Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giants Aim for 18-1

It was a scene to be seen, to remember, to relish. It was a scene of joy, of sadness, of success. It was a scene of a championship.

Last Year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix could have been the single-most surprising and enthralling and shocking upset in Super Bowl history. After all, the Giants strutted in on a roll after a lackluster regular season while the New England Patriots came in a perfect 18-0.

But after the game, signs all over the confetti-filled stadium read “18-1,” paying homage to the Giants’ victory over the mighty Pats.

But this year is different. The roles have changed, and the tables turned. This year, it is the Giants with one loss and wanting ten more wins.

Now, like last year, there is no guarantee for success. But the Giants have already been there, done that, conquered the NFL and looking for more.

The Giants are now the hunted while the New England is the hunter. The Pats lost a large part of their artillery when all-century quarterback Tom Brady went down with a knee injury in the first game of the season. Enter Matt Cassell, a water gun compared to Brady’s bazooka. And they have done okay so far under him, nothing spectacular but still leading a winner and still gunning for the division rival Jets and NFC-leading Giants.

The Giants, on the other hand, have been nearly flawless so far – save the horrific, atrocious showing at Cleveland in which Braylon Edwards terrorized the Giants’ D with bomb after bomb downfield. And running back Brandon Jacobs has been the 260 pound tank he was last year, during the improbable playoff run. And Eli Manning has been as mistake free as a computer while also providing the accuracy of a sniper. Not to mention the Plaxico Burress situation.

And, make no mistake, this will not be easy.

Especially in the best division in football, whose last place team is Super Bowl contender Dallas. Especially with the aforementioned Plaxico Burress diva situation. Especially in first place.

As witnessed by collapses of first place teams (see Mets, Yankees, Patriots) and the success of sneaky, lurking second-place teams (see Phillies, Giants), being in first place doesn’t always mean you are the best. In fact, most of the time, that team will not win the championship but finish rather mediocre and hidden (I bet you can name the last two NFL champions, but can you name the runner-ups?).

The rest of the year will be a tough stretch for New York with all their remaining games against teams with winning records.

In the next few weeks, they play Baltimore and Arizona and Washington and Philadelphia and Dallas. They may be able to handle the gauntlet, but at times, they have looked less than impressive against average to bad teams.

Remember September 21, when the winless Bengals took the G-Men to overtime before falling? Remember the Monday Night thrashing by the one-win Browns (whose only previous win was over the Bengals)? Remember October 18, when hapless San Francisco allowed just 273 total yards to the vaunted Giants offense? Remember those New York?

The Giants are rolling and looking good. But they haven’t won anything just yet.

The Giants and Titans are the media darlings now, but so were the Cowboys and Patriots last year. Until both met a better, younger, second-place team: The New York football Giants.

And the same will happen this year unless Tom Coughlin can find a way to reload. And the same will happen this year unless the rest of the league stops firing empties. Unless the Giants win.

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