In a recent article published to ESPN Insider, KC Joyner took a look at three possible Super Bowl sleepers. Among the shortlist of sneaky possibilities were the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings, but most importantly, there was also a certain team from New York. No, sorry Jets fans, but Joyner isn't anointing Todd Bowles and his crew just yet. Instead, the NFL insider detailed a list of ways the New York Giants could pull out of its recent nosedive towards the basement of the NFC East and soar towards another surprising championship run.
Coming back from a deficit is nothing new for Tom Coughlin's Giants teams. Both of his Super Bowl champions were not expected to win a title. This year's team is in the same boat: Big Blue is coming off its second straight losing season, which hadn't happened since the 2003 and 2004 seasons, the latter being Coughlin's first with the Giants.
Unsurprisingly, the first of Joyner's keys to success is the performance of the team's star quarterback, Eli Manning. When in doubt, the media looks to the signal caller. Manning, a notoriously hot-and-cold player, is one of the most divisive players in the league. Joyner appears to be a believer. He's one of us.
From Weeks 9-17 last season, Manning led the league in attempts per game (41.8) and ranked third in stretch-vertical passing yards (571). [...] If Beckham can come anywhere close to stretching his second-half numbers (73 catches, 1,073 yards and 9 TDs) over a full season, Manning has the potential to be one of the best downfield quarterbacks.
The second half of the article dealt mainly with the need for the Giants to shore up a defense that has, in recent years, been problematic. This begins with ousting Perry Fewell and bringing back the fan favorite, and architect of the Perfect Patriots upset, Steve Spagnuolo.
The Giants' defense was average or below average in just about every area last season expect for their ability to pressure the quarterback. They ranked fourth overall in disrupted dropback percentage. [...] Even with Jason Pierre-Paul's production level in question due to his fireworks accident, this defense has more than enough talent to post another top-10 season in this area.
And of course, who could forget about that most frustrating of sights for Giants fans; the broken play.
The Giants allowed 12 touchdowns last season due to some form of coverage error, the most of any team in the NFL. These mistakes are often the easiest to correct, so a big reduction here is very likely. Helping the cause will be second-round draft pick Landon Collins, a safety who Scouts, Inc. said has "good overall eye discipline in coverage."
Stout defense, reliable coverage and a quarterback hitting his stride. Sounds a lot like both of last year's Super Bowl hopefuls; the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. Both benefitted from excellent secondary play and a good pass rush, while a quarterback lifted their offense above the sum of its parts. If Manning and the Giants want to reach another title game in 2015, Joyner's plan seems like a great starting point.