in a 17-7 loss. Philly lost to a Chargers team that narrowly beat the Giants last week by falling, 31-23. What all this means is that the Giants are now within one game of retaking the division lead, and even if that does not happen, the Wild Card picture just got a little more tolerable.
Going into Week 11 the team will have a rejuvenated offense. Kevin Boss, who really needed a break after taking a pounding as the team’s most reliable receiver during the slump, should be healthy and well-rested. Danny Ware is finally available, giving the backfield rotation some flexibility and allowing Brandon Jacobs to return to his downhill running style. (Watch out, LaRon Landry). Eli should also enjoy the week off, giving his foot injury that little bit of extra time to further heal.
The defense will get a boost, too. Aaron Ross finally seems ready to return to a porous secondary. Chris Canty made it through a week without a serious injury, giving the front four a nice boost in the rotation. If Michael Boley can ever stay on the field, the Giants’ defense should return to it’s familiar self. The only real issue is free safety, because the loss of Kenny Phillips will continue to be felt against pass-heavy teams.
The Giants’ remaining schedule is not the easiest slate of games, but it looks like they are getting hot at just the right time. Next week they host an Atlanta team that is reeling after a loss to the Panthers, and gives the Giants a good chance to start a winning streak. After that, they face a serious pothole: traveling to Denver for a Thursday night game after playing on Sunday night, limiting them to only one regular practice. Add in the facts that players unaccustomed to Denver’s altitude usually have a difficult time, and their stadium is tough on visiting opponents, and this may be a rough spot for the Giants.
After that, the team faces three straight divisional opponents, when they host Dallas and Philly followed by a visit to the nation’s capital. If the Giants are playing with the ferocity they showed against the Chargers, and which I think will grow in the coming weeks, the team probably has a slight advantage in these games. Add in the mounting injuries for all three opponents, and their advantage grows. Let’s face it; Justin Tuck working against a Dallas O-line without Colombo should be fun to watch.
For their final two games, the Giants host the Panthers and visit the Vikings. I suspect the Panthers game will come down to the running game and defenses, just as it did last year. However, by this time Carolina will in all likelihood be eliminated from the playoffs simply as a matter of mathematics, while this game will undoubtedly be immensely important for the Giants’ season. Look for a Giants victory here.
The finale against the Vikings will be interesting; I suspect that Childress won’t risk playing his franchise players (Favre, Peterson, maybe even Allen). If this is the case, it should be another Giants victory, simply because they will probably still be playing for a playoff positioning.