The Giants have won two Super Bowls with Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and Co., and they’ve had three other playoff appearances since Coughlin became the coach and Manning became the franchise quarterback. But they haven’t had a team as good as this one.
This Giants team — the team that went to Dallas and won one of the wildest games of this NFL season against the Cowboys on Sunday — is the best Giants team yet, the most complete Giants team yet. This is the Giants team that has the best chance of standing apart and being remembered as not just a good team, but a dominant team.
At this point I can hear you saying that a great team would have put the Cowboys away easily on Sunday, rather than having to hold on to win 29-24 after taking an early 23-0 lead. And you might be right. I’m not here to argue that these Giants are a dominant team along the lines of the ’85 Bears. But the thing is, while the Giants have won two of the last five Super Bowls, they’ve really never dominated: They were 10-6 before going on a run in the postseason and winning the Super Bowl after the 2007 season, and 9-7 before turning it on in the playoffs again last year. Those were mediocre regular-season teams that played their best football in the playoffs.
In the regular season at least, this is a better Giants team. They’re 6-2 and they’ve outscored their opponents by a total of 73 points for the season, a huge improvement from last year, when the Giants were actually outscored by an aggregate score of 400-394 over the course of the season. This year’s Giants are getting big performances from newcomers like running back Andre Brown (who has 236 yards and five touchdowns this season), running back David Wilson (the first-round draft pick who is making a big impact on kickoff returns), tight end Martellus Bennett (who arrived this year as a free agent from Dallas and already has a career-high 334 receiving yards), receiver Rueben Randle (the second-round draft pick who got things started on Sunday with a 56-yard catch on the third play of the game), offensive tackle Sean Locklear (who arrived as a free agent this year and has started all eight games) and strong safety Stevie Brown (who signed as a free agent this year and was their best defensive player on Sunday, with two interceptions and a fumble recovery).
The Giants now lead the NFC East by 2.5 games and are about as close as it gets at the midway point of the season to being a sure thing to win their division. The big question is whether this will be the best Giants team yet in January and, if all goes well, in February. And if there’s anything the Giants have already taught us with the way they’ve played in the playoffs, it’s that being the best in the regular season doesn’t necessarily translate to being the best in the postseason.
But after watching the Giants over the first half of the regular season, would you bet against Coughlin, Manning and Co. in a playoff game? I sure wouldn’t. The defending champions look better than ever.
Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s NFL action:
I guess Juan Castillo wasn’t the only problem in Philadelphia. Eagles coach Andy Reid fired Castillo as his defensive coordinator because the Eagles blew a lead against the Lions, but judging from the way the Eagles played on Sunday against the Falcons, maybe Reid is the one who deserves to be fired. In their first game with Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator, the Eagles’ defense got shredded in a 30-17 loss to the Falcons. Sunday’s game was a great opportunity for the Eagles to prove themselves as contenders, and instead they laid an egg.
What were the Steelers wearing on Sunday? If I tried my best to design the ugliest uniforms imaginable, I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything more hideous than that combination of tan pants and black-and-yellow striped socks that the Steelers tried to pass off as throwbacks on Sunday. Those weren’t NFL uniforms, they were rejects from the discount rack at the Halloween costume store.
Ho-hum, Tom Brady had a huge game. Brady has been so great for so long that it seems like no one even raises an eyebrow anymore when he does something like throw for 304 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 45-7 win, as he did on Sunday. Brady makes the spectacular look routine, and the Patriots are playing consistently great offense like no other team in NFL history: Sunday’s win was the Patriots’ 17th consecutive game with at least 350 yards of total offense, topping the Greatest Show on Turf Rams of 1999-2000 for the longest such streak ever.
DeAngelo Hall needs to knock off the bush league nonsense. Hall, the Redskins’ veteran cornerback, was ejected from Sunday’s game against the Steelers after taking off his helmet, getting in an official’s face, screaming at him and refusing to stop after being repeatedly told to go back to his sideline. Hall is in the fourth year of a six-year, $55 million contract. When you’re getting paid that kind of money, is it too much to ask that you conduct yourself like a professional?
It was nice of Matthew Stafford to show up. Finally. Stafford, the Lions quarterback who had a breakout 5,038-yard, 41-touchdown season last year, had seen a sharp statistical decline this season, and for long stretches in some of the Lions’ losses Stafford looked like he was sleepwalking on the field. But in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks, Stafford had his best game of the season, throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns and also running for a score. If Stafford keeps playing like this, don’t count the Lions out of the playoffs just yet.
Stick a fork in the Jets. A week ago I was impressed with the effort the Jets gave in an overtime loss to the Patriots. But there was nothing impressive about the embarrassing way the Jets gave up in Sunday’s 30-9 loss to the Dolphins. At 3-5 the Jets are in last place in the AFC East, and they’re going to be out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
How much fun would Colts-Broncos be in the AFC playoffs? After both the Colts and Broncos won on Sunday, it’s looking entirely possible that we’ll see an AFC wild card playoff game in which Peyton Manning’s Broncos host Andrew Luck’s Indianapolis Colts. What a great story that would be. The only thing that could top that is Peyton facing his brother Eli in the Super Bowl.