Our New York Giants are 5-2, have won four straight games and now there is currently a much different kind of buzz about this football team. It isn't 'has Tom Coughlin lost control?' Now, it's more like 'Is this the best team in the NFC?'
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun today to play a little 'Fact or Fiction.' What I am going to do is take a look at five of the ideas about the Giants that are out there, and determine whether -- at this point in the season -- they are 'Fact' or 'Fiction.'
This is just for fun, and I am sure you won't agree with all of my choices here. Remember, though, these are based purely on right now -- not where the Giants might be at the end of the season. Let's get started.
1. Ahmad Bradshaw is the best running back in the NFL
After seven games, Bradshaw leads the league with 708 yards. He is fourth in the league with an average of 101.1 yards per game, and among the league's top 10 rushers only Arian Foster of Houston and Darren McFadden of Oakland (5.5 yards per carry) are averaging more per attempt than Bradshaw (5.3 per carry). Bradshaw has the most runs of 20 yards or more in the league, with 11. Even at 5-foot-9, 198 pounds Bradshaw has more yards after contact (529) than any back in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, and both he and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson have forced a league-best 30 missed tackles.The only chink in his armor has been the four fumbles.
For my money, no back in the league has been better than Bradshaw.
2. Eli Manning is an MVP candidate
This idea was floated by Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio earlier this week. So, is there validity to it? Mind you, this is not about whether he would win if the vote was taken today, but whether he should be in the discussion.
Manning is completing a career-best 65.7 percent of his passes and has thrown 14 touchdown passes. His play has been instrumental in the four-game winning streak.
Manning, however, also leads the league in interceptions with 11. Whether you want to blame them all on him is another argument, but the number is there. I hate the 'quarterback rating' system, but Manning's 88.3 rating places him 14th in the league, one spot behind Cleveland's Seneca Wallace. Using its plus/minus system, Pro Football focus ranks Eli at +11.9, a nice score but also only 14th in the league.
If Manning can cut down his turnovers, several of which resulted from bad decisions, and the Giants keep winning he could well be in this discussion at season's end. Right now, though, he should not be.
3. The Giants have the best defense in the league
The Giants are second in the NFL in yards per game, giving up only 263.3. They are third in the league in sacks, with 24, just one behind both San Diego and Tennessee. Giants' pass rushers have already KO'd five quarterbacks this season. Pro Football Focus gives the Giants defense an overall rating of +69.6, third in the league behind Chicago and Seattle. The Giants have forced 16 turnovers (seven interceptions, nine fumbled recoveries) and only four teams have forced more. The Giants allow only 85.4 yard per game rushing, third-best in the league.
On the flip side, the Giants are 14th in the league in points per game, surrendering 21.9. Part of that might be a field position issue because of special teams and turnovers, but it still puts them in the middle of the pack.
This defense is very, very good and getting better. But, best in the league right now? No.
4. The Giants have the best receiving corps in the NFL
The Giants and Indianapolis Colts each have two players in the top five in receptions. The Giants have Hakeem Nicks, second with 45, and Steve Smith, fifth with 43. Reggie Wayne of the Colts has 45 and Austin Collie 44. Each of those pairs has a big playmaker and a guy you might consider more of a possession receiver. The big difference between the two teams is that Indianapolis just lost its third receiver, tight end Dallas Clark, for the season. The Giants have the explosive Mario Manningham (21 catches 15.7 yards per reception, three touchdowns) as their third option.
Maybe Dallas with Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Dez Bryant can match that trio. Also, maybe Denver with Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal. Right now, though, I would not trade the Giants group for any other threesome in the league.
5. The Giants are the best team in the NFL (the Antrel Rolle assertion)
The Giants have won four straight and sit atop the NFC East with a 5-2 record. They have played some dominant defense, and at times some brilliant offense. They turn the ball over too much, their kick coverage is suspect and their return game non-existent. The defensive front seven has been dominant, particularly the front four.
This is a very good football team right now, one which could get better. The Giants have not exactly rolled over a bunch of powerhouses, though. Only one of their five victories (against Houston) has been over what you would have to consider to be a truly good team at this point.
The Giants are currently in the discussion with New Orleans and Atlanta as the best teams in the NFC. I would think you have to admit, though, that the NFC is the weaker conference and that you would have to put maybe a half-dozen AC teams ahead of anyone from the NFC right now.