The 2012 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots creeps a little bit closer every day. I have been thinking a lot about how the Giants got to this point, and I thought I would put together a list of the 10 players who I thought had the most to do with getting the Giants to Indianapolis.
I also asked Mike and Sean for their lists, partially for reference as I put mine together and partially so you could also see their thoughts on the subject. Their lists will be underneath mine, which I will give you in reverse order starting with No. 10.
10. Kevin Boothe -- Did you snicker when general manager Jerry Reese talked about the importance of re-signing Boothe as a free agent? I did. I am not laughing now. I am also not making any more 'big-butt' jokes.
8. Chase Blackburn -- No one, including the Giants, thought Blackburn could play as well as he has since the Giants brought him back when Mark Herzlich broke his ankle. Blackburn's experience, his leadership, and his ability to get downfield and into passing lanes in coverage, have made a huge difference in the play of the defense.
7. Osi Umenyiora/Justin Tuck -- I am cheating here, but I have to mention both veteran defensive ends. Umenyiora has been a difference-maker whenever he has played, with ine sacks and two forced fumbles in nine regular-season games, and 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the playoffs.
6. Michael Boley -- Assumed the role of defensive signal-caller this season and had his best year as a Giant.
5. Steve Weatherford -- Whatever the reason New York Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff didn't think Weatherford was good enough to punt for his team that's his problem. Weatherford had the best season of his career and turned a devastating weakness into a Giants' strength.
4. Jason Pierre-Paul -- It takes a special player to relegate Osi Umenyiora to No. 3 on the depth chart. JPP is definitely that. At times this season it looked like he was playing defense all by himself out there.
3. Hakeem Nicks -- A very good season, and thus far a spectacular playoff performance. The 'Hail Mary' catch against Green Bay was the highlight, but while everyone has been talking about Victor Cruz it has been Nicks leading the Giants receivers in the postseason. He has 18 catches for 335 yards (18.6 yards per catch) and four touchdowns in three postseason games.
2. Victor Cruz -- Is there really much more than can be said about Cruz? The guy is probably the best story in the NFL this season. How many plays did he make this season that changed the outcome of games? A lot.
1. Eli Manning -- Classify Eli however you want. Fact is, he is one heckuva quarterback and it is entirely possible that without him this season the Giants are a lot closer to the 2-14 Indianapolis Colts than to the Super Bowl. Without Manning the Giants could easily have been a four- or five-win team.
Honorable Mentions: I left a couple of guys off my list that I need to give some props to. Ahmad Bradshaw's stats aren't great, but the Giants are clearly a different offensive football team with him than without him. Antrel Rolle did not have a great year, and he talks too much. Calling out some of his teammates prior to the Jets game for not practicing enough turned out to be a kick in the teeth that ended up being a defining moment for the Giants.
Mike's List ...
1. Eli Manning
2. Jason Pierre-Paul
3. Victor Cruz
4. Hakeem Nicks
5. Michael Boley
6. Justin Tuck
7. Ahmad Bradshaw
8. Jacquian Williams
9. Chase Blackburn
10. Steve Weatherford
It was hard to leave off Ballard, Mario and Corey Webster, heck, even Antrel.
Sean's List ...
1. Eli Manning
2. Victor Cruz
3. Hakeem Nicks
4. Jason Pierre-Paul
5. Corey Webster
6. Jake Ballard
7. Osi Umenyiora
8. Michael Boley
9. Kevin Boothe
10. Jacquain Williams/Devin Thomas/Chase Blackburn
I had to throw in those three guys in at #10.
Without them, especially Williams and Thomas, we don't advance to SB46.