That’s what Browns’ fans were chanting Monday night as their team beat the defending champs 35-14. But it raises the question: are the Giants overrated? It was a question thrown around in the media this week. Coming into last Monday night’s game, for the 1st time, they just might have been.
After dismantling the Seahawks 44-6, to move to 4-0, a lot of “experts” in the media began to re-think their earlier predictions for this team. Initially, some picked NY to finish no higher than 3rd in the division while others said they wouldn’t make the playoffs (Marcellus Wiley of ESPN). The Giants used this as motivation. But after beginning the season 4-0, Steve Mariucci (NFL Network) among others, began comparing this team to New England Patriots of 2007. I’ve got news for you, what the 2007 Patriots did in the regular season isn’t happening again in our lifetime. That was the most dominant regular season team this league has every seen. So after hearing some of those sentiments, it appears to have finally seeped into a few players’ heads and it showed Monday night.
The Giants have a very good, borderline great team. Many people love to call last year’s run a fluke, but that’s not the case. Jacksonville in 1996 could be defined as a fluke. They got into the playoffs after Atlanta K Morten Anderson fell and shanked a GW FG in week 17, thus propelling the team into the post season with a 9-7 record. They then beat an old Buffalo team in the Wild Card Game, upset the top seeded Broncos on the road in the Divisional round, but came crashing back to earth with a 20-6 beating at the hands of Parcells’ Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Giants on the other hand, went on the road and beat the best both leagues had to offer: Dallas, GB and New England. Oh by the way, the combined records of those teams were 42-6. That’s not a fluke; it’s called being good.
The 2008 Giants offensively can match-up with anyone. They’ve got arguably the best offensive line in football, a rapidly developing young-QB, a tremendous running game, solid depth at receiver and some good young TEs. On defense, even after Strahan’s retirement and the injury to Osi, they were still among the league’s sack leaders after week 5 and their young secondary, minus Monday’s effort, was playing its best in a long time.
Now based on this information mind you, there are some concerns for this team going forward. Aside from injuries, which can derail anyone’s season, offenses are learning that if you play a quick style passing game - with three-to-five step drops - you can neutralize the Giants’ pass rush and render its blitz package useless. This is something that the Bengals did nicely a few week’s back and the Browns used to perfection on Monday night. But this doesn’t mean that the code has been cracked and its game over for the defense. They’re still led by one of the finest defensive coordinators in the game who will adjust and throw in some new wrinkles that offenses haven’t seen yet.
Offensively, whenever you see the Giants with 18 passes to 11 runs in a 1st half, as we saw Monday night, or with more passes than runs in a close game, the end result is probably not good. This becomes a problem because more times than not, OC Gilbride has shown no hesitation to abandon the run early, thus falling back to his run-and-shoot ways of those early days in Houston. Regardless of Eli’s progress to this point, and the team’s collection of receivers, it all starts with the guys up front and the running game. When that works, everything else does; when it doesn’t, the odds go to 60/40. I’m sure when they go back through the tape, they’ll see that abandoning the running game so early was a huge factor in the loss Monday night, especially when Jacobs and Ward were pretty much running at will on the Browns’ D.
After week 7, the Giants have the 2nd most difficult remaining schedule in football. They still play the Cowboys twice, the Eagles twice, one more time at Washington, the Steelers, Panthers and so on… so that’ll provide a good answer to the question posed at the top of this posting: are the Giants overrated? My money says no. They’re still the most complete team in the game and everyone’s capable of throwing in a stinker during the course of the season, which they did Monday. So until proven otherwise, i.e. beaten when things count, they’re still the defending champs, still sitting atop the best division in football at 4-1, and with a great front office (GM Jerry Reese) and coaching staff, and so much young talent littered throughout its roster, they still possess the most upside of any team in the league.