The NFL midseason report card for the New York Giants would have to read quite favorably through the first half of the season. The defending Super Bowl champions are off to a 6-2 start that places them atop the standings in the NFC East. In fact, it also places them toward the top of most power rankings as all teams approach the half way point of the season.
They say that to be the champs, you have to beat the champs. The Giants are proving that will not be an easy task.
Sure, it is only the midseason part for the Giants. But this is a team who plays solid football on both sides of the ball. On offense, Eli Manning continues to demonstrate that he is an elite NFL quarterback. It may have taken longer than some thought, and it may have taken Manning longer to finally get people to agree with his proclamation that he was that good, but the time has come. Manning has the Giants ranking sixth in passing yards, and that has been primarily due to the strong play of Victor Cruz. With Hakeem Nicks in and out of the lineup with a nagging injury, Cruz is proving once again that last season was no fluke. He is clearly one of the best wide receivers in the league today.
But it is not just the passing game that has gotten New York off to a hot start. Although he has battled some more injury issues, Ahmad Bradshaw is running the ball well for the Giants. The team ranks 12th overall, but Bradshaw is averaging 4.5 yards per carry to help open up the passing game for Manning. Along with a solid start from Andre Brown and improving play from rookie first round draft pick David Wilson, the Giants’ ground attack is one that will be reckoned with over the second half of the season.
On defense, the Giants remain a force up front, yet the secondary remain quite porous. While the overall numbers may be even worse than the actual play on the field, the Giants know that they must begin to force more turnovers on defense. They rank 26th in passing yards allowed per game and 19th overall in rushing yards given up each contest. Those numbers will have to improve if the Giants intend to successfully defend their championship. The secondary has undergone a face lift due to some key injuries, but the same players remain on the front line. If Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora can start getting to the quarterback more often and force some bad decisions, the numbers will quickly get better for the Giants on defense.
One of the brightest spots for the Giants has actually been the incredible kicking game behind Lawrence Tynes, who has connected on 24 of 26 field goal attempts. He has bailed them out in a few games this season. Along with more great punting fro Steve Weatherford, the Giants remain stellar on special teams.
The first half schedule was quite favorable for New York, with their only two losses coming against fellow NFC East foes. They dropped the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, yet extracted some revenge this past Sunday. They also lost a game to the Philadelphia Eagles, although that loss could also be avenged when the teams meet next.
The second half of the season will be a bit more challenging for the Giants, as they still face some stiff competition outside of their division. Aside from games against the other three NFC East teams, the Giants also have to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday, as well as games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens. The Giants are better than most of those teams, so clinching a postseason berth should not be that large of an obstacle. With more than a two game lead in the division, the Giants are certainly the favorites to win the NFC East once again.
This time, it should not come down to the final weekend of the regular season either.