A Giant Enigma

Jim Bearor

Eli and his Giants might be good. Or they might not. (Getty Images)

Eli and his Giants might be good. But are people ready to buy in? (Getty Images)

The Giants are not far off from being 5-0, but their poor fourth quarter play has cost them two double-digit leads, and it doesn’t seem like they’ve completely kicked that nasty habit yet. This team does have grit though, and the current form of the offense seems very sustainable. The pass rush is non-existent, but there has also been a tremendous group effort towards stopping the run. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we don’t know who this team is yet, but it feels like there is a lot that still has to take form. The foundation is there, though. This is already a solid football team, and they have the potential to become dangerous in the playoffs. They also have the potential to beat themselves on any given Sunday, and it seems like they’re always trying to find new ways of doing it.

This is the struggle of being a Giants fan: knowing that your team can hang in there with anyone, and they can just as easily lose to anyone. Headed into last Sunday night’s matchup against San Fran, New York was favored by about 6, but that didn’t mean anything to us.  Whether they’d like to admit it or not, any Giants fan you’d ask expected Kaepernick to put together a decent game, simply because the opposite was expected of him. That’s how it works with the team, you can’t count on them and you can’t count them out.

The first five games of this year have told a different story, even when considering their fourth quarter inconsistencies. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants are the 5th most consistent team in the league. They post a week-to-week DVOA Variance of 2.1%, which pretty much means they’ve played the same level of football throughout this season – and they have, they’ve consistently outplayed their opponents for three quarters and consistently let them back in the game in the fourth.

In all seriousness, this year’s team is definitely more reliable than it has been in the past couple years. Players have a greater understanding of OC Ben McAdoo’s system in year two. Eli is getting rid of the ball in about two seconds, and because of that, he’s only been sacked four times all year. Spagnuolo’s defense has been adequate and it should improve with time, as long as the recent slew of bumps and bruises doesn’t become the story of the season for the third consecutive year.

Odell Beckham and his hamstring could keep the Giants out of the playoffs (Getty Images)

Odell Beckham and his hamstring could keep the Giants out of the playoffs (Getty Images)

However, it does feel like injuries are the number one threat to the Giants and their newfound stability. Victor Cruz still hasn’t come back, Jon Beason is never truly healthy (shocking, right?), and Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t even part of the equation at this point. Will Beatty is expected to return very soon, and he’ll reinforce what is turning out to be a surprisingly solid O-line. Prince Amukamara is battling a pectoral injury that could sideline him a couple weeks. Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr., Devon Kennard, and Robert Ayers are all dealing with problematic hamstrings. I don’t know what happened to the Giants three years ago, but they must have done something to anger the football gods because a decimated roster has somehow become the new norm.  This year’s team has some depth to it, and guys like Nikita Whitlock are exactly what you want to see out of your “next man up”, but if the health issues keep piling on at the rate they are, Eli Manning is going to be the only man standing by December.

Bill Davis, the defensive coordinator for the Eagles is expecting the G-men to roll out all three of their top receivers for Monday night, and that could very well be the case. It also wouldn’t be surprising if we go another week watching Victor Cruz play catch on the sideline in a hoodie or Beckham Jr. aggravates his hammy again.  Like noted philosopher Kevin Garnett once said, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”

As you can probably tell, the dominant theme here is that the Giants are typically enigmatic. That isn’t true so much for this year, as much as the fourth quarter blunders and backup linebackers might lead you to believe. New York been steady so far, they only had a few bad quarters. Otherwise, the offense has been impressive on third down and the defense has consistently forced turnovers. If I had a gun to my head, and I had to predict that either this team would continue to play very well or they’d fall off, I would say they’ll keep it up, but I would hesitate for a second.  That’s what a decade of Gilbride’s conservative bulls**t will do to you (no, I’m still not over it).

This upcoming stretch of games will be very telling.  They have five games left before their bye week. They play at Philly, then home against Dallas, at the Saints, at the Bucs, and then the big one – home against New England. As of right now, none of those first four teams have done anything to inspire fear in an opponent, but they’re all the type of games that the Giants have historically played down to their level.  I do believe that this team isn’t as erratic as years past, but we’ll all know for sure exactly who this team is before they line up against the Pats in week 10.  This upcoming Monday night game against the Eagles is going to be tough, and their offensive performance last week could mean they’ve figured it out, but the Cowboys, Bucs, and Saints have no business beating the Giants in their current form. If those games don’t go well for Big Blue, then yes, you can say that this year is “same s**t, different season” and Coughlin is done. That might not happen though, maybe they can keep it together this time. They’re on the right track, and that’s why there’s reason to worry.

Oh and shout out to Kerry Wynn out there playing every defensive snap. I see you.

JimBearor– Jim Bearor (@JimBearor)

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