New York Giants: 4 Reasons Why They're the Team to Beat in the NFC East

Scott HarrisContributor ISeptember 30, 2011

New York Giants: 4 Reasons Why They're the Team to Beat in the NFC East

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    Left for dead in preseason predictions after amassing injuries to key players and in the national media after a mistake-riddled opening against the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants have bounced back into form, rattling off two straight wins to tie for first in the NFC East. Now that they're seemingly in a offensive and defensive rhythm, this writer and many Big Blue fans are wondering if the Giants have what it takes to win the division and head back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

    Here's four reasons why you can bet they will.

Eli Manning Could Be Headed Toward a Big 2011-2012 Season

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    The oft-maligned quarterback put up stellar numbers against the supposed Dream Team defense of the Philadelphia Eagles, completing 16 of 23 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns. As Eli is known to do from time to time, he put his foot on the gas towards the end of the second half, throwing a perfect bullet to Victor Cruz and a well-timed HB option to Bradshaw. 

    His numbers have improved week-to-week, and it could be a sign that he and his corps of inexperienced wide receivers are getting on the same page. Giants fans know full well what Eli can do to a secondary when he trusts his playmakers. If the Giants can get a tight end that doesn't fall down on a 4th and short play, look out.


    Who could challenge Eli's top spot...

    Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. Romo's playmaking ability was on full display when he gutted out a comeback win against the 49ers in Week 2. 


    Why Big Blue comes out on top...

    Tony Romo is also prone to the big, momentum-destroying mistake, as evidenced in their collapse against the New York Jets in Week 1 (and in past regular season and playoff games). And anyone watching the Cowboys-Redskins game knows that Dallas is far behind New York when it comes to integrating young WRs into their offensive scheme.


    And why the rest don't matter...

    Michael Vick can't stay healthy. Rex Grossman is Rex Grossman.

Bradshaw and Jacobs Lead NFC East's Best Running Attack

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    Though they've struggled retaining that identity at times, when people think of the New York Giants, they think of an elite running game. With Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, the Giants, with all their injuries, again have one of the NFL's best rushing attacks. 

    We saw how explosive Bradshaw can be on the 18-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning against the Eagles, and his production is above four yards per carry since late 2009.

    Brandon Jacobs, despite early grumblings about sharing his carries with Bradshaw after being New York's feature back during their 2007 Super Bowl run, is finally embracing his role as the team's closer. At 6'4" and 264 pounds, he's also the absolute last person in the world that defensive lines want to see coming at them in the fourth quarter.


    Who comes close to taking their top spot...

    LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles. In an otherwise dreary afternoon for the Eagles offense in Week 3, McCoy remained a dynamic runner and receiver. If Vick and the Philadelphia offensive line struggle throughout the 2011-2012 season, McCoy will be a critical check-down option and could find himself in another Pro Bowl.


    Why Bradshaw and Jacobs best him...

    McCoy and the Eagles running game just isn't built for short yardage plays. Jacobs is all about short-yardage, and teams that convert in goal-line situations always have the advantage.


    And why the rest don't matter...

    Tim Hightower isn't the big playmaker the Redskins need to compensate for their conservative, no-mistake offensive gameplan. And Dallas? Come on. They went 10 quarters without having a run longer than eight yards.

Tuck, JPP, Kiwi and a Recovering Osi Means a Fierce Pass Rush

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    What the Giants don't have is a stellar secondary, and that means they rely on the pass rush to force opposing quarterbacks into incomplete throws and mistakes. With Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Matthias Kiwanuka and, eventually, Osi Umeniyora, the Giants are stacked with talent. Despite injuries constantly plaguing Big Blue's Pro Bowl defense, they've done a spectacular job keeping the Giants (mostly) in every game.

    In Week 3, they reversed momentum on the Eagles by stuffing three straight rushing plays from the half-yard marker, kept Michael Vick in check (and off the field) and created the key turnovers to best their NFC East rival. They also performed spectacularly against the Rams and kept the away opener against the Redskins within reach up until the very end.

    In fact, dating back to Week 9 of last season, the Giants defense has allowed their opponent to score more than 20 points just two times, and the pass rush is the main reason behind those performances.


    Who comes close to taking their top spot...

    The Washington Redskins have drafted well, adding Brian Orakpo and joining him with FA Adam Carriker to form a younger defensive front. They also picked up former Giant Barry Cofield. Those three, plus the addition of Ryan Kerrigan at LB, means London Fletcher doesn't have to play every position in a 4-3/3-4 set. They certainly taught the Giants a thing or two in Week 1 with four sacks. 


    Why the Giants D-line takes the prize...

    The NFC East's perennial basement dweller and last year's overall worst defense has to put in a few more good games before they can share the same stage with Tuck and Company. Even if they do, with the Giants getting Osi back in a few weeks, there just is too much talent to overcome.


    And why no one else matters...

    Dallas just doesn't have the full line an NFC East team needs to compete, and it's clear that age is wearing on some of their veterans, as Jason Garrett is being forced to constantly rotate D-line personnel. The Eagles are giving up an average of 132 yards per game on the ground, third from the bottom. They have serious issues.

Tom Coughlin Is a Proven Winner Through Injuries and Adversity

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    In 2007, Giants fans around the country felt a creeping sense of dread about the Eli Manning era as the G-Men fell behind early to the Redskins after blowout losses to Green Bay and Dallas. That story ended in one of the biggest upsets in professional sports history.

    Tom Coughlin has been an anchor for the franchise despite an unforgiving New York media sphere, and has guided a rookie quarterback to Super Bowl MVP. He is keeping the 2011 team in the hunt even after decimating injuries on both sides of the ball. His work with Mario Manningham, Steve Smith, Victor Cruz, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jason Pierre-Paul and so many other raw talents that have come onto the roster is proof positive he is an elite-level coach and recognizing and cultivating talent.

    Great NFL dynasties are built through the draft, and Coughlin and the Mara family are among the best is the late-round steals that are producing tomorrow's stars.


    Who comes close to taking Coughlin's crown...

    Andy Reid. He's taken the slightly different tact this year of building through massive free-agent acquisitions (and it doesn't look like it is working out too well—yet), but there's no doubt that Reid gets the credit for the Eagles making the playoffs all but two seasons since 2000. 


    Why Coughlin's red face is better than his...

    Coughlin coached a team to the biggest Super Bowl upset of all time, knocking off the 17-0 New England Patriots, and he's managed to put the Giants at 2-1 without the Dream Team on the roster. 


    And why no one else matters...

    Jason Garrett is a newbie and isn't even close to Coughlin or Reid in stature (plus, he was offensive coordinator for a Dallas team that opened up 1-7 last year). Mike Shanahan has two Super Bowls under his belt, so he's no slouch, but hasn't led a team to the playoffs since 2005.

What Does It All Add Up To?

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    With a top-tier quarterback playing a great game, a rushing attack putting up 100 yards on a regular basis, a fierce defensive line and a Super Bowl-winning coach, the Giants are built to overcome their injury problems. An away win against the Eagles means that Big Blue can control its destiny and take back the NFC crown for the first time since 2008.

    But before they can dream about a playoff berth, the Arizona Cardinals and the University of Phoenix Stadium await.