Most football “experts” are predicting either the Patriots, Falcons, Cowboys, or Packers to win the Super Bowl this year. On paper, this makes sense — these teams were pretty stinkin’ good last year. So good that two of them made it to the Super Bowl, one to the conference championship, and one to the divisional round. However, there are always some teams that are left off of most prediction boards that play really solid ball all year. One team that has the potential to be a sneaky threat is the New York Football Giants. Often neglected due to the overhype of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East, the Giants could be a really solid football team this year, building off of a nice 11-5 finish this past season. Why, you might ask? Let’s dive into it.
Ben McAdoo, who debuted a sweet new cut the other day, announced that Paul Perkins will be the starting running back for the Giants. This deviates from the norm for the franchise; they usually go with a running back-by-committee approach. Predictably, the running game has been bad for the past few seasons. However, Perkins has done enough to impress the coaching staff to give him the starting nod, and the Giants potentially have their potential running back of the future.
The question is, can he handle it?
Yes. Yes he can. And comfortably.
The first opportunity Perkins was given to have a role with the offense was in week 4 against Minnesota. No biggie or anything, but all he did in that game was take a screen pass and go 67 yards with it. Unfortunately, after the Vikings game, he wasn’t given a lot of playing time until roughly December, where he posted this statline:
Week 15 vs. DET: 11 ATT for 56 YDS
Week 16 @ PHI: 15 ATT for 68 YDS
Week 17 @ WSH: 24 ATT for 102 YDS
Keep in mind that these games are also during crunch time for the G-Men, when they needed every win they could get to play in the postseason. When finally given the starting role against the Redskins, Perk did not disappoint. And he shouldn’t this year, either.
For the longest time, the Giants have lacked a true red zone threat who can take the top off of a defense and make a gritty catch in traffic when they need a first down. Odell Beckham is great and all, but he’s just not the type of player that fits this description. Enter Brandon Marshall. Marshall has been one of the best receivers in the league the last 10 years, and the numbers don’t lie — he’s got 8 seasons under his belt of 1,000+ yards. The guy can ball.
Marshall is a tall target. That does wonders for an offense that struggled mightily to put up red zone points. They haven’t had a true red zone threat since Plaxico Burress, and that guy made arguably the clutchest play in franchise history.
Does Marshall need to be Odell 2.0? No. All the Giants need him to do is mentor their two young receivers in Odell and Shepard, and be a presence in the red zone. If he’s that, the Giants are in a good spot.
Question for anyone reading this: when was the last time the Giants had a game changer at tight end?
Yeah. That was a long time ago. And the Giants have missed a presence like Shockey, and badly. Eli has always liked utilizing his tight ends, but with none of the ones he’s had being game changers, his options have been a bit limited. I mean let’s be honest, Brandon Myers, Larry Donnell, and Travis Beckum aren’t exactly top-tier threats.
That’s where Evan Engram comes in. The guy ran a 4.42 40. Despite a marginal difference, he still beat out Odell’s 40 time. That’s really, really good for a tight end. A guy like Rob Gronkowski has deceptive speed, but even he ran a 4.68. If Engram can possess wide receiver speed, run good routes, and be a presence over the middle of the field every snap, he is going to make the Giants offense almost unstoppable.
The Giants have the potential to go far this year because of roster construction and player development. The positions where in recent memory the team has gotten banged up and injured at are now boosted with depth. There are three stud corners in Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and DRC. There’s an abundance of backs in case Perkins goes down. Receiver is a very deep position too, with Odell, Marshall, Shepard, King, and Lewis.
Good teams become great teams based off of how they cope with challenges thrown at them. In 2014 and 2015, seemingly every Giant missed time due to injuries, and the lack of depth really shone through in a negative way. However, relative health and depth on both sides of the ball propelled the team to a playoff berth last season. They got better in terms of personnel, so if the players can stay relatively healthy, they’re in a great position. If not, then the depth will be tested, and we’ll see for sure if the Giants are for real.
Before last season, Odell Beckham had never played in an NFL playoff game. Neither had Sterling Shepard, Landon Collins, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple, to name a few. Playoff football is different. You need to manage your energy as the season goes on, because the more football there is to be played, the less you have in the tank. Also, the level at which the game is played goes way up. The emphasis on giving your all every down is magnified in January and potentially February by a lot, so guys need to know what it takes. Now that the young Giants have gotten a taste of the playoffs, they’re battle-tested and hungry as every for victory.
Now, I’m not guaranteeing that the Giants are gonna win the Super Bowl this year. In fact, it would be very Giants-esque for them to puke on themselves down the stretch and potentially miss the postseason altogether. But, given the large upgrades to the team in areas of dire need, as well as something as simple as a taste of the playoffs, this team could be a very dangerous force come September to January.
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