New York Giants: 10 Things We Learned After Big Blue's Victory Over the Vikings

Jeff Shull@Jeff_ShullAnalyst IDecember 14, 2010

New York Giants: 10 Things We Learned After Big Blue's Victory Over The Vikings

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    The New York football Giants came away with a victory in a very strange contest against the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, a game that was played in Detroit due to weather conditions that caused the roof of the Metrodome to collapse.

    The G-Men remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East and improved to 9-4, while the other teams fighting for playoffs spots—the Bears and Packers—fell by the wayside.

    This means the Giants and Eagles game this coming weekend will most assuredly decide the division winner.

    But, before looking forward to that matchup, let's examine ten things we learned about the Giants this past weekend.

The Giants Are Suited to Win in December and January

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    You hear it every season, in order to win in the winter weather you need to have a good defense and running game. These are not hard and fast rules, but you can expect to have a successful run in the playoffs if you field these two attributes.

    The Giants have rushed for 197 and 213 yards the past two weeks and are No. 4 in the league on the ground; not to mention allowing only 10 points and forcing seven turnovers in those two games—they have the league's second ranked defense in terms of yards.

    Yea, I'd say they are doing just fine.

They Don't Need Eli Manning To Play Well to Win

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    It has become very apparent that the Giants are able to win games even when Eli Manning doesn't play well.

    Now, I realize I really only have this last week's game to go on, but the way their running game has played the past two weeks and the fact that the offensive line is finally getting healthy, can you blame me?

    Eli Manning threw two early interceptions and things were looking very bleak, so offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride turned to the run on a six play, 89 yard drive that was spearheaded by a 73-yard run from Brandon Jacobs.

    That makes 19 interceptions on the year for Manning—albeit eight were a result of tips—and we've been saying all year they need to cut down on the turnovers to win.

    Well, they lost the turnover battle yesterday so maybe we're overestimating that problem. 

Hakeem Nicks Is Healthy and Ready For The Stretch Run

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    Hakeem Nicks missed the last two games after recovering from a fasciotomy that was required to treat the compartment syndrome in his right leg. He could not play because he had to wait for the wound to heal.

    The original diagnosis was for him to miss three games, but he came back this weekend and was as dominant as ever, piling up seven catches for 96 yards.

    This is great news for Eli Manning as well as the run game, which is obviously better with him in the lineup because he opens up the field.

The Defensive Line Is The Best in The NFL

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    OK, so maybe most of us have known this for quite some time now, but they have now slowed down two mobile QBs and Jason Pierre-Paul has come on strong these past three weeks, and has been one of the most dominant defensive ends in the league.

    He has four sacks in the past three weeks and was in Tarvaris Jackson's face all game long. He did not get credit for a sack he had on Jackson, because the ball was snapped over his head and it was considered a busted play, otherwise he would have five sacks. 

    Aside from the pass rush, they have owned opponents rushing attacks all season long, only being beaten a few times. Since they allowed 145 rushing yards in the first half of the Jacksonville game, they've allowed only 197 yards in the last 2 1/2 games.

    The best part about yesterday's game was the dominance imposed on Adrian Peterson, who had been fantastic all year long and fifth in the NFL in rushing. They held him to 26 yards on 14 carries and controlled the line of scrimmage the entire game.

Bear Pascoe Is Better Than Madison Hedgecock

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    Who would have though that the Giants losing one of their most underrated players on offense would be a blessing in disguise. Madison Hedgecock had played really well up until last season, and ever since he went out with his injury— and subsequently got placed on IR—Bear Pascoe has filled in and all but took over his job.

    I'm not sure Pascoe would have lost the job even if Hedgecock had gotten healthy again. It's not a coincidence that the Giants' running game took off when he became the starting fullback.

Steve Smith's Injury Is Worse Than We Thought

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    Steve Smith returned after missing four games with a torn pectoral muscle, and it was assumed that he was going to be limited, but he performed much worse than anyone could have expected.

    It might have something to do with the Vikings trying to take him out of the equation, but he only had one catch for 12 yards yesterday and was seen walking gingerly to the locker room after the game.

    He left the game in the fourth quarter and didn't return, but the extent of his injury is still unknown. I hope I'm wrong, but I would be surprised if he played and played well against the Eagles.

Shaun O'Hara Might Not Make It Back To The Starting Lineup

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    With the way Tom Coughlin has been brushing the issue aside and the comments he made about Rich Seubert being the reason the Giants offensive line has been so good of late—allowing only one sack in their last six games—it feels like Shaun O'Hara's job isn't exactly guaranteed.

    Rich Seubert has been the unsung hero of this offense. Capable of playing all five positions, injuries to the starting and backup center (Adam Koets) have forced the Giants to play him there, and he has shined.

    The ability of the Giants to play so well despite starting three different left tackles in the span of six games starts and ends with the communication of the line, which is what makes a good center great. Seubert is obviously a great center.

    Maybe the Giants would experiment with having O'Hara lineup at left guard, but it seems like you shouldn't want to screw up a good thing, and the Giants offensive line has definitely had a good thing going.

At Their Full Potential, The Giants Can Beat Anyone in The League

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    While the same can probably be said about a handful of other teams, I feel like if the Giants play their best football they can't be stopped.

    It's nearly impossible to stop a team with a dominant run game because it opens up the entire playbook, creates short, easy, convertible third downs, and forces the defense to cheat up, making the play-action pass a deadly weapon.

    By the same token, it IS impossible to move the ball on the Giants defense when they play their best, which begins and ends with the defensive line. If their front four can get pressure and the defensive backs only have to cover for 2-3 seconds, it makes their life easier by taking away the deep ball.

    It also frustrates the quarterback, forces him to shuffle his feet and be weary in the pocket, and shortens his internal clock of when to pull it down and run or take a sack.

    Unfortunately these elements have not been so dominant in every game, which has contributed to their four losses. However, if they continue this current hot streak they are on, they could be playing deep in to January.

Speaking Of Jason Pierre-Paul: He Will Be a Pro Bowler Some Day

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Another injury that may have been a blessing in disguise was the loss of Mathias Kiwanuka. While you'll never hear me actually admit that because Kiwanuka was the most versatile player on the Giants, I may be forced to come to that realization soon.

    Jason Pierre-Paul has grown up before our eyes and is playing like a man possessed the past month. Ever since Kiwanuka went out with a neck injury, JPP has improved his game by astronomical proportions.

    He has not only become a dominant pass rusher, but the Giants have noticed his improvements in the run game and are bringing him in on more than just passing situations. His development has been able to keep Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora fresh and healthy so far this season and that is more than what the Giants could have asked for.

    He will be a Pro Bowl selection in the future, I guarantee it.

The Giants Will Beat The Eagles and Win The NFC East

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    With the way the Giants have been playing lately, as well as the way they controlled Michael Vick in their last meeting, it's hard for me to believe the Giants will lose to the Eagles this Sunday.

    They can control the clock with a steady rushing attack and will be playing an Eagles team that is losing key defensive players at a time they can't afford it. They've already lost Asante Samuel for two games—who has killed the Giants in recent games—and now they may be without starting linebacker Stewart Bradley who dislocated his elbow on Sunday.

    The biggest way to contain Vick is to keep him off the field, and with the way the Giants have been running the ball I see no reason why they won't be able to do that.

    True, they did not run the ball well against the Eagles in their last meeting, but they have gotten David Diehl back on the offensive line who is a fantastic run blocker. Trent Cole blew up Shawn Andrews on several running plays so getting Diehl back is huge.

    Also, the deep ball that Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson have down to a perfection will not be so friendly to them in Giants stadium, and it will be difficult for them to adjust their offense.

    I'm not saying the Eagles have no shot because they are a very dangerous team and have the most explosive offense in the NFL, but I like the Giants to come away with a close victory.