The script is familiar. The New York Giants start fast. They hit the halfway point of the NFL season looking like a dominant team that should have no problem making the NFL playoffs. The Super Bowl talk is already getting started. Then the calendar turns from October to November, and things don't always work out the way it looks like they will.
Here we go again. The Giants are 6-2 at the midpoint of the 2012 NFL season, arriving at the halfway point with at least six wins for the seventh time in the nine years Tom Coughlin has been head coach. The other two times the Giants were 5-3. Here are those first half of the season records under Coughlin.
2009: 5-3 (after a 5-0 start)
The Super Bowl chatter is out there for the defending champs. The talk about this being the best Giants team of the Coughlin era is out there. As it has pretty much every season in the Coughlin era, the real season starts now for the Giants. A brutal second-half schedule begins this Sunday when the Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
Justin Tuck has been a Giant since 2005. He has been down this road every season of his eight-year career. He knows that despite the way things look now there are no guarantees.
"What I am worried about is what we have always done," the veteran defensive end said. "We’ve always been 6-2 at the break or 5-2 at the break. We’ve got to figure out a way to make sure we keep this thing going."
Remember Tuck's words as the rest of the season unfolds. Right now the Giants look like they have a stranglehold on the NFC East title. The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-4 and imploding. Andy Reid has changed quarterbacks, dumping Michael Vick for rookie Nick Foles, and if it doesn't work Reid will likely be coaching elsewhere next season. The Dallas Cowboys are also 3-4, and what has been proven over and over about the Cowboys is that they lose when they should win and are never as good as they ought to be. The Washington Redskins are 3-5. Their time will come, but it isn't right now.
Pro Football Talk recently opined that this Giants team is the best Coughlin has ever assembled.
The Giants have won two Super Bowls with Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and Co., and they’ve had three other playoff appearances since Coughlin became the coach and Manning became the franchise quarterback. But they haven’t had a team as good as this one.
This Giants team — the team that went to Dallas and won one of the wildest games of this NFL season against the Cowboys on Sunday — is the best Giants team yet, the most complete Giants team yet. This is the Giants team that has the best chance of standing apart and being remembered as not just a good team, but a dominant team.
There is some truth in that. We have seen how talented and deep this roster is. Check the contributions of safety Stevie Brown, wide receivers Ramses Barden and Reuben Randle, running back Andre Brown, the fact that David Diehl can't get back into the lineup, the plethora of defensive ends and linebackers.
The Giants have two Super Bowl titles under Coughlin, but what they have never done is put together back-to-back great seasons that included deep playoff runs. This team has set itself up with a chance to accomplish that.
The Giants -- and their fans -- know, however, that a solid start does not mean a special finish. Despite those annual fast starts there were no playoffs in 2004, 2009 and 2010. There was Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg and the Giants' season in the foot in 2008 when the Giants started 11-1 and the talk was much like what is beginning now.
Giants' fans should know better than anyone that the ride is just beginning. During the Coughlin era it is the second halves of seasons that have told the story, and there has been no script for those. My advice? Buckle up and see if this becomes one of those ultimate thrill rides, or if it crashes and burns before it gets to the finish line.