Thursday, November 15, 2012
Can the Giants make the Super Bowl?
By Dan Graziano
Asking whether the New York Giants can reach the Super Bowl is like asking whether your kid can clean up his room in time for company. You've seen him do it, and it doesn't seem like that long ago, but the way the room looks right now makes it hard to believe.
The Giants bring all the résumé you want from your Super Bowl contender. Top quarterback with big-game experience? Check. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl MVP awards, including the most recent, and there's no doubting his big-game chops. Experienced coach who knows how to motivate his team down the stretch and navigate the postseason? Check. Tom Coughlin may have locked up a spot in the Hall of Fame last season when he led the Giants on the second surprise Super Bowl run of his career.
The Giants are built to win in the modern NFL, with a high-octane passing offense and a fearsome pass rush off of which the rest of the defense works. The issue they're having right now is that Manning and his receivers aren't clicking, and a few of those pass-rushers aren't getting to the passer.
Whatever. We've seen it before. This time last year, Osi Umenyiora was hurt and everyone was asking what was wrong with Justin Tuck. They showed up in time to save the season. This year, they'll hit Thanksgiving with a lead in a weak-looking division and a nice, comfortable cushion to allow them to fix their problems.
And all the Giants have to do is make the field. Once they get in, they'll be the team no one wants to play -- the team that went to Green Bay and San Francisco last season and won postseason games by playing more physically than they had all year and by refusing to turn the ball over. The reason the Giants can make the Super Bowl is that the way they're playing now says nothing about the way they can and probably will play in January. Barring a major collapse that keeps them out of the playoffs (something that would require the Cowboys to play much better the rest of the way than they have so far), the Giants should make the NFC playoff field. And once they do that, they're more than capable of flipping a switch and playing their best football at the right time.
Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul are all superstars in their prime, the kind of guys who can wreck playoff games in anyone's building. They may have the worst current record among the league's first-place teams, but they're as big a threat to make the Super Bowl as any team out there.