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New York Giants At The Quarter Pole: From Doom And Gloom To Optimism

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Throughout a difficult preseason riddled with season-ending injuries to a number of key players, as well as a couple of surprising free-agent defections, there was much doom and gloom from the fan base and the media regarding the New York Giants' prospects for the 2011 season. A Week 1 loss to the Washington Redskins, who had not beaten the Giants in three years, didn't help.

At the quarter-pole of the NFL season, however, the Giants find themselves 3-1 -- tied with the Redskins for first place in the NFC East. Quarterback Eli Manning has been brilliant since the second half of Week 2 against the St. Louis Rams. The defense has been opportunistic. The Giants went into Philadelphia and defeated the rival Eagles for the first time in seven tries.

Suddenly, the Giants look like a team that might end up being the class of a topsy-turvy NFC East. Of course, there is a long way to go, a brutal second half schedule ahead for the Giants, and a history of second half of the season difficulties under coach Tom Coughlin to overcome.

Let's take a look at where the Giants are right now:

Giants' Results To Date

@ Washington Sun 09/11 L 14 - 28
St. Louis Mon 09/19 W 28 - 16
@ Philadelphia Sun 09/25 W 29 - 16
@ Arizona Sun 10/02 W 31 - 27

Game Review

Week 1: @ Washiington (Loss, 14-28) -- A rough start for the Giants. A Ryan Kerrigan interception and return for a touchdown was the key play.

Week 2: St. Louis (Win, 28-16) -- The Giants did not look great, but they were good enough to defeat the young, under-manned Rams.

Week 3: @ Philadelphia (Win, 29-16) -- A game the Giants had looked forward to for months. After six straight losses to the Eagles, including last season's fourth-quarter meltdown, this was a victory the Giants wanted desperately.

Week 4:Arizona (Win, 31-27) -- The Giants overcame a pair of 10-point fourth-quarter deficits to earn a victory on the road in a difficult game.

What Is Next

The Giants play their next three games at home. The Seattle Seahawks (1-3), Buffalo Bills (3-1) and Miami Dolphins (0-4) will be visiting MetLife Stadium the next three weeks before the Giants have their bye week. This is a crucial stretch for the Giants before they head into what will be a brutal final nine games of their season. Anything less than 2-1 over the next three weeks will be damaging to the Giants' playoff hopes, and the reality is this is a stretch where the Giants should be expected to win all of these games.

Here is how Coughlin assessed the next month for the Giants:

"Just like anything else, you better win. These are tough opponents, regardless of what division, what conference they come from. They are very difficult. You look at what Seattle's been able to do, to come back. I know they lost, but that's quite a performance against a very good Atlanta team. The week before, the Cardinal game was a very, very close game, again, in which they were able to win," Coughlin said. "It doesn't matter. It doesn't really matter. The schedule is one game at a time and our schedule is a very difficult one and each one of these opponents is very capable [of winning]."

Giants' Summary Stats - Game Averages

Pts Yrds Pass Rush
Off 25.5 333.0 (21st) 245.5 (13th) 87.5 (24th)
Def 21.8 360.8 (18th) 244.3 (18th) 116.5 (21st)

Five Things To Feel Good About 

1. The Play Of Eli Manning: Coming off a 25-interception season Manning said, among other things, that he felt he was not a 25-interception and that he felt he was among the league's elite quarterbacks. So far this season he is proving both. He has completed 80-of-125 passes (64 percent) for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions through four games. His quarterback rating of 105.6 is third in the league behind Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Tom Brady of New England. Without doubt, he is playing at an elite level. The Giants will need him to keep it up.

2. The Emergence Of Jason Pierre-Paul: Lot of Giants fans groaned when the team selected this freakish athlete in the first round in 2010. After all, the Giants were loaded with defensive ends. Well, JPP has 4.5 sacks already this season and has begun to justify the selection. His long arms, strength and incredible athleticism could make him a special player.

3. The Play Of Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle: A year ago the tandem of Phillips and Rolle was supposed to give the Giants an elite pair of safeties. It didn't work out, though, as the Giants surrendered too many big plays against the pass. This season, though, both guys are playing at elite levels. Rolle leads the team with 29 tackles and Phillips is second with 26. Both players have an interception.

4. The Play of Will Beatty: The Giants drafted Beatty in the second round in 2009, believing that he could be their left tackle of the future. The organization decided that the future had arrived in 2011, and there were plenty of questions as to whether or not Beatty could be entrusted with protecting Manning's blind side. So far, so good. Beatty is a vast improvement over David Diehl at that spot.

5. The Struggles of the Cowboys and Eagles: The Eagles are 1-3 after all of their highly-publicized offseason moves. The Cowboys are 2-2 and both losses are games quarterback Tony Romo basically gave away. It might not last, but it's always fun for Giants fans to watch NFC East rival squirm.

Five Things To Worry About

1. The Health Of Justin Tuck: Tuck has missed two games this season because of a neck injury first caused when he suffered a stinger in a preseason game against the New York Jets. He also has a groin injury. Tuck is the defense's captain and best player, and even with Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora in the lineup there is little doubt the team misses Tuck's run defense, his ability to make plays from both the defensive end and defensive tackle slots, and his leadership. They will need him healthy the second half of the season.

2: The Overall Depth: The Giants have been playing well the past couple of weeks despite the numerous season-ending injuries they have suffered. That is a tribute to general manager Jerry Reese and his ability to bring in players capable of stepping in. You have to wonder, though, how many more key injuries the Giants will be able to overcome.

3. The Missing Running Game: The Giants are averaging just 87.5 yards per game running the ball, 24th in the league. They are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, a woeful 29th in the league. These are awful numbers for a team that has two good backs, and prides itself on running the ball and controlling the clock. If the Giants don't get their blocking issues solved they will have problems when the weather turns bitter and the schedule gets tougher later in the season.

4. The Play Of Kareem McKenzie: McKenzie, 32, was the Giants best offensive lineman a season ago. This year, though, the 11-year veteran right tackle is off to a terrible start. Has he simply gotten old? The Giants need McKenzie to pick up his play.

5. Inconsistency On Defense: The first two weeks of the season the Giants' secondary was torched by two mediocre quarterbacks. The last two weeks the Giants did a much better job defending the pass, but their run defense was gashed by Philadelphia and Arizona. The Giants need to find a way to play a complete game against both the pass and the run.