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Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Midseason Report: Giants

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Despite starting the season strong, New York quarterback Eli Manning has struggled in recent games.
Power Rankings: Preseason: 3. This week: 15.

2009 Schedule/Results

Where they stand: After losing four consecutive games, the Giants have fallen two games behind the Cowboys in the division. They were 5-0 before the losing streak began. Fortunately for the Giants, a lot of teams we thought would be in the running for a wild-card spot are struggling. The Falcons lost two straight before beating the Redskins. The Packers can't protect Aaron Rodgers and they now stand at 4-4. So the Giants still have time to turn things around. I think 10-6 is what it will take to make the playoffs. And despite what we've seen from them in recent weeks, I think the Giants are capable of finishing 5-2.

Disappointments: It's hard to know where to start, but I think quarterback Eli Manning has to be near the top. He was solid in the loss to the Chargers, but he played poorly in the three previous games. He had thrown 10 touchdowns and two interceptions through five games. There were folks touting him for MVP consideration. Then the bottom fell out and he's thrown five touchdowns and six interceptions in his team's four losses. The Giants lost talented safety Kenny Phillips and it turns out they didn't have an adequate replacement on the roster. C.C. Brown struggled mightily and now he's been replaced by Packers castoff Aaron Rouse. The Giants needed cornerback Corey Webster to take control of the secondary -- and he hasn't gotten it done. I think you also have to pin some of the blame on new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. This doesn't look like the same defense that Steve Spagnuolo put out there for two seasons.

Surprises: Steve Smith has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber talent. He's made some fantastic catches and he's helped fill the void left by Plaxico Burress. Mario Manningham got off to a fast start, but he's had way too many drops. Some people might be surprised with how much progress Hakeem Nicks is making in his rookie season. I think he's ready to be the Giants' No. 2 option. He has better hands than Manningham and he's good at running after the catch. I've been a little surprised by how quickly he's caught on. Former University of Miami cornerback Bruce Johnson has also been a surprise. He's been really good at times -- especially when he was playing nickel in place of the injured Kevin Dockery earlier in the season.

Outlook: Both the Eagles and Cowboys have to travel to the Meadowlands, so there's a chance for the Giants to hop right back in the division race. They'll travel to FedEx to play the Redskins and that shouldn't be a problem. I'm still somewhat optimistic about this team's chances of getting in the playoffs. If Sheridan can ignite this pass rush, the Giants could become a threat in the second half of the season. But right now, the new defensive coordinator is really struggling at times. You have to pressure Philip Rivers on that last drive. The Giants didn't do a good job and Rivers made them pay. As I've already stated, 10-6 is very doable.