The post-Super Bowl championship pattern for the New York Giants is well established. Tremendous early-season success followed by abysmal late-season failure, leading to seasons that end long before it looks like they should.
- 2008: Giants start 11-1 and look like the best team in football, Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the leg and shoots the Giants' season in the heart. The team finishes 12-4 and is embarrassed by Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs.
- 2009: A 5-0 start before the Bill Sheridan/C.C. Brown era officially jumps up and strangles the Giants' post-season hopes. A 3-8 finish, 8-8 overall record and no playoffs.
- 2010: A 6-2 start, followed by a 4-4 finish that includes spectacularly awful losses to Philadelphia and Green Bay that killed the Giants' season. A good 10-6 record, but again not good enough. No playoffs for the second straight season.
Is this the year the pattern reverses itself? Maybe.
First, we have to acknowledge that the Giants are not exactly flying out of the starting gate as they have done the first half of each of the past three seasons. They are limping, injury-ravaged to the field each day, then seemingly stumbling around in search of the form that would make them the team they think they should be. They are 0-1 and with Philadelphia looming in Week 3 are staring down the barrel of a potential 0-3 start if they don't get things straightened out enough to defeat the St. Louis Rams this Monday.
The Giants, right now, are not whole. Truthfully, they never will be whole this season with their best corner, Terrell Thomas, and their starting middle linebacker, Jonathan Goff, on injured reserve. They have several other injuries -- Osi Umenyiora, Prince Amukamara, Travis Beckum among them -- and are still striving to effectively replace the two free agents they unexpectedly lost -- tight end Kevin Boss and wide receiver Steve Smith.
Training camp and the preseason were not kind to the Giants. The season opener against the Washington Redskins was a dismal failure. It is easy to see why there is unrest, why some despairing souls think the season is already a lost cause.
Yet, the ragged start and the current shape of the roster have left me wondering ... Could this, finally, be the first time since the 2007 Super Bowl season that the second half of the season is more satisfying than the first half?
Provided that the Giants suffer no more catastrophic injuries to key players, the Giants should get closer and closer to full strength as the weeks go by.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, the captain and best player on that side of the ball, should return Monday against St. Louis. Amukamara, the first-round pick, ran Wednesday for the first time since breaking his foot and appears to be on the road to recovery. By mid-season he should be ready to help a secondary badly in need of reinforcements. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora should be back from preseason knee surgery within the next few weeks and -- if he can focus on playing football -- should provide pass-rushing and play-making help to a defense in desperate need of both.
The offensive line struggled in some situations against the Redskins, but there is talent there. New center David Baas is a good player. Will Beatty looks capable of upgrading the left tackle spot. David Diehl should be fine at guard. Given time to iron out the communication issues that surfaced on Sunday, this line should be a good one.
Ramses Barden should be back by midseason, and if he can finally be the player Jerry Reese envisioned he could help the Giants in two areas where the passing game has struggled -- in the middle of the field and the red zone. If Beckum can ever get healthy he should also help in those areas.
Then there are all those young players -- 11 rookies on the season-opening roster. Middle linebacker Greg Jones has been thrust into the spotlight, and you have to believe he will be a better player at the end of the season than he is now. Same with Jerrel Jernigan, Tyler Sash and Jacquian Williams. You have to think that, as the season progresses, the Giants will find ways to try and capitalize on the speed and big-play ability of Da'Rel Scott. As I mentioned, Amukamara should be contributing within a few weeks.
The schedule over the final nine games is, admittedly, daunting. At New England, at San Francisco, home against the Eagles, at New Orleans, home against Green Bay, at Dallas, home against Washington, at the Jets, home against Dallas. With that brutal stretch of games it is entirely possible that the Giants could be a much-improved football team during the second half of the season from what they are today, and still not wind up with the results on the scoreboard to show it. To make the playoffs the Giants cannot bury themselves during the first seven games of the season.
Still, though, when you look at the situation the possibility is there for the Giants to reverse their recent trend. To make the playoffs, they are probably going to have to.