The New York Giants are one of the most unlikely Super Bowl champions in NFL history. Ironically, the last time a team with this little preseason hype went on to win a title, it was Tom Brady and the Patriots back in 2001.
I know, New York was only a three-point dog for this game and many predicted they’d win. And the fact that a team with similar key contributors won the Super Bowl only four years ago means this isn’t exactly Jets over Colts in ’69.
But still, when you consider the expectations (or lack thereof) heading into the season, as well as the expectations (or lack thereof) as late as December, the fact that they’re on top of the football world is astonishing.
This is a team that didn’t get into the playoffs until the final game of the year. They’re the first-ever 9-7 team to win the Lombardi Trophy.
This wasn’t easy for me to dig up, but on Dec. 24 — just 44 days ago — I declared that the G-men didn’t even look like a playoff team, adding…
This has the looks of a team that should probably be seen as an underdog in the first round of the playoffs, regardless of where the game is. They have big-play ability on both offense and defense, and Jason Pierre-Paul has been a revelation. But they’re an all-or-nothing team, which doesn’t bode well for their chances in January against stiffer competition.
Considering the injuries they’ve dealt with, the Giants might have done enough to save Tom Coughlin’s job. Still, this is a team that will require some serious tweaking in the 2012 offseason.
Embarrassing, I know. But I was in the majority.
This is a team that was ravaged by injuries in August, losing Terrell Thomas, Prince Amukamara, Marvin Austin and Brian Weatherspoon on defense. An aging offensive line was going through a transitional period following major offseason changes, and the receiving corps didn’t scare anybody, especially after Steve Smith walked as a free agent and Domenik Hixon tore his ACL in Week 2. And on top of all that, Osi Umenyiora was disgruntled over his contract, threatening to sue Jerry Reese and requesting a trade.
It was messy.
So why, with the Eagles, Cowboys and even Redskins seemingly getting better, would anyone pick the Giants to reemerge out of nowhere in 2011?
Here’s what I wrote about them in my team preview last August:
Can they really say they got better? This is still a talented team, and they still won 10 games despite the injuries and the turnovers last season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they took step a backwards in 2011. Let’s give ‘em eight wins, maybe nine.
Another thing that made us laugh at the Giants in August: Eli Manning, who, coming off of a 25-interception season, essentially called himself elite. Despite what happened in Super Bowl XLII, few of us agreed with Manning’s assertion.
And those critics just gained more traction when the Giants started the season with an abysmal performance in Washington.
But everything changed when it mattered most in December, January and February. The line developed cohesion, the pass rush went from good to great and Manning locked Bad Eli in the closet for the remainder of the year.
So maybe we overreacted to early signs of trouble. After all, it’s about peaking late in this league. Maybe, we should have just listened to this dude from the Bleacher Report way back in August…