"RESPECT ALL. FEAR NONE."
- Tom Coughlin.
The Giants are 5-2. Doesn't matter how we got there, we're there. We join the company of the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and whoever else has only 2 losses.
Crazy, right? I thought we were supposed to lie down at whatever superior forces are thrown at us. We were supposed to be in the basement after our failure of a GM didn't do anything in free agency. We lost so many key pieces, its a miracle that we're even 0.500, let alone above it. And didn't you know it, the Eagles should have ground us to dust and stomped us out.
I've heard the absolute gamut of reasoning as to why we are 5-2, and they are all excuses. I don't care. A win is a win is a win. If we struggle, so be it. We can look at it as a deficit in talent (which I VEHEMENTLY disagree with considering we went 10-6 last season; should have been 11-5), or look at it as a learning point. A way to focus on our inconsistencies and fix them.
We have not beaten a single team convincingly this season. That's a cause for concern, sure. But what it does is keep the pressure to get better on full blast. It gives the Giants something to work on, a point to keep focused. For the entire season, people have been making excuses for the Giants. Some of my favorites:
*Not a good team at all, they still have all those injuries in the secondary and it'll catch up to them.
*Their run defense sucks so bad. So does their rushing game and OL.
*They've faced such a soft schedule thus far. They have a "gauntlet of high-powered teams" left.
*We've seen this before. They are just a tease and will collapse again. Eli Manning can't sustain this type of play.
Do you know what I have to say to this? Fear mongering.
And I absolutely refuse to be swayed.
I was told at the beginning of this year, in absolute terms, that the Giants were going to finish last. We didn't have the talent to compete with the rest of the vaunted NFC East.
Philadelphia, with all their shiny toys, is the most talented team in the league. Dallas, with Tony Romo and a healthy Jason Witten, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant could not be stopped. Washington had a tremendous defense, with a ferocious pass rush that would eat us alive.
All we could do is respect the other team (OK, maybe not Washington, but they definitely earned mine after week 1). What we can ill afford to do, fans or team, is fear anyone else. We are not without our flaws, but we make adjustment and move on.
We were thought to be an extremely porous secondary, and for the first two games, that was indeed the case. However, we started to make adjustments, tried new formations, dialed up the pass rush. Now? We rank 13th. A mere 12 yards/game separates us from the top 10. Eli Manning wasn't supposed to be good. He made adjustments from last year, and we are now 4th in passing offense and 6th in interceptions.
A continuing problem in the past for us has been turnovers and red zone offense. We are the only NFC East team with a positive turnover differential, with a +5. We also happen to be top 5 in red zone efficiency.
Our special teams was a point of emphasis. We were beyond pathetic last year. We are now decidedly average, with Steve Weatherford having a great year....a massive boost from years past.
Our run defense and our offensive line might be in trouble. I have no doubt we make adjustments and get those two aspects going.
Right after the Rams game, I created a fanpost entitled "Keep Pushing" and my main point was that the biggest strength of the team was its resiliency. We may suck for the entire game, but its the final score that counts. I was listening to ESPN Radio, and one commentator (can't remember who) said:
Do not count out the New York Giants. They seem outmatched every game, but somehow pull together almost every time. That comes from the locker room. A team can have all the talent in the world, but if you have no backbone, you aren't going to win. It remains to be seen if the Giants have that talent, but they sure do have backbone.
We cannot allow ourselves to get caught up on who our opponents are. Faced with questions about the schedule, I heard Victor Cruz, Eli Manning, and Justin Tuck all say the same thing: One opponent at a time. They said there was no quit in this team, and while the upcoming schedule might be hard, it certainly also will be difficult for opposing teams to face us.
Respect all and fear none.
Lets take a look at our next opponents, and why exactly I don't fear any of them.
New England: We have all sorts of stats that favor the Patriots. Undefeated at home since 1492 or whatever. Never have more than two losses in a row since forever. I think out of all the remaining teams left on the schedule, the Giants match up against the Patriots the best. The biggest weakness of the Patriots is the secondary. On top of that, they aren't a great pass rushing team, which means they'll have to blitz. Eli Manning, according to PFF and my own eyes, is the best QB in the NFL against the blitz. He has a chance to carve them up.
Tom Brady can only be stopped in one way...if he's under pressure. I don't think I need to explain this one.
San Francisco: Their defense is something to behold, and Justin Smith is an absolute monster. Not to mention perhaps one of the best 3-4 LB crews in the NFL in Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, and Navorro Bowman. They have a slow offense though, paced mostly by Alex Smith's efficiency and Frank Gore. Shut down Gore, and I'd like to see Smith win it. I'm not sold on the 49ers just yet, but we are good at forcing mistakes (apparently other teams' mistakes are the only way we win anyway) so I have a good feeling about this one.
Philadelphia: Easy one to explain. We already beat them before. But wait, you say....they had not "gelled" yet as a team. Gelling has nothing to do with missed tackles and turnovers. Sure their offensive lines may be more comfortable now, but they did not see a fully healthy lineup of Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka. They were impressive, no doubt, against the Cowboys. The Saints were impressive agains the Colts, too. Look at what happened to them against St. Louis. You are never as good as your best win, nor are you as bad as your worst loss. Out of all the teams left, we know this Eagles team the best, and the last few contests have been extremely close. I respect the hell out of the Eagles, and they could very well beat us. They don't scare me, though. Especially since we've beaten them before.
New Orleans: I have a feeling the team hasn't forgotten the ass-whooping they got from the Saints a few years ago. Drew Brees has been erratic, and can be forced into making mistakes. Their secondary isn't special either. This is much like the Patriots matchup.
Green Bay: So I guess they are the unstoppable team. We've fared kinda well against "unstoppable" teams in the past. A recurring theme with these dominant offensive teams....their secondary minus Charles Woodson isn't great. If we continue to play turnover free football, we have a chance. Also, Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers only if you give him time to be. Come at him like a pack of wild dogs and we'll see what happens.
Dallas Cowboys: Demarcus Ware is nasty, and I don't know if we have a chance to stop him, but the rest of the defense can be exposed. Tony Romo is literally a rollercoaster, and we may not have to beat him because he can beat himself. Regardless, as a division foe, both games will be hard fought, but we've had their number lately when Romo is the quarterback.
Washington Redskins: We were embarrassed by them. The team will be out for blood as a more cohesive unit. I look forward to it. They still have a solid defense, but I no longer am sold on that offense.
No, I'm not that we are better than any or all these teams. Nor am I saying that we win all these games. I am merely saying that we have the talent and resiliency to do so. Having come back from deficits so many times, from having the type of coach that Tom Coughlin is, to dealing with the insane amount of injuries that we have had to deal with, we are the team best equipped to handle adversity in this league. No, we should not fear this schedule.
I know there's a lot of people that start off with saying "Realistically...." and than (depending on whether you are a fan or not) going on about tempering expectations or laughing, let me ask you a question:
"What the hell do you know about being 'realistic'?"
Every single team on the Giants schedule sans the Packers has had a bad loss. Every team has its flaws. If you go in with the mentality that this team is showing right now, buying into the idea of "finish. Finish. FINISH"....having the mentality that the coach is having: "We will not give up. We cannot give up"....if we continue to have that swagger to not fear our opponents....well, that would give us a team. Anything can and will happen, and if we keep pushing, as we've said so many times over, we have a chance.
We are a team in the truest sense of the word and one capable of crushing anybody. Eli Manning has the ability to do it. Our secondary can do it. Our defensive line is certainly hungry enough, as is our young WR corp. Our OL is nothing if not prideful, our running backs are literally angry.
So open up that nice big can of hate. C'mon Philly fans. Dallas fans. Redskins and Jets fans. C'mon Skip Bayless, Mark Clayton, Dan Graziano, any so-called "expert." Go ahead and tell us we can't do it.
We ain't scared.