Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks Return: Will It Put the Giants Atop NFC East?

Reid DavenportCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 21:  Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants tries to break the tackle of Dimitri Patterson #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 21, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Wide receivers Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks are expected to play Sunday against the Vikings, according to ESPN. (Game has been postponed due to Mall of America Field's dome collapsing and the game is rescheduled for Monday Night at Ford Field in Detroit.)

Smith has missed four games and Nicks has missed two, and their potential return to the gridiron cannot come at a better time, as the Giants are battling with the Eagles for the NFC East title.

The Giants dropped their first two games without Smith, suffering divisional losses to Dallas and Philadelphia.

After the injury to Nicks, who had been the breakout player for the 2010 Giants, the memory of last season was becoming more and more vivid.

However, Big Blue pulled off two wins, escaping in Jacksonville and decidedly beating the Redskins.

Now, the question is whether or not the return of the wide receiver tandem can restore consistency and give the Giants what they need to go into Philly and win.

The biggest factor to take into account is how the return of Nicks and Smith will affect the Giants' ground game.

Ahmad Bradshaw had only 206 yards in a four game stretch, before his 97 yard performance against the Redskins.

Bradshaw, who had been one of the keys to the Giants' five game winning streak, needs to continue the groove he found against Washington.

Another tremendous gain for Big Blue is the possible return of offensive tackle David Diehl.

It's amazing how no one has been talking about how the Giants' offensive line has been missing key players, including center Shuan O'Hara, who is listed as questionable.

So, if the Giants can get a consistent running game from Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, give Eli Manning time to find receivers and continue their stellar defensive play, there is no reason why the Giants don't finish 12-4.

The Giants almost beat the Eagles without Steve Smith and have the front four to contain Micheal Vick and LeSean McCoy en route to the NFC East title