Unless you were living under a rock—or are a Patriots fan in serious denial—you know that the Giants won Super Bowl XLII. But what of the 2008 Giants? Strahan retired, and Gibril Wilson and Kawika Mitchell were lost to the AFC in free agency. Are the 2008 Giants better than the same team that won the Super Bowl?
I say yes.
Besides the fact that the Giants have a better record this year than they did last year, 7-1 vs. 6-2, but it just feels like the Giants are dominating their opponents.
Last year, they were staring 0-3 in the face before that goal-line stand against Washington. This year, they have only had one game where they looked completely lost. That was the debacle on Monday Night Football against the Browns.
Eli Manning is continuing to ride the wave of confidence that he has been on ever since the Divisional Playoff game in Tampa Bay. He had three picks in the Browns game, one in the opener against Washington, and one in the Dallas game that was returned for a touchdown. He also had two fumbles in the Dallas game.
Despite these mistakes, he is playing at a much higher level than “old” Eli. He seems much more comfortable in the pocket and is making much more confident throws downfield.
He’s getting more time in the pocket and taking less sacks because of the stellar play of the offensive line, and he’s getting more opportunities to throw to receivers like Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon, who are getting open in opponent’s secondaries because of the attention being paid to Plaxico Burress.
The Giants aren’t winning right now because of Eli. But they aren’t loosing because of him either. 146 yards like he had against the Cowboys won’t cut it down the road. But he didn’t need to work hard to beat the Cowboys either.
However, the heart of the Giants' current claim to the No. 1 seed in the NFC has to be depth.
One of the biggest instances of this has to be in the Seattle game. Plaxico Burress was suspended for that game. What would happen to the Giants passing game?
Enter Domenik Hixon and Sinorice Moss.
Both had huge days, running rampant in the Seattle secondary. Hixon had 104 yards and a touchdown reception while Moss had only 45 yards receiving, but two touchdowns. The Giants walked over the Seahawks in that game 44-6.
No Plax? No problem.
Depth defines the Giants' running attack. "Earth, Wind and Fire," as they call themselves (Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw, respectively) are a great tandem, leading to the No. 1 rushing attack in the National Football League. Jacobs is the starter, but Ward and Bradshaw are put in as a huge change from No. 27.
Jacobs is the hard, downhill runner that will go through more than a few defenders before going down. Bradshaw is a quick back who has the big-play potential and generally goes in during the fourth quarter on a battered and tired defense.
Ward is the mix of the two. He has the ability to break tackles like Jacobs but has the quickness of Bradshaw. Running back by committee used to be the Broncos' trademark. It has migrated to the East Coast.
Another place depth has really been evident is on the defensive side of the ball. The Giants' D was supposed to be weaker because of the retirement of Michael Strahan and the loss of Osi Umenyoria to injury in the preseason.
Again, no problem for Big Blue.
Justin Tuck has risen to the occasion and has been a dominant force at defensive end. Fred Robbins is having a quiet, but very solid Pro-Bowl-type year. Mathias Kiwanuka is back at left end, his natural position from linebacker, and is showing Giants fans why the Giants picked him in the first round three years ago out of Boston College. He’s got six sacks on the year, a career high.
Antonio Pierce has been playing solid at middle linebacker. He sat out a game due to an ankle injury, and the Giants' defense didn’t miss a beat with Chase Blackburn in.
Corey Webster and James Butler have been playing solidly in the Giants’ secondary as well. Young upstart Michael Johnson has had his name in the papers and second-year player Aaron Ross and rookie Kenny Phillips both have had strong seasons as well.
So, are the 2008 Giants better than the 2007 Giants? I say yes. They are playing with a confidence not seen in the Swamps of Jersey since the days Lawrence Taylor roamed the Meadowlands.
The Giants are by and far the best team in the NFC East right now. Their remaining schedule is the toughest in the league, but if they make it through and to the playoffs in a favorable position, it is not far fetched to believe they Giants can win it all again.