Keidel: Giants Are In Position To Reclaim NFC East Crown
By Jason Keidel
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Giants fans can gripe about Big Blue’s baleful penchant for regular-season mediocrity, but ask fans in Detroit or Cleveland if they’d take two rings in 10 years. Not to mention the fact that the G-Men haven’t had consecutive losing seasons under Tom Coughlin.
And if you can get past the somber reality surrounding electric running back David Wilson, the Giants have an opportunity to make hay in the oddly emaciated division.
Indeed, for about 20 years, the NFC East was a crucible of old-school ethos and blue-collar success, and the progenitor of smash-mouth football. When the Giants weren’t winning titles, Washington racked up Lombardi Trophies. Then the Cowboys cobbled together three rings in four years.
Between 1982 and 1995, the NFC East bagged a bunch of hardware. In 14 years, they won eight NFL championships. And the Eagles weren’t exactly doormats during their Reggie White, Clyde Simmons and Jerome Brown epoch, when the opposing quarterbacks suffered mass insomnia, sweating the proposition of a barbaric bum rush to the pocket before finishing a five-step drop.
But aside from the AFC South — a wasteland of Jaguars and Titans and Texans — you could argue the NFC East is the worst division in the league, something unfathomable a few years ago. The NFC East was a roll call of Hall of Fame coaches, from Joe Gibbs to Bill Parcells to Tom Landry to Jimmy Johnson. Now we have Jason Garrett — squirming in his yearly hot seat — a rookie head coach in D.C. and a veritable newbie in Philly.
And the Giants have something the other three squads don’t: a winning QB and coach, the most sacred duet in the sport. The Eagles stunned the league when Nick Foles usurped the starting QB spot, going 7-1 in the second half of the season.
But we need another season to see if Chip Kelly is really the offensive genius he’s been branded, or if he’s an amalgam of gadgets from Oregon. His shock value will wear off this year as defenses catch up to his ways.
Over their last 272 games, the Dallas Cowboys are exactly 136-136. You can’t make that up. They are dysfunctional on good days, a defensive hemophiliac on others. As you saw against the Broncos, they can drop 48 points with ease and then surrender 51.
And Tony Romo, the most unfairly critiqued QB in the sport — who can get sacked six times and still take an even harder pounding at the press conference? — does have a haunting habit of late-game INTs. The Cowboys will short-circuit a few scoreboards, but will also play Pop Warner defense, especially without pass-rushing monoliths like DeMarcus Ware on the end of the line,
The Redsk — er — “Football Team In Washington” is headless and rudderless. Owner Dan Snyder has a Steinbrenner-ian feel for middle management, planting a turnstile at the head coach’s office.
He’s going Gruden this year, hoping that Chucky’s sibling can bring some instant lightning to a forlorn franchise that has no identity on the field and an increasingly polarizing identity outside the stadium. They are standing by their racially divisive handle while trying to handle RG3 with delicacy and diplomacy.
With the addition of DeSean Jackson from Philly, Washington has achieved the classic addition by a rival’s subtraction. Their weapons on offense — provided RG3 remains on the field — remain robust. But their defense, ranked 30th overall and dead last against the run last year, is of keen concern. And there’s just some rancid karma around the team since Snyder bought the franchise. Between his moody management style and his obdurate defense of his team’s moniker, you get no sense that the team is going anywhere, anytime.
So we have the Giants, who are consistently mediocre, who twice squeaked into the playoffs and went on a biblical run, ending with their Tom Brady torment. If Seattle and San Francisco can somehow wear each other out before January, maybe the Giants have one more Super run left in the Coughlin era.
Health is always the axis of success. And the Giants have been bitten by the injury bug more than most teams over the last few years. But they’ve made serious gains on defense, with their secondary — once their Achilles heel — becoming as robust as their renowned pass-rush. If Jason Pierre-Paul remembers how good he is, there will be some life in MetLife.
And Eli Manning has too much talent, temerity and intelligence to turn into the turnover machine he was last year. And no doubt the Giants will do everything in their power to avoid a repeat of their galling 0-6 start in 2013.
Since Coughlin took over, the Giants have had inverted pattern, always off to a scalding start before faltering in December. They can get fat on the enervated NFC East. If they go 4-2, or even 5-1 within the division, they will pave a gold-plated path to the division crown.
November is murderous, with the Colts, Seahawks and 49ers in a two-week span. But they also play the loser Lions, Texans and Falcons. They can also get fat on the Jaguars, Titans and Rams.
The Giants play just two playoff teams in their first seven games. If they enter their bye week at 5-2, they can surely go 5-4 the rest of the way to round out the season at 10-6. Their final six games include the Cowboys, Jags, Titans, Redskins and Rams — none of whom had a winning record in 2013. And they end the season at home against the Eagles, which could very well decide the division.
So don’t sleep on Big Blue, even if they’ve played a soporific brand of ball.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.
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