New York Giants: Has Big Blue Emerged As NFC Super Bowl Favorites?

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New York Giants: Has Big Blue Emerged As NFC Super Bowl Favorites?
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The New York Giants absolutely demolished the Seattle Seahawks on the road and have all but emerged as the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, if only for the fact that the NFC is so wide open and no one else had made the same kind of statement, save for maybe the Eagles.

The Giants are the most complete team in the NFL. They do everything you want out of a Super Bowl team and their only weakness—special teams play—has improved drastically in the past few weeks.

While you can lose a game because of special teams, it rarely happens and the improvements they have made will insure that they don't blow it for the rest of the team.

The Giants have almost no weaknesses on offense or defense. The Giants were No. 2 in defense and No. 3 in offense in terms of yards per game entering this week. They had 99 yards more than their average on offense and 101 yards less than their average on defense, so they may come out of the weekend No. 1 in both.

The rushing attack behind Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs has flourished the past five weeks. Before this week's game against Seattle, they were fourth in the NFL in rushing and had 201 yards from their three running backs this week.

The offensive line is opening up gaping holes and even on rare plays when they don't, Bradshaw finds a way to always pick up positive yards. Even with his speed, quickness out of cuts, and refusing to go down easy, this ability to pick up positive yards on every play is possibly his best attribute. 

The offensive line has also been protecting Eli Manning very well of late, allowing him to play extremely well. They have only given up 12 sacks on the year and none in the past two weeks.

Manning is on pace to have 36 touchdowns, by far his most ever, and looked nearly flawless today finishing with 290 yards and three touchdowns and zero turnovers.

The receiving corps on the Giants is the best in the NFL. Yea, that's right I said it. Hakeem Nicks has emerged as a flat out super star in this league. He has 51 receptions, 625 yards, and nine touchdowns on the season and has opened up the Giants offense the same way Plaxico Burress did.

Steve Smith has seen a bit of a drop off in his stats due to the rise of Nicks, but he is still a threat on every play and it seems when teams try to take away Nicks, Eli just makes the adjustment and targets Smith. He is still one of Eli's favorite targets on third down and is a security blanket that every team covets. 

Don't forget about Mario Manningham, who is one of the best in the league at getting yards after the catch. He doesn't always get the big stats, but he is good for a big play in nearly every game. If teams actually find a way to stop Nicks and Smith, Manningham is seemingly always there to the rescue.

The only problem with the offense has been the turnovers, and while they have been able to overcome them in the last five games, it is the only thing getting in the way of the Giants being considered the best NFC team by far.

After eight games they have 21 turnovers—just over 2.5 per game—and will be exposed by great teams if Tom Coughlin doesn't get through to them at some point.

As good as the offense has played, I dare say the defense has been even better.

Behind the schemes of Perry Fewell and the re-emergence of Osi Umenyiora as the best sack/fumble specialist in the NFL, the Giants defense is getting back to what they do best—making the lives of quarterbacks miserable.

They have already knocked five QBs out of a game this year with injuries, and the speculation surrounding the benching of Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck is that Pete Carroll wanted to keep him healthy for the rest of the year in the winnable NFC West.

I can say amazing things about each and every individual on the defense, so for the sake of not droning on, I'll single out my favorites, who are mostly underrated. 

Chris Canty has been absolutely amazing this season. After a 2009 season riddled with injuries, he has come back with a vengence and been the backbone of a run defense that ranked third in the NFL entering this week. Not only does he get in the backfield on nearly every run play, but his experience as a 3-4 defense end gives him weapons to use as a pass rusher up the middle.

Jonathan Goff had a rough start to the season and after getting carved up by Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark, something clicked and he has been one of the best 4-3 middle linebackers in the NFC over the past few weeks. He had another big game today, halting the Seattle running game as well as contributing on special teams with a fumble recovery.

Deon Grant has to be given credit for his ability to play all over the field in whatever role the team wants from him. He has lined up as a safety and corner, but also has played a bit of linebacker to help the run defense.

He came in with an arrogant attitude of wanting to be the starter, but has swallowed his pride and made the Giants secondary one of the best in the entire league. With three amazing safeties and two shut down corners, the Giants have become one of the hardest teams to pass against.

The 2009 season with C.C. Brown seems so far away.

The meat of the Giants schedule is about to get under way and they will have a chance to prove themselves in the final eight games that include five divisional contests and road games against Minnesota and Green Bay.

If the Giants finish 4-4 in that stretch I would consider that a strong finish, especially given Tom Coughlin's track record in the second half of seasons with the Giants.

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