Don't punch your ticket to Super Bowl XLIII yet, New York Giants fans. With a Super Bowl championship in our pockets, and a dominant 7-1 start, this is a great time for the Giants.
It isn't time to get cocky, though. There is a long way to go, and no one knows what the next eight games will bring.
This team still has room to get better. The Giants walloped the Cowboys Sunday, but really did not play all that consistently. On the flip side, there are a lot of things that could happen to bring down the house that Tom Coughlin has built.
Let's look at both sides of that equation. Here are five ways the Giants can still get better, and five ways the Giants march toward back-to-back Super Bowl championships can be derailed.
First, let's look at where the Giants can get better.
Room for Improvement
- Plaxico Burress -- The moody wide receiver caught 15 passes in his first two games. He has only caught 16 in his last five and, of course, missed one due to suspension. The Giants can win now without big plays from Burress, but they need to get him back on track to win it all. Despite everything, he is still their biggest playmaker in the passing game.
- Kick Returns -- The Giants are 28th in the league in kickoff returns with an average of just 20.2 yards per return. Primary return guy Ahmad Bradshaw is getting just 21.6 yards per return right now. We know Bradshaw is a big-play threat, but he has to have someplace to run. The Giants will need some big plays from him -- or Domenik Hixon -- eventually.
- Green Zone -- The Giants lead the league in yards per drive (37.66) and are second in points per game (28.2). They are only 8th in touchdowns per drive, though, which means they are leaving points off the board. With the emergence of Kevin Boss and Steve Smith, they seem to be getting better here. That's a trend that needs to continue.
- Turnovers -- The Giants lost two fumbles Sunday, recovered at least one of their own, and had an interception returned for a touchdown. That's a trend that can't continue.
- Kickoffs -- John Carney has been brilliant on field goals (18-of-19), but his kickoffs are getting shorter and shorter. Last week most barely made it inside the 15, and the Cowboys ended up starting outside their own 35 on most drives. If that continues it will cost the Giants at some point.
So, that isn't really a lot to pick on. But it does highlight some areas that need to be addressed. Now, let's look at how the house can come crumbling down.
What can go wrong
- Injuries -- We just saw the Cowboys with Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger pretending to be NFL quarterbacks. What would happen to the Giants if they had to finish the season or head to the playoffs with David Carr or Andre Woodson taking snaps? What if Justin Tuck went down, or a couple members of that vaunted offensive line get hurt? It is the NFL and that stuff happens. A handful on injuries to the wrong guys, and everything could go up in smoke.
- Plaxico Burress -- Ah yes, it always comes back to Plax. Burress appears to be trying to get with the program at this point, yet it is still 52 Giants going one way and Plax still going his way. If he continues to be a sideshow there is the potential for him to disrupt the single-mindedness that is a hallmark of this team. On top of that, if he continues to under-perform that will eventually haunt the Giants.
- The schedule -- The next eight games are murderous. At Philadelphia, Baltimore, at Arizona, at Washington, Philadelphia again, at Dallas, Carolina, at Minnesota. If you think the Giants are going 7-1 in the second half of the season, I think you are overly optimistic. I will be thrilled if they go 5-3 in that stretch, which would be good enough for 12-4 and probably home-field advantage. None of those games are easy, though, so anything can happen.
Complacency -- I doubt that this will be an issue, but it can be. The Giants have had so much success recently it is human nature to start taking it for granted (both as players and fans). Do that, it comes back to bite you.
- Lady Luck -- The Giants are almost assuredly going to the playoffs. At this point, it would be an absolute stunner if the season fell apart and that did not happen. We should have learned from last year, though, that playoff games can be decided by one play, one bounce of the ball, one goofy circumstance. If one of those plays turns against the Giants in a playoff game, that could be all it would take to derail those title hopes.
So, Giants fans enjoy the ride. Be careful not to start counting on another title yet, though.