i know the season isn't over for the 2011 new york giants. after sunday's overtime victory over the san francisco forty-niners, the new york giants will be heading to their fifth superbowl (they've won 3 of their 4 superbowl appearances). in less than two weeks days, the new york giants will go against the new england patriots in a rematch of the 2008 (2007 season) superbowl, in which they defeated a then 18-0 patriots team in arguably the greatest superbowl in nfl history.
as great as that season and superbowl game was, this 2011 giants season has arguably been more rewarding for me as a fan. let's take a quick look back to see why...
out of 20 "expert" predictions (from espn and sports illustrated) before the start of the season, exactly 1 picked the giants to even make the playoffs - his name is pat yasinskas and he predicted the giants would be the 6th seed in the nfc. the giants were clearly considered the third best team in the nfc east behind the philadelphia eagles and the dallas cowboys. who could really blame them? the eagles, coming off a lucrative offseason, and the cowboys had all the big name stars.
the giants, on the other hand, lost their starting tight end, defensive tackle and, at worst, their second best wide receiver, steve smith, who two years ago had 107 catches for over 1200 receiving yards. on top of that, their first round pick, cornerback prince amukamara and star defensive end, osi umenyiora, started the season injured.
and to top it all off, eli manning, all of a sudden, became the subject of sports talk shows across the nation when he said he should be considered in the same elite company as tom brady. say what? is this the same guy who threw 25 interceptions last year and has turned the ball over at an incredibly high rate throughout his career? his comments left most sports fans, and even giants fans, speechless - eli has mostly been considered a very good, but not great quarterback. but eli never waivered from his claim and then the 2011 season happened.
new york giants top four receivers:
1) victor cruz: 82 catches, 1536 yds, 9 tds (0 catches, 0 yds, 0 tds in 2010. went undrafted in 2010).
2) hakeem nicks: 76 catches, 1192 yds, 7 tds (79/1052/11 in 2010).
3) mario manningham: 39 catches, 523 yds, 4 tds (60/944/9 in 2010).
4) jake ballard: 38 catches, 604 yds, 4 tds (0/0/0 in 2010. went undrafted in 2010).
in 2011, eli manning turned two players that no other team deemed worthy to draft in 2010 and who had never caught an nfl pass before into very good, and in cruz' case, incredible, players. all while nicks and manningham battled injuries for much of the year. in his 8th nfl season, eli threw for his 3rd highest completion percentage (61%), most yards (4933), most yards per attempt (8.4), 2nd most touchdowns (29), 3rd fewest interceptions (16, not counting his rookie year), fewest sacks, and 2nd highest qb rating of his career. his 4933 passing yards is the 6th most ALL-TIME in nfl history. it's 233 more yards than peyton, perhaps the best quarterback of all-time, has ever thrown for.
as a giants fan, 2011 has been rewarding for many reasons: kenny phillips is finally healthy and playing, jason pierre-paul has turned into a dominant force, victor cruz is a legitimate highlight machine. but above all else, it's been eli's performance that has been the most rewarding aspect of this season. an easy target for most because of his boyish appearance and slow new orleans drawl, eli manning has silenced all his critics this year and in less than two weeks he will be going after his 2nd superbowl victory against tom brady, the man in whose elite company he may finally be able to share.