The New York Giants were written off early by a lot of analysts and fans. They were decimated with injuries early in the year and not many thought they would be able to recover.
So far this season, the Giants are proving those people wrong and look to be headed for the playoffs.
A lot of this early success is due to some key players stepping up and making a name for themselves. Here are five New York Giants stepping up and making an impact on Big Blue this season.
With Kevin Boss leaving this offseason for the Oakland Raiders, most Giants fans wanted the team to make a move in free agency to pick up a new tight end.
They didn't, which resulted in a huge question mark at the position entering the season.
Third year player Travis Beckum was expected to carry the load for the Giants, but he got injured early in the season, allowing undrafted tight end Jake Ballard to get his shot.
So far this season, Ballard has caught 26 passes for 430 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 16.5 yards per catch. He has developed into one of Eli Manning's most reliable targets, and has made some key plays in big games for the Giants this year, including his game-winning touchdown grab against the Patriots in Week 9.
Jason Pierre-Paul was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft out of South Florida and was considered to be "raw" and a "project."
In just his second year, JPP has already shown that he has the talent and skills to compete in the NFL.
This season, JPP is third in the NFL with 9.5 sacks, behind only DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen—pretty good company if you ask me. That sack total leads the G-Men, while his 40 tackles have him tied for fifth on the team.
Pierre-Paul has been a great addition to the already fantastic Giants defensive line, and should be a fixture in New York for many years to come.
Victor Cruz was a star in the preseason last year, but didn't get his shot in the regular season until this year with Steve Smith's departure and the injury to Domenik Hixon.
Cruz has broken out so far this season and is becoming a star in New York. He is a fan favorite and has stepped up big for the Giants this year.
He leads the team in receiving yards with 672 on 40 catches, along with four touchdowns. Cruz has become one of Eli's favorite targets as well, with 65 passes directed his way, only one behind team leader Hakeem Nicks.
There was a big question mark as to who would step up at wide receiver with Steve Smith leaving for Philly, but Victor Cruz has shown that he is the answer.
Corey Webster has been a solid cornerback in New York for the past several seasons until the emergence of Terrell Thomas seemed to overshadow him last year. With Thomas knocked out for the season with a torn ACL, Webster has really come into his own this season.
Webster leads the Giants with four interceptions, which ties his career high—but remember, he has done this in just nine games this year.
His four picks have him one behind the league leaders, while he also leads the Giants in passes defended, with 11.
If Webster keeps up this level of play, he his on pace to have his best season as a pro.
Eli Manning has had his share of ups and downs in New York, but this year he finally appears to be playing to his full potential.
After his 25 interceptions last season, many, including myself, wondered if Eli would ever turn out to be the No. 1 overall draft pick that we expected. So far this year he has stepped up huge and is having arguably his best season as a pro.
Through nine games, Manning has 2,688 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, a 63.1 completion percentage and a passer rating of 97.0. He is on pace to break his previous career bests in all of these categories, as well as interceptions.
Eli has led the Giants to some huge wins this year, including four fourth quarter comebacks.
He may never end up as good as his brother, but this season he is playing some of the best football in the league.