New York Giants: Defending Champs Are Overrated in '08
It's quite a roller coaster ride of over- and under-ratedness the Giants have been on the past two seasons. Last year, they began the season a bit overrated, then became very underrated with their early struggles. All the way up until they beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl, they were overlooked.
As soon as that game was over, however, everything changed. Suddenly, the Giants were America's sweethearts, having slain the big, bad Patriots. Eli Manning was suddenly an elite QB and the defense drew comparisons to some of the best of the past two decades.
Then, suddenly, it changed again (I realize these ups and downs are ridiculous, but it's all true). Thanks to a couple of other overrated teams, the Eagles and Cowboys, the Giants became underrated again, picked by many to finish third in the NFC East. The defending champs; picked to finish third!
Not to be outdone, however, New York beat up on weak early-season competition and took advantage of some stumbles by its division rivals and became hailed as the NFL's best team again. False, false, and false.
Don't get me wrong, the Giants are still a very good team, but this is probably an 11-5 team at best. Many of the team's weaknesses have been overlooked early on thanks to the weak schedule, and winning the Super Bowl caused certain players to be rated far more highly than they deserved to.
Here are some reasons why the Giants are overrated:
1. Contrary to popular belief, this defense is worse than last year's.
Somehow, I keep hearing Giants fans and football analysts alike raving that the defense is even better than the unit that relentlessly pressured opposing QBs last season, culminating with a dominant performance in the Super Bowl.
This is simply not so. You don't just replace a future hall of famer like Michael Strahan, a pro bowler the caliber of Osi Umenyiora, and three solid pros like Kawika Mitchell, Reggie Torbor, and Gibril Wilson without at least going out and picking up something in the free agent market.
The Giants were in the best position to replace the retired Strahan, because they had Justin Tuck, a pass-rushing beast who recorded 10.0 sacks last year, waiting in the wings. However, once Umenyiora went down with a season-ending injury in training camp, having just one replacement wasn't enough. They were equipped with another natural defensive end, Mathias Kiwanauka, but moving him up from his spot at linebacker creates a weakness there.
And that's where the weakest part of the defense is right now. Gerris Wilkinson has stepped in as the starting right outside linebacker and has failed to produce. He has just eight tackles through the first five games, including only four in the last four contests.
2. Eli Manning is not an elite quarterback.
This one may be even more puzzling than the first. Where does everyone suddenly get the idea that Eli Manning is some type of stud signal-caller? Yes, the Giants did win the Super Bowl with him at the helm, but nobody ventured to say Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson were elite QBs when they hoisted the Lombardi trophy.
First Madden 09 gives the guy a 93 overall rating, seventh-best in the game. I know it's just a video game, but they scout this stuff very thoroughly and I'm wondering how they got to this conclusion.
Then, after a few games this season, I actually hear people suggesting Eli is the better of the two Manning brothers? Is this a joke? Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, when healthy, are interchangeable as the top QBs in the league. Eli is very mediocre.
Did everyone get so swept up by the Super Bowl run last year that they forgot Eli had just a 73.9 passer rating last year, 25th in the league? His rating was worse than such known bums as Kyle Boller, Damon Huard, and Joey Harrington.
Didn't anyone notice that Eli's 20 INTs thrown last year tied him for the most in the league, while his 23 TDs were only 11th? That's not a very good ratio.
Can we stop fooling ourselves by thinking this guy is some kind of star?
3. Kevin Boss is not Jeremy Shockey.
Anyone intelligent already knew this, but since some football fans aren't intelligent, I have to say it. During last season's title run, Boss became somewhat of a cult hero among Giants fans, while the injured Shockey sulked in the corner.
Yes, they did end up winning without Shockey, but that's thanks to the defense and a huge wide receiver that goes by the name of Plaxico. Trying to go the full year without a stud tight end like Shockey is a poor choice.
Although injuries have limited Shockey to just three games this year for New Orleans, he has already managed 16 catches for 151 yards. Boss has played in all five of the Giants' games and has caught just six passes for 84 yards.
From 2002-2007, in addition to being a superior blocker, Shockey averaged 62 catches and almost five touchdowns a season. Boss has 15 catches and three touchdowns in his career.
4. The NFC East is not the NFC West.
This one requires some explaining. The NFC East is the best division in football and it will take a monster weekly effort to emerge as division champs, and even to survive the regular season.
The Giants have looked so good early in the season primarily because they have played two teams from football's worst division, the NFC West, in the Rams and Seahawks, and have also played winless Cincinnati.
The Giants scored 41 points against the Rams and 44 against the Seahawks, who have the league's 29th and 32nd scoring defenses, respectively.
They combined for just 30 points against the Browns and Redskins, the only two teams they have played in the top ten in scoring defense, and needed overtime to beat the Bengals, a team which has yet to win a game.
The rest of the season will speak for itself, but the Giants' performance so far has not warranted the praise that has been heaped on them. Manning has not yet established himself as an elite QB and both the offense and defense need to prove themselves against better competition before they can be judged accurately.
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