Is it just me or has the 2015 season felt like it has gone by in the blink of an eye? One long, painful, and arduous blink that at times felt as though it would never end.
Well, here we are, turning the page on the second to last week of the season, and possibly getting ready to embark on a new era of Giants football. But before we get to that, let's take a look back and see what we can learn.
For the first time in a long time, Eli Manning didn't finish a game. That is significant in a year that is seeing A.J. McCarron play Brock Osweiler in a game between two teams at the top of the AFC. Backup quarterbacks have played significant snaps for nearly half of the teams in the NFL.
Under constant pressure from the Vikings pass rush, Eli was hit more in Minnesota than he had been before this season and with the game out of reach, Ryan Nassib took the field. Fortunately for the Giants, Eli was pulled before he could be knocked out of the game. But in his 55 snaps, Manning still managed to throw three interceptions -- one returned for a touchdown -- and was largely ineffective. Granted, Eli had virtually no help in the absence of Odell Beckham Jr., but he still had the worst game of his season, being graded a -5.5 by Pro Football Focus.
On the flip-side is Weston Richburg. The sophomore center was snubbed from the Pro Bowl, but he and Justin Pugh have far outplayed expectations in their first NFL season at their current positions. Once again, Richburg shined against stiff competition. He played every snap and was graded a team-best +3.3 for his work in both the run game and as a pass protector. As much pressure as Eli was under, none of it was given up by Richburg.
The Giants center is currently PFF's top rated center in all of the NFL.
In his first NFL action, rookie tight end Matt LaCosse was on the field for 13 snaps and came away with his first three catches. Starting TE/H-Back Will Tye got 35 snaps while Jerome Cunningham got 16. The snap distribution between the three will be a storyline to follow in the Giants' final game.
The Giants were led by the players on the outside of their defense. What defense the Giants were able to muster, Robert Ayers, Jason Pierre-Paul, Prince Amukamara, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were usually involved.
Up front, Ayers lead the defense with a +2.7 grade, notching two sacks and a QB hit on 23 pass rush attempts -- 48 total snaps. Across from him, JPP was the Giants' most disruptive player, getting a QB hit, four hurries and a batted pass on his 59 snaps. The club protecting his injured hand limited his ability to tackle in the run game, but if anything, JPP might be a more disruptive pass rusher than ever before in his career.
On the outside, the Giants corners were targeted a combined seven times, giving up six receptions. However, they only gave up a total of 32 yards between the two of them.
Jasper Brinkley had yet another good game as well, scoring a +2.5 on 64 snaps, fourth most on the whole defense.
Finally getting a consistent crack at a starting role, defensive tackle Jay Bromley got the most snaps of any of the Giants' defensive tackles and was on the field for 46 snaps (66 percent).