When the New York Giants opened training camp in Albany New York way back in early August none of New York City's sports pundits expected they would reach Super Bowl XLII which they will when they take on the undefeated New England Patriots on February 3rd in Glendale Arizona. The Giants had come off a 2006 season that saw them lose seven of their final nine games, including a first round playoff defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles. The longest tenured Giant, defensive end Michael Strahan, held out almost all of training camp. The heart and soul of the offense, running back Tiki Barber, retired after not seeing eye to eye with head coach Tom Coughlin, and Coughlin was on the hot seat after being portrayed in the media as having lost the respect of his players in the locker room following 06'. The Giants then went out and lost their first two games of the season to Dallas and Green Bay giving up a combined eighty points. At that point this is when many of the so-called most "knowledgeable sports media" in the country exposed themselves for the front running over analytical cats that they can sometimes be. They missed what was right in front of their face.
Go back and dig up the articles from the city's sports scribes or the archived tape of New York's talking wags from mid-September. Some proclaimed the Giants were the worse team in the National Football League and that they would be selecting first overall in April's NFL draft. Boy were they wrong. Many failed to realize the easiness of the Giants regular season schedule the rest of the way. After beginning the season 0-2 the Giants only played two other teams the rest of the way who won nine or more games this season, Washington (9) and Dallas again (13), before playing the undefeated New England Patriots the final game of the season. The Giants parlayed that favorable schedule with a stout defense that led the NFL in sacks this season to finish with a 10-6 record. Those two reasons are the primary factors the Giants had success this season and reached the playoffs for a third consecutive year, the franchise's longest streak since the mid 1980's. But now the emergence of Eli Manning over the past month has put the Giants on the brink of accomplishing something special. Manning hit his annual second half of the season slide this year and the Giants looked nothing more than a pretender in the championship picture as late as five or six weeks ago. The Giants entered their final regular season tilt of the year against New England with Manning looking as shaky as ever. When it was over Manning had thrown for 251 yards and four touchdowns and the Giants stood toe to toe with arguably the greatest team in NFL history, had a 12 point lead in the 3rd quarter, but ended up losing to the Patriots like everyone else this season 38-35. The game gave the Giants all the confidence in the world and they took that into the playoffs and won three consecutive playoff games on the road, the final two in hostile situations at Dallas and at Green Bay, earning payback for early season losses. Now it's time for the Giants to get payback against the Patriots. It should be fun!