The beauty of the NFL, as we all know, is that it can be such an open tournament. One team can be on top of the world one year -- or week -- and deep in a tar pit the next. In short, there's no definitive winner, no spectacular favorite, so to speak.
Every season, there is one team that has an antithesis – a team who can totally counter what they are good at. This year, though, many people are rating the New York Giants as the team to follow. Yup, there's still one Manning left -- and he's darn good in a crunch, despite this lackluster numbers this year.
Following a recent 10-7 triumph over the Dallas Cowboys, a team that many were rating as the heavy favorite during the matchup, the Giants are in a pretty good position to launch a season ending upset.
Will Eli Manning turn it on with playoffs around the corner?Many are beginning to see parallels with this year's iteration of the Giants and other successful years for the team, including their famous 2007 victory against the New England Patriots. Who can forget that dark day for the Pats?
— NFL (@NFL) December 15, 2016
It was bad for Brady and good news for Eli, who, according to the Washington Post, had "the third-lowest completion percentage and a passer rating of his career, 23 touchdowns against 20 interceptions and a QBR of 54.6."
Really, the Giants break most of the typical 'good to go' records that diehard fans and analysts keep and eye out for in an NFL team that might go all the way. Granted, New York can be nauseating to watch at times, they have really weird statistics that don't back up typical analytics -- not to mention they are so incredibly inconsistent.
Yet, that might just be the perfect combination to make a Super Bowl winning side once again. Don't count out a Manning coming up big in back-to-back championships.
Yes, Eli is having an abysmal season just alike he did in 2007. I'd even argue, worse. Currently, he's ranked 26 among NFL quarterbacks, one behind Colin Kaepernick, who's having a Tim Tebow, RG-III-esqe premature career decline, citing an ESPN report.
One widely held belief in the NFL is (and I paraphrase) offense doesn't win football games; defense wins football games. Depending on how you're looking at the stats, it can go either way. Given Eli Manning's meh stats this year and QB passer rating, I'm left with the Giants' defense as the difference-maker this time around.
There's no argument here that New York's defense belongs in anyone's top three rankings against the pass and rush. Just look at how New York got after Dak Prescott while denying his targets opportunities to pull down big ones on double moves and short screens. The Post pointed out something that shuts down any argument about the Giants' formidable secret sauce defense his season.
"According to Football Outsiders Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures a team's efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent, New York's defense ranks fourth at minus-13.5 percent DVOA. A negative number means opposing teams are performing below average, which is a good thing. You have to go back to the 1990 Giants (minus-14.4 percent DVOA) to find a more dominant defensive unit in the franchise's history."My money is still on Manning for coming up big in the NFL Playoffs (presuming he and Giants don't choke leading up to Week 16). However, there are more reasons than just Eli as to why the Giants are poised to walk away with the grandest of all prizes. Let's probe a bit deeper, shall we?
Defense: The Press is On!
One of the most impressive elements of the New York Giants this year is how well they press the opposition. They are handling the need to swarm and press extremely well, creating a dynamic attacking force that is very impressive indeed. As former Detroit Lions offensive guard -- now, free agent -- Geoff Schwartz, so brilliantly points out in an SB Nation post, "playing in the NFL is like "playing in a phone booth," meaning that spaces are tight and there's very little room for error or mistakes.
Shades of 2007? Spagnuolo has Giants' D in championship form https://t.co/DuljNcAL35 via @NewsdayThe Giants personify that. They play an aggressive, high-tempo game that shuts down the opposition, which can be so hard to deal with in the playoffs. Late in the season, with energy expended and the pressure telling, the team with the best pressure is usually the team that can make the most headway.
— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) December 18, 2016
Indeed, the defense as a whole has been pretty impressive. Working as a unit and contributing to the suffocating, physical style of play that the Giants are dominating with, this is a rigid and dour defense -- hard to break down and defeat.
They rank 7th in the league total for defense, with Janoris Jenkins making a big difference to the team's ability to defend and shut down opposition attacks. Damon Harrison, too, has made a big difference since he came on the light side. With 26 sacks since Week 6, they are the second best defense in the league for this particular style.
However, the Giants don't' just press and get nothing for it. They are an efficient, offensive outfit, using that divine energy commitment to make sure they can press and destroy when needed on the pitch.
They are, though, an attacking conundrum. Having only outscored their opponents by 11 points and not being able to beat an opponent by more than six points in the season, Cleveland Browns aside, the Giants attack well but don't seem to get the reward that their endeavor deserves. No, it's not pretty.
Even back against the Cowboys, they looked a little lethargic on the football field. Unable to muster up the kind of response and offensive display that the fans craved, they dug it out and still managed to come away with the points in the end.
However, we've not even mentioned Odell Beckham Jr. He's showing massive growth this season; he's blossoming into one of the finest players in his position. Across the season he's had 79 receptions and is posting numbers up there with the best in the division. His performance against the Cowboys rightly came with plenty of plaudits, and people begin to wake up to the fact that this kid is one of the next big stars to be in rare air.
Odell Beckham reached a max speed of 21.85 MPH on his 61-yard TD, the fastest speed by a ball carrier in Week 14 pic.twitter.com/cZpOb4hYrsWith all of this in mind, it should be easy enough to imagine the idea of the Giants lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy at the end of the season. They know their system, they have a settled side and key players like Manning and Beckham, Jr. are playing some of the best football of their careers at present.
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) December 13, 2016
Using their immense physicality, the Giants are good for pounding a team down like a battering ram. With the fact that Manning is back to his 2011 best, spraying passes about and commanding the play, and is beginning to show his influence on the team once again. It's been a while since he felt such an important part of the squad. Needless to say, it's paying dividends now.
This happy story all comes together to form one probable conclusion: the Giants are a good bet to make themselves the team to remember in 2016. Of course, over the next few weeks, anything can happen that can upend Eli's road to a third ring.
For now, I'm backing the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. What about you?
[Featured image by Al Bello/Getty Images]