Are the New York Giants one of the NFL’s best teams? That is what their 8-3 record says. Naysayers, though, point to the quality of competition and the lack of dominant victories to knock them down.
So, contenders or pretenders? What is it? In our latest “round table” I turned to the Big Blue View staff to see what they think. Let’s have a look.
Here is the question I asked each of our writers.
"The Giants are 8-3, the league's fourth-best record. Are they really one of the league's best teams, headed to the playoffs and a Super Bowl contender? Or, will the next five games expose them as a pretender?"
Here are there answers.
I wrote about this earlier in the week for numberFire. The answer, as it usually is with these types of questions, is somewhere in between. There’s no way anyone could watch the Giants and think to themselves this is one of the best teams in the NFL right now. But at 8-3, they have an 80.1 percent chance of making the playoffs even with the tough five-game stretch to end the season. Even going 2-3 in those five games should be enough for a Wild Card.
Now should they get in, they’re not a lock to be one-and-done. They have one of the league’s best defenses -- now seventh by DVOA -- and an uncoverable wide receiver. In the playoffs, you only need to do a few things really well for a chance to steal a game and the Giants have that potential. And if there’s any franchise that knows it doesn’t take a dominant regular season team to make a deep run in the playoffs, it’s this one.
Despite the record, it's hard to call the Giants a top five team if you've watched them play this year. Eli hasn't played a sharp four quarters in a row all season, the O-line is shaky at best, and the defense, while improved, is still giving away too much to lesser teams. I do have some optimism that once we make the playoffs as a Wild Card, we could be dangerous. It could turn into a blessing that we can't blow anyone out, because big blue is getting a LOT of practice winning close games. Like our last Super Bowl runs, a shaky regular season can potentially blossom into a dominant post season. As long as we make the playoffs, you never know.
You are what your record says your are. Zero for originality there, but it's true. The Giants win ugly, sure. But they do win. Last year (and the year before that, and the year before that...) they invented ways to lose close games. You can't selectively dismiss the fact they've found ways to win them in 2016. The Giants have the second-best record in the NFC but they aren't your prototype Tier-1 team. At least not today. I do expect them to win at least two of these last five games to get into the playoffs though, and once they're there all bets are off. We see it almost every year: the best team doesn't always win the Super Bowl, the hottest team does. So no they aren't a top-team or Super Bowl contender right at this moment, but they should get into the postseason and could be peaking at the right time.
It's easy to look at point differential and say the Giants are lucky. But doing that discredits to the talent of the defense who has been arguably an elite unit in the NFL. The offense looks bland, and thanks to modern viewing habits, a bad offensive team is "bad" in general. The Giants aren't perfect, but watching every other NFL game tells you the same thing for every team out there. They may not be some 2013 Seahawks or 2007 Patriots but they are a good team nonetheless.
Are the Giants for real? I'll say that I think they are.
With the reigning defensive player of the week (Jason Pierre-Paul), as well as defensive player of the month, and two time DPOW (Landon Collins), one of the best run stoppers in the league in Damon Harrison, and the two least-frequently burned corners in the NFL in Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the defense is for real. As we've seen time and again, "For Real" defense will keep you in games and give your offense the chance to do enough to win. The Giants did it in 2007, the Seahawks did it in 2013, and the Broncos did it last year.
If the offense can sustain the flashes of brilliance we've seen from them, the Giants have the talent to be one of the great offenses in the league. From what we've seen, that might be asking a bit much, but getting Justin Pugh and Shave Vereen back might solidify the the offense and catalyze what we've hoped to see all along. If the Giants could pair an offense that lives up to its potential with a stout defense, I don't think this is even a question anymore.
The Giants defense has improved tremendously since last season, although more of a consistent pass rush would be nice. Special teams has been up-and-down all season, but the biggest question week-in and week-out is the offense. Everywhere you look someone is saying how explosive this offense can/should be and is certain to have a break-out game. Well, playing against the Browns (31st in total defense) and the Bears (18th against the run) should have been those games, yet never happened in an enormous way. The lack of a run game is killing this group. Rashad Jennings, the team’s leading rusher, is 30th in the league while the team is 31st overall (out of 32). And while Odell Beckham is steadily approaching 1,000 yards, the great aerial attack this team was supposed to have is suspect. There is not another receiver on this squad in the Top 50. Of the Giants eight wins, only one has been against a team with a winning record; and that Cowboys win was before Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott had a grasp on the pro game. However, luck is on this year’s team. If winning by less than a TD in every game is the game plan, it seems to be working. As Bill Parcells surmised, “You are what your record is.” If we could pit last year’s offense with this year’s defense, this club would certainly be a championship caliber team.