What a difference a year makes

A year ago, the Giants finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs. I blasted them (or maybe whined about them) a number of times on this blog. They did plenty of things right, but clearly it wasn't enough, and, when push came to shove, their record appeared to be better than they were.

This year, their record is worse, but they seem like a better team than that one, especially of late. They've been playing without a number of key starters from last year, yet other players have come in and played well or well enough in their absence, and others have simply excelled.

The QB has thrown two fewer TDs this year, but has had a much better season: He's thrown for well over 1.5 miles more compared to what he threw last year and has nine fewer INTs. He also lost one less fumble this year compared to last, and I must throw in the fact that he had one critical fumble recovery this year, extending a drive in the second half of the deciding final game.

Last year, the Giants simply didn't beat anybody with a winning record. They did well at beating the teams they should beat, but couldn't do it against the better teams. They also fell victim to the division winner twice. The division record has been 3-3 each of the last two seasons. This year, they fell to the cellar dweller twice. That's not an admirable thing to do by any means; however, they swept their main competition for the division title.

As the Giants go into the playoffs, I do wonder what this team is. They've been inconsistent, and unpredictable. They have puzzling losses, especially at home, against some of the weaker teams in the conference. Yet, they somehow swept the AFC East (including the Patriots in Gillette) and the Cowboys, and managed their first win against the Eagles in quite a while. They struggled but beat the Dolphins, and fought nicely but succumbed to the 49ers and Packers.

A disturbing stat on this team is that their 394/347 points for/against last year has fallen to 394/400 this year. I was surprised by this, as I only remember them being blown out by the Saints, and the Seahawks beating them by more than a TD thanks to a late pick 6.

The defense seems better now than they did early in the year. 400 points allowed is a ton--25 ponts a game, in fact. They're especially prone to one botched coverage for a long TD each game. Still, with their defensive line finally healthy, and their secondary playing pretty well, I like the defense. They seem stronger against the run than earlier. Goff and Thomas were two big players to lose, but their loss is somewhat negated by the emergence of JPP. With Tuck and Osi healthier than they've been, and in turn Canty and Joseph playing strong up the middle, and behind them Boley and then KP looking better too, they should be OK for a game or two, at least OK enough as the offense has been matching those 25 per game they're allowing...

Now the offense. Scoring the same number of points two years in a row is interesting (if it really happened--I'm sure that defensive and special team scores are reflected in the total, but it's surely close enough for comparison). The big difference is that they are more of a passing team this year, and have become so with largely a different set of receivers. Nicks has played most games but is playing hurt. Manningham has had a very quiet year and Smith and Boss are gone. The difference in the receiving corps can be explained in one word, a word that is seldom spelled the same way twice, as the person spelling it seems free to hold his or her finger on certain keys as long as they see fit: Cruuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzz!! Add in two guys unexpectedly putting up adequate TE numbers and a FB making big plays, and you end up with a QB that missed a 5000-yard season by less than 70 yards. The running game has been statistically abysmal, but played well the last few weeks, no doubt the result of the jelling line.

If I had to make a note about special teams, I'd simply say they were average--a bit more likely to cost us a game than to win us one, but largely a nonfactor.

It should be interesting Sunday. Admittedly, I haven't followed Atlanta closely, but know that they have very solid players at the skill positions on offense. Let's see how they do against the Giants pass rush. And let's see who on the Atlanta defense can stop Manning and his receiver set.

Go Blue!!!


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