Four games into the NFL season, one-quarter of the way through, we have seen just about everything from the New York Giants. Great defense like they played against the Chicago Bears Sunday night. Awful defense like they played against the Indianapolis Colts. Explosive offense. Turnover-prone offense. Less-than-spectacular special teams play. It has all added up to a 2-2 start.
What are the New York Giants? Are they a contender for the NFC East crown and beyond? Are they a pretender that won't even make the playoffs? I honestly don't think we know yet. I think, though, that you can make valid arguments on both sides. So, that is what I will do. Following are three reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about the Giants after four games.
Reasons For Optimism
The improving work of the defense. The Giants seem to be buying into Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator, and have played well defensively in three of four games. Sunday's 10-sack effort against Chicago showed that the Giants still have a pass rush to be feared. The safety and corner play has been better than last season, and Jonathan Goff and Keith Bulluck have upgraded the linebacking corps.
Offensive firepower. Ahmad Bradshaw (5.1 yards per carry) is the No. 1 running back, and he has shown the ability to be explosive. Hakeem Nicks is on his way to stardom, and he helps form a potent wide-receiving group with Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. Eli Manning is playing well, completing a career-best 64.4% of his passes. His numbers would look a whole lot better if he had not had five catchable passes turned into interceptions by his receivers.
The NFC East. There is no runaway team in the division. At 2-2, the Giants are tied for the top spot with Philadelphia and Washington, with Dallas at 1-2 off a bye week. It seems highly unlikely there is a 12-win team in this group, or one that is just going to run away with the division crown. It is right there to be won, and the Giants do have the talent to get it done.
Reasons For Pessimism
Injuries: The Giants suffered through a rash of those last season, and this season seem to be on the same path. Center Shaun O'Hara and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka are key players who are down right now, along with offensive tackle Will Beatty. The Giants simply can't stay afloat if the injuries to key players continue to mount.
Turnovers: The Giants have had the ball intercepted six times, have lost seven fumbles and are -4 in the turnover department. If they don't get that turned around, they won't go to the playoffs. The turnovers and a rash of penalties already cost them a game against Tennessee. It could cost them others.
Special teams: The Giants have been awful on special teams, ranking 30th in the league according to Football Outsiders. I don't know how Miami and San Diego are worse. The Giants still cannot cover kickoffs. Matt Dodge is, to be generous, an adventure punting the football. They have no return game. Dodge is even struggling to hold the ball properly for Lawrence Tynes on field goals. Most weeks t best the Giants can hope for is not to surrender points because of special teams. Unless things change they will lose a game or two because of the kicking game this season.
I still don't know for sure what to make of this team. The talent and the ability is there for this team to win the NFC East crown and be a threat to anyone in the playoffs. Yet, this team is also a potential threat to itself at any time and going 7-9 is not out of the question, either.