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This season, I’ve taken 17 little snapshots of the Giants and Jets, as a way to provide instant analysis on where they are mostly in relation to each other. I was down on the Giants early – I thought this was a 8-win team at best, but hey, they won nine! I was up on the Jets, and figured they were a lock for a wild card and even thought they would pull out the division going into the second Patriots game. Haha, wow.
The Jets made it to two AFC Championship games on the strength of aggressive coaching, outstanding defense, nonstop rushing and getting hot at exactly the right time both seasons. They got none of that this season. Mark Sanchez made a lot of progress this year, but beyond that there was very little to get excited about on this team.
The Jets looked like the better bet than the Giants going into the season. They had a QB poised for a breakout, they had the best defensive player in the league, they had the coach who could do no wrong and they stole an elite WR right off their crosstown rival’s Super Bowl roster. Now, they are a flopping failure populated by head cases coached by a fat moron. Again, this team won exactly one less game than the Giants.
Let’s close the book on the 2011 Jets by saying this: they underachieved, they remain talented, and they will go into knee-jerk rebuilding mode by parting with several players, including Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. There was no reasonable person who thought they would win Sunday – it was just too poetically just for them to lose. They will probably have two new coordinators and Lord knows what else by next August, and yet they will remain in prime position for another playoff run.
ON TO THE NFC EAST CHAMPIONS.
Wow. So that game was not at all what I expected. I honestly, HONESTLY felt they would blow it, especially after Cris Collinsworth tried the fabled double giraffe-neck jinx by saying something like “WOW THE GIANTS WILL NEVER LOSE BRAMMM I EAT LEAVES FROM TALL TREES.”
On cue, the ball squirted away and just as quickly, the catlike Eli Manning pounced on it… wait, what?
The Giants fumbled so often that it seemed as if they were purposely trying to murder their fans through a mass cardiac arrest. The ran the ball with all the enthusiasm of a 4-year-old eating his broccoli. They gave up a very, very easy touchdown to Laurent Robinson, and they let Tony Romo slip through their hands multiple times like a skinny, white Donovan McNabb. Romo had just eight incompletions in the game.
HOWEVER. He was sacked six times, intercepted once, coughed up a garbage time fumble and generally looked uncomfortable the whole time. No, the Giants were not a well-oiled machine. Yes, they dominated and then let the Cowboys sneak back before putting it out of range. But as Justin Tuck limped around the field clutching a cooler full of Gatorade, he was looking to put the strange exclamation point on a very, VERY strange NFC East championship banner.
I wrote a preview of this season back in August, and this is what I said.
“But go with your gut – you see the Giants going into their bye week 5-1, don’t you? You see them beating Miami at home the night before Halloween, right? Then you see them losing 5 games in a row. And closing out the season with two more losses, minimum, including that away game inexplicably played in their home stadium.”
Well, they were 4-2 going into their bye. They beat Miami, and then beat New England, and then lost four in a row – off by one, again. They closed out the season with two wins, and that was the difference. This team, for whatever reason, did not roll over and die after the losing streak. They submitted an all-time stinker against the Redskins at home, but they won when it counted and that’s why they are going to the playoffs.
Regardless of what happens next week against Atlanta, the 2011 Giants were all about the twin breakout seasons by Jason Pierre-Paul and Victor Cruz. Cruz danced his way into our hearts, and JPP blocked our sadness, or something. They were replacing two key cogs in Steve Smith and Osi Umenyiora, and managed to be even better than their predecessors.
In addition, Eli Manning had probably his best season as a pro. Hakeem Nicks duplicated much of his breakout success from last year with perhaps a few more dropped passes, and Justin Tuck fought through injuries to make an impact. Corey Webster became a kinda great DB.
Meanwhile, Brandon Jacobs somehow did not get cut, and Ahmad Bradshaw wasted a season of his prime, and Antrel Rolle runs his mouth too much, and the offensive line is a bit of a mess and they have no return man and Osi Umenyiora was an Osi UmEnigma all season (right?).
They are a wonderfully talented, deeply flawed football team. They beat the best team in the AFC and almost beat the two best teams in the NFC. They got annihilated by the Saints, they lost twice to the last-place Redskins, and lost games to Tavaris Jackson and Vince Young. They needed miracle comebacks against Arizona and Miami. They beat Dallas twice when they had to win.
I have no idea what will happen this Sunday against the Falcons. I assume the final score will be about 45-41, but maybe they will keep the dynamic WR duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones in check and their own WR duo will explode. Perhaps Michael Turner’s Enormous Thighs will grind to a halt against the Giant D-line. Maybe Matt Ryan will lay another playoff egg, especially if he gets sacked six times.
Maybe the Giants will beat Atlanta, and waltz into Green Bay full of enough confidence to take down a slightly, slightly overrated Packers team. Maybe they will get revenge on the Saints, and get ready for a apocalyptic showdown against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Maybe this weird ass team is peaking at just the right moment, is finally healthy for the first time all year, and has a puncher’s chance against any team in the league.
And maybe losing to Rex Grossman twice in a season disqualifies you from the Super Bowl.