The New York Giants could not have written a better script for their attempt to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
There were many questions coming into this season, and all of them have been answered by great performances. Tom Coughlin has mixed his old-school ways with the new-school league and created a team from the mold of traditional Giants football. And oh yeah, the best team in the NFC, if not the league.
The big question going into Week One was how would the defense fair without Michael Strahan and Usi Umenyora? The answer: Just fine. Justin Tuck has become a beast, and the G-Men have the second best defense in terms of yards allowed and the fifth-ranked defense in points against.
The defense is a machine, with second-year man Aaron Ross anchoring an improved secondary and Kenny Phillips is proving he's the real deal. Nick Blackburn has been a pleasant surprise, and Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Matthias Kiwanuka have been dominating.
Put this together with "Earth, Wind and Fire" as the best rushing attack in the NFL, and the Giants are in control of every game.
The second question of everyone's mind was the passing game, and in it was a subset of questions: How would Eli Manning fair with, perhaps, an increased pressure to keep it up? How would the attack fair without Jeremy Shockey? Would Plaxico settle in and stop complaining?
Manning has been above solid. He'll most likely pass for 3,200-3,500 yards and approach, if not break, his career high of 24 touchdowns. The greatest improvement has been his ability to keep his head and not turn the ball over.
Through 10 games, Manning had only thrown seven interceptions. Take away the one game at Cleveland, where he threw three, and he has spread four interceptions over nine games.
If he keeps his current pace, he'll end up with a line looking some what like this: 293 for 486 with 24 touchdowns and 11 INTS. That's a QB Rating of 123.8.
As for Boss, through 10 games, he has 19 receptions for 217 yards with four TD. He'll end up with 30 touches for 342 yards and six or seven TD.
It's no where near the touches or yards Shockey has put up, but Shockey's career high is only seven touchdowns. Clearly, however, is the fact that Boss is stepping up in the run blocking, with the league's most potent attack, no one is missing Shockey's attitude or injuries and the play action pass over the middle to Boss in the red zone has become feared.
The last issue in the passing game was whether or not Plaxico's whining would continue into the season. While this year has not been as smooth as last, Plax appears to be under control, even if his numbers are disappointing. He's on pace to reach 726 yards with six TDs, which is well below his outputs over the past two seasons.
Still, the G-Men have made up for it with a bigger contribution of Steve Smith, the emergence of Dominik Hixon, and the steady hands and leadership of Amani Toomer.
In addition to their play, the Giants have been helped by outside factors. Within their own division, which can easily lay claim to being the nastiest in football, the Cowboys have been plagued by drama and injuries.
This while the Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb show continues to roll on, mismanage the clock and blow games.
They have also been helped by the spotlight being diverted, just like Tom Coughlin likes it. I don't know if you've heard, but ESPN's favorite quarterback is in New York, having his mediocre team atop their division and an old New York quarterback has been resurrected in undefeated Tennessee. These certainly help to allow a team that's 9-1, who have defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh and put 30 up on the Ravens to just keep going on their merry way.
Gone are the days of turnover-laden games with superstars thinking only of their life after football or their next endorsement.
This is now, without a doubt, the team Coughlin first planned when he got to New York. Free of the "me first" players and plenty of the team first, hard-nosed players he loves. They have strong veteran leadership, great coaching, the antithesis of Broadway Joe at quarterback, and a dominating defense and run game.
This will be Coughlin's legacy: The Return of Real Giants Football to New York.
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