(Long Island, NY) At the mid-way point in the current NFL season, there are two teams that have risen to the top of their respective conferences. In the AFC, the surprising Tennessee Titans have an unblemished record and lead the league with eight victories. The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants have had one hiccup in a road loss on a Monday night in Cleveland and look to be the class of the NFC.
Big Blue may have buried the Dallas Cowboys for good with Sunday’s convincing 35-14 win at Giants Stadium. Although they only have three home games out of the remaining eight, the Giants should be able to ensure themselves of a playoff spot. They still have to face Philadelphia twice and go to Washington, which will tell the tale on who takes the top spot in what many consider to be the most competitive division in the NFL.
While many wondered if the Giants were a lucky champion last year, they have quelled any of that talk in their seven wins this season. What makes their success even more impressive is that they have done it without their two top defensive lineman from 2007. Michael Strahan retired and Osi Umenyiora was lost for the year after blowing out his knee in a preseason contest against the Jets.
Justin Tuck, who has taken over as the leader on the D-line, doesn’t see many comparisons from 12 months ago. “Everyone wants to compare this football team to last year,” he said. “The thing about last year’s team is that we had a rocky start and we continued to climb. So I hope that’s what we’re going to do this year.
“Obviously 7-1 is a great start, but we can always look at things we can do better,” Tuck continued. “So that’s what we’re going to continue to do; we’re going to watch this film (versus Dallas), learn from it, grow from it, and continue to climb this mountain.”
Reaching those heights has become more attainable with Tuck’s eight and a half sacks – which lead the team -, 37 tackles and 41-yard interception return for a touchdown. Next up is Mathias Kiwanuka, who moved back to the line after being switched to outside linebacker. He broke his leg and missed the Super Bowl run, but has become an important cog in the Giants’ defensive machine this season with six sacks and 23 tackles.
Offensively, Eli Manning has quarterbacked the team the way he did in the postseason. 12 touchdowns versus five picks has made him considered more than the ‘other Manning.’ Brandon Jacobs and his 680 yards (5.2 average) makes opposing teams wary of the bruising running style he possesses.
At wide receiver, the Giants are so deep that the hero of the Super Bowl, David Tyree, may never see the field this season. Plaxico Burress brings production and a weekly soap opera to the team, but will be forgiven as long as the wins keep coming. Kevin Boss has been steady at tight end and made Jeremy Shockey’s departure a non-issue.
Head coach Tom Coughlin has remained even-keeled throughout the season, not looking ahead at all. “It is one game at a time for us. That’s all we focus on,” he said. “We are where we are because we have done it that way and we will continue to do that.”
Hopefully all the way to February 1.