Nov. 13, 2008
If you haven't been sold by now on the New York Giants, there isn't much else they can do to sell you on the fact that their magical run at the end of the 2007 season was no fluke.
At 8-1, the Giants look even more formidable than they did at any point during last season's Super Bowl journey.
They lost arguably their two best defensive players to retirement (Michael Strahan) and injury (Osi Umenyora), yet the team hasn't skipped a beat, ranking third in total team defense and third in sacks, thanks in large part to the emergence of defensive end Justin Tuck.
They looked bad this season only once, on a Monday night in Cleveland, yet they wasted no time getting that bad taste out of their mouth with four straight victories, including wins in Pittsburgh and in Philadelphia.
Eli Manning has done a great job of playing smart, consistent football, as he's been picked off only six times while throwing 14 touchdowns. He continues to show poise in the big spot, as he led his team down the field on the road against the Steelers, outshining fellow draft-mate Ben Roethlisberger in their highly anticipated matchup.
Their three-headed running machine of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Amhad Bradshaw have combined to rush for more than 200 yards four times this season while leading the league in rushing yard per game with almost 170.
Although he has drawn plenty of attention off the field, Plaxico Burress has successfully drawn plenty of attention on it, with constant double teams that have allowed Manning to utilize his deep receiving core of Amani Toomer, Steve Smith, and even Sinorice Moss once in a while.
Tight end Kevin Boss has done his best to put the memories of Jeremey Shockey in the past, as he was on the receiving end of the game winning score in Pittsburgh and has been featured more and more as the season has progressed.
Even on special teams, where the Giants seemed to take a hit following a preseason injury to kicker Lawrence Tynes, they have gotten a very solid effort from replacement John Carney, who has been true on 21/22 kicks, while leading all kickers in scoring with 90 points.
The offensive line, playing in their third straight season as a unit, has given Manning more than enough to throw, while opening up the holes those running backs have been dashing through at will.
From a coaching standpoint, Tom Coughlin already rewarded the faith instilled in him by former GM Ernie Accorsi and late owner Wellington Mara, both of whom were patient enough with Coughlin during his first few years and can now be credited with selected the perfect coach for a team that needed his style of discipline and toughness.
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo continues to pad his resume, and despite receiving a highly-deserved contract extension and raise, he will be on the top of a list of coordinators who will look to fill coaching vacancies following this season.
All hasn't been perfect, as the Burress off-the-field drama was thought to be a distraction, and may have shown in their loss against Cleveland, yet he has since been a happy-enough camper while keeping his mouth shut and getting back doing his talking with his play.
Those running backs, as dominant as they have been, have to do a better job of securing the football, as fumbles nearly costly them their Sunday night contest in Philly last week. Coughlin was able to cure former running back Tiki Barber's fumbling issue, and may have to work his same magic on his current set of backs.
The secondary looks vulnerable at times, as Corey Webster has all the talent to be a top-tier corner, yet needs to play with his head in the game at all times to reach that plateau. Same goes for Aaron Ross. Veteran Sam Madison has lost a step, although still seems to read routes as well as anybody.
On the whole, this Giant team has passed every test thrown at them this season, and although their schedule the rest of the way is statistically the toughest in the league, don't expect that to phase them.
But for a team that wasn't supposed to make the playoffs last season, and wasn't supposed to win in Dallas, and wasn't supposed to beat Brett Favre in Green Bay, and surely wasn't supposed to beat the unbeatable Patriots, they proved everyone wrong.
And for a team that wasn't supposed to win it's division and according to many experts fail to make the playoffs and defend their crown, they once again look to be proving everyone wrong, having gotten off to a nearly perfect start.
Now they'll look to complete this season with the perfect ending they stole from New England last season.
Sure, you can argue the 2008 New York Giants are supposed to win the division, or make the playoffs, or even repeat as Super Bowl Champs.
Just don't tell them.