Fresh Rushing Game Just One Reason New York Giants Are ’13 Super Bowl Contenders

Once Dez Bryant’s knuckles were ruled out of bounds on this play October 28th, the New York Giants sat comfortably atop the NFC East at 6-2, 2.5 games ahead of the Eagles and Cowboys, primed for another playoff appearance. Coming off a Super Bowl championship, it was logical to feel confident the experienced Eli Manning could lead his team through a serious championship push for the second straight year.

Ultimately, it seemed the Giants grew complacent with their game and let their guard down to ultimately miss the playoffs entirely, an utter disappointment for a franchise and fan base expecting more.

But 2013 will be different for Eli & Co. The brightest light at the end of 2012’s depressive tunnel was a renaissance of New York’s running game, one with energy we haven’t seen since Tiki Barber’s pre-Eli days. Journeyman-turned puzzle piece Andre Brown showed fans his brute force capabilities and rookie David Wilson showed us the explosive step Ahmad Bradshaw never offered. Couple this with New York’s weaker schedule and the fresh pressure to avoid a second straight “losing” season, the New York Giants will contend for the Super Bowl in 2013.

An athletic neophyte, Wilson’s agility and 4.40 40-yard dash (video) offer a glimmer of hope Big Blue can represent a game-changing back comparable to a Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, or even Robert Griffin III (According to the New York Times, Wilson has run the 40 in 4.29 seconds). While a long shot, there’s finally enough quickness to evoke a glimmer of hope.

In the last five games of the regular season, Brown recorded five touchdowns on only 35 carries, many in Brandon Jacobs-like short yardage situations. While I couldn’t find the numbers, I don’t remember Brown rushing for a loss many times in those games.

If there’s chemistry, this duo has the potential to propel the Giants to the other end of the rushing spectrum. Both of their ’12 performances qualify for guaranteed rushes in ’13, but this “friendly” competition will add fuel to their respective fires. That extra drive should ultimately bring out the best in one, if not both of the Giants’ running backs.

In its best-case scenario, the Giants’ new-found rushing game will force defenses to allocate more attention on the ground, therefore leading to more open receivers and an even more successful passing game.

*How the Giants won last year’s Super Bowl with the league’s worst rushing numbers is a mystery I will never solve. And while given his fair share of kudos, I feel Eli’s 2011-12 accomplishment is still underrated given that statistic.*

The only other silver-lining of New York’s underachieving season is the motivation it offers for the upcoming campaign. Before this year’s Baltimore Ravens, no team since the 2006 Steelers won a Super Bowl the year after winning a playoff game. While winning is always the ultimate goal, I theorize an underachieving season finale is heavier motivation to win than the fire to repeat. Look at the 2012 Miami Heat.

But while arguments supporting New York’s new rushing game and theories of losing seasons are nice, they’re subjective. Plus, coming into 2012 Wilson and Brown combined for four career rushes. How will they tweak their game to counter defenses’ adjustments? Brown will enter 2013 off a broken fibula and Casper the Friendly Ghost could have blocked better than Wilson. But New York’s 2013 strength of schedule is the most tangible reason the Giants will at least make the playoffs. The scheduling committee gave the Super Bowl champion Giants games against all winners¬† of the ’11 NFC conferences – Packers, Saints, and 49ers. This year, New York will face a much weaker schedule, one that includes the dreadful AFC West. Take out the 13-3 Broncos and that conference boasted a 13-35 overall record this year (2012 standings).

With fresh assets at hand in 2013, a favorable schedule and a new-found motivation to elude the taste of failure, it will be a season Giants fans should look forward to. I correctly predicted the Giants would not make the playoffs in 2012, but am predicting a serious playoff representation in 2013.

Plus, the Giants have home-field advantage in this year’s Super Bowl whether they play or not. That cherry-on-top motivation may put them over the hump should they hit their stride come December.

Can New York City Own All Four Championships in 2012?

Probably not, but they have a solid chance to own 75% of them.

No United States city has won a championship in all four major sports in even the same decade. Granted, this is a tough task because only 12 cities house all four major sports. Can you name them?

– Oakland in the 1970s – the Raiders, Athletics, and Warriors won championships but the Golden Seals did not.
– Los Angeles in the 1980s – the Raiders, Dodgers, and Lakers won championships but the Kings did not.
– New York in the 1990s – the Rangers, Yankees, and Giants won championships but the Knicks did not.
– Boston in the 2000s – the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics won championships but the Bruins did not.

Boston nearly owned all four championships in a 365 day period from 2007-08. The Red Sox won in October 2007 and the Celtics in June 2008, but the Patriots were denied a perfect season by the New York Giants and the Bruins lost in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. Boston did walk away with a hockey championship in ’08 however – Boston College won the National Championship.

The New York Giants won 2012’s Super Bowl after dropping to 7-7 following a horrid loss to the Washington Redskins. Las Vegas odds said the Giants were 100:1 to win the Super Bowl after that loss according to my father. The Knicks are currently 25:1, but more on them later.

The Yankees always have a chance – just like Boston, Philly, or any team coached by Mike Scioscia, I’ll put the Yankees’ odds at 8:1. I strongly believe the Yankees will be one of the final eight playoff teams, so from there it’s anybody’s call.

Let’s say the Yankees stay healthy, click, and get a little bit of luck. They certainly can win the World Series.

The New York Rangers shocked the hockey world this season and established themselves as the best team in the east, arguably in the NHL. Vegas odds has them at 11:2.

8:1 x 11:2 = 44:1 odds (2.3%) New York owns at least three championships in 2012, which includes the Super Bowl Champion Giants.

The Knicks have been New York’s weakest link for the last ten years, but this year they almost have a chance to win it all. Unlike football, basketball is a seven game series and is arguably the most predictable of the four major sports. For the record, I don’t see them beating Chicago or Miami, but remember – the eighth seeded Knicks beat the first-seeded Heat in the first round in 1999. Advantage ’99 Knicks though because they beat the Heat in a then-best of five series.

Passing and playing aggressive defense has given me this slim glimmer of hope with a lot of luck the Knicks can go for a title. Mike Woodson coaches a winning system that emphasizes rebounding and defense rather than D’Antoni’s double shot of offense.

Carmelo Anthony needs to score and Amar’e Stoudemire needs to buy in to Mike Woodson’s system.

Carmelo vs. Durant in game six at The Garden? Nah probably not, but if the Rangers play like they have all year and the Yankees find a way to take home #28 in November, New York will breed a surplus of haters by the Mayan Apocalypse.

…the more the merrier.

Bill Belichick’s Poor Time Management Cost the Patriots the Super Bowl

Mario Manningham’s catch was a key turning point in yesterday’s Super Bowl, but not for the obvious reason.

Of all the storylines of yesterday’s game – Manningham’s catch, Wes Welker’s drop, Gronkowski’s absence, why is no one talking about Bill Belichick’s time management decisions late in the fourth quarter?

Why don’t you call a timeout after Bradshaw’s seven yard run on 1st & 10???

This is the most underestimated moment of the Super Bowl, and I can’t figure out why this has garnered zero attention. After Bradshaw’s run on 1st & 10 with 1:45 to go, I smirked when I realized Bill Belichick was not going to call a timeout. The Patriots had two left, and it was 2nd & 3.

What on Earth are you saving those timeouts for? Offense? The Giants are going to run the full 40 seconds off the clock – about 40% of the time you have to work with.

They ran the time off, then scored two plays later. Here’s what Belichick should have said during the timeout he should have called:

“If they get the first down, call our last timeout to stop the clock. We’ll let them score the next play. But when you stop the Giants on this second down play, call a timeout, and we’ll stop them on third down.”

The worst case scenario of either listed above is the Giants get a first down on third down. You let them score the next play, which would take those same 40 seconds off the clock. The only drawback at that time would be one less timeout, but that’s the educated gamble you need to take.

The ideal, yet realistic Patriots’ scenario late in the game was to have the ball after they let the Giants score, but with 1:37 left to play, not :57.

Ninety-seven seconds is enough for Tom Brady. Fifty-seven seconds was not. His head coach let him down.

On another note, I’m almost 100% sure Belichick would have called a timeout if he had three left. He only had two because of earlier in the drive:

Challenging Manningham’s catch was the wrong decision.

…most importantly because no highlights showed any indication Manningham’s feet were out of bounds, but that’s the guys upstairs’ fault.

By challenging the play, you put yourself at risk to lose a key timeout. I think it was more beneficial for Belichick to keep the challenge flag in the arsenal, play the cards you were dealt, and save the timeout.

With about 3:40 to play, the Giants are at midfield, and if they score quickly, you put yourself in the exact position Tom Brady said he wanted to be in: down and with the ball late in the fourth quarter (but with more than :57 seconds).

If the play came on third or fourth down, challenge it, but the Giants were in four down territory. In the self-destructive “prevent” defense every team plays in that situation, Eli Manning would have gotten a first down in three plays anyway.

Granted, you can say, “Corey, so then why don’t you just not play defense and let them score from midfield?” I’m not arguing let them score, but the lost timeout ended up leading to a huge Belichick mental error.

I am arguing if Tom Brady had 1:37 left instead of :57, the Patriots are your Super Bowl Champions.

The Giants are in the NFC Championship Game. hhhhhwat?

The Giants are playing with house money. In August, no one thought Big Blue would still be alive midway through January. You didn’t, and neither did I. Since then, Giants fans learned who Victor Cruz is, the Giants proved you can lose four straight in the second half of the season and still control your own destiny, and Eli Manning may have finally tattooed his name into the “elite quarterback” category – a fraternity I thought he pledged his way into three years ago.

The “may have” in that previous sentence is tentative to change. If the Giants win it all in the 2011 season, you can remove it altogether. That four star gold “C” means he’s the man in charge.

It’s not how good of a team you are, but how good you are for the 60 minutes on the field.

The Giants are not a better team than the Packers. If the two teams played ten times, I think Green Bay would win seven. However, in a blessing in disguise, the Giants got injured at the right time. Osi Umenyiora’s perfectly timed injury got him back just in time for a tune up game in week 17. The whole Giants team seemed to come back just as the regular season was ending as well.

In my previous post I had zero trust in my team to make any noise this postseason. Just over a month ago I watched a struggling football team look weak in the secondary, uphill on the ground, and a clueless on special teams.

Then finally and out of nowhere, the one constant – Peyton’s younger brother, finally finds his team. The defense (and especially the secondary) picked up, the running game reappeared, and Eli’s wide-receivers think they’re some of the best in the league. The Giants still have no special teams unit… but I can live without that, so long as you play solid on offense and defense.

And who’s been on and off the hot seat more than Tom Coughlin? He pushes the New York Giants’ fans and front office to the brink. In 2007 the Giants started 0-2, and were down 17-3 at the half to the Washington Redskins in week 3. I’m convinced if the Giants lost that game Coughlin was gone. I’m also convinced if Coughlin didn’t win week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys he was gone. Somehow he finds a way to rally his troops just in time. My previous post talked about how Coughlin would be gone by the end of January – I’m still not 100% sure he’s safe, but it looks that way.

Now the Giants play the 49ers, a team they showed they can beat back in week 10. They held a one point lead going into the fourth quarter. Granted, they now face the tall task of beating Alex Smith and Co. in SanFran, but again, it’s not how good of a team you are, but how good you are at the right time. That’s why the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 and why the 1980 Olympic Hockey team won gold.

Eli has been here before. He’s a quarterback entering the prime of his career, yet with Super Bowl experience under his belt. Will the Giants again hold up their Road Warrior mantra? Will Alex Smith lead the New York Knicks of football to a championship game (a team that’s usually so good but out of nowhere becomes terrible for ten years)?

Who knows… in five years, you may refer to Peyton as Eli’s older brother.