The 2016 New York Giants are far from elite — but are they Super Bowl contenders?
After all, the Giants have won two Super Bowls in the past decade with less-than-stellar regular-season teams, which has some people comparing this year’s squad to the championship teams of recent vintage. Just don’t bring that noise around FS1’s Nick Wright and Mike Lombardi. On this week’s "Make Me Smarter" football podcast, Wright and Lombardi explained why those comparisons don’t hold the slightest bit of water.
Wright: Before we get to their issues, it’s odd to me that we bring up the 2007 and the 2011 Giants as if those teams were similar. They weren’t. Here’s the similarity with those teams: they’re both the Giants, and both those teams beat the Patriots. But the ’07 team was dominant because they got after the quarterback — first in the league in sacks. The 2011 team had an outstanding, top five in the league passing game.
This team has neither of those things, and they have a different coach. This is when you compare a white NBA player to another white NBA player just because they’re white NBA players or a black quarterback to a black quarterback. The only similarity is that they look the same.
Lombardi then broke down what exactly prevents this Giants team from being a Super Bowl contender:
Lombardi: Look, that’s where knowledge and belief are two different things, and comparisons happen because you believe something, so you want to compare it to something that gives you knowledge, which is not true here.
This Giants team is going, "The weather is going to change. We’re going to go to Pittsburgh this week." That’s going to be a challenge. They have to still play Dallas. They have a lot of cold-weather games — five straight cold-weather games. No running game, that means all the third-and-1s, they’re going to have to try to throw the ball effectively. This offensive line is nowhere near as good as the offensive line was once.
Now the defense is playing better. Certainly, it is. But they struggle to find a way protect the football — they’re minus in the takeover takeaway column, so therefore they struggle to protect the ball — and they struggle to be able to make critical plays. Are they a good team? I don’t think there’s any doubt. Will they make the playoffs? Yes. Are they the ’11 Giants? No. Are they the ’07 Giants? No.
And I think the missing link here is Eli [Manning]. When the wind comes, and Eli … has to throw the ball down the field, everybody plays for underthrown balls, because … the ball is going to fall short. Eli’s arm isn’t exactly going to be 60 yards down the field.
As Lombardi notes, the Giants defense is undoubtedly playing better in the second half of this season. In fact, New York is in the top five in scoring defense and top 10 in yards allowed per pass and rushing attempts.
What truly sets this Giants team apart from the previous Super Bowl winners, however, is the offense. As Wright points out, the 2011 team combined an elite pass rush with one of the league’s best passing attacks, as Manning posted a career high in passing yards to go with 29 TDs and 16 INTs.
And in 2007, the Giants bolstered their outstanding defense with an extraordinarily efficient running game of their own. New York finished the season fourth in rushing yards and yards per attempt, eighth in total rushes and seventh in rushing touchdowns. Although the passing game floundered during Manning’s first Super Bowl season, the Giants managed to hover right around league average in scoring offense and total yards from scrimmage. That was enough to let the defense carry them to a Super Bowl.
This season, though, New York is dead in the water on offense, ranking 21st in both scoring and total offense headed into Week 13 — and without a sudden and vast improvement on that side of the ball, the Giants are incapable of reaching the same lofty heights as they did in 2007 and 2011.