A Look at the Competition

If the season ended today, the Giants would be a wild-card entry in playoffs. <P> How's that for a team that was 4-12 last year?

Difficult to accept? Of course, but nevertheless it is true. Their 34-13 victory over Minnesota on Sunday -- their third road win in four tries -- gave them the best record, 5-2, among non-division leaders in the NFC.

The Vikings are 5-2 but lead the NFC North, while Atlanta is 6-2 but is in first place in the NFC South.

True to the principles new head coach Tom Coughlin has imposed, not a single player was willing to discuss the playoff situation. A few sneered, a few just practiced their best imitation of Coughlin's blank stare. One did have a response: "Playoffs? This is just the beginning of November and we haven't even played half the season. Why would we talk about playoffs?"

He's right, of course. But the situation is worth considering only as another channel to describe the job Coughlin has done, what general manager Ernie Accorsi and his staff did in the draft last April and the success with which Accorsi and Coughlin surveyed the unrestricted free agent market last spring.

One of the lower round draft picks, and for this season perhaps the most effective, is strong safety Gibril Wilson. He was a fifth-round choice out of Tennessee, took over the starting job in the third game after veteran Shaun Williams was rendered out for the season with a knee injury, and has been nothing less than a star so far.

He leads the Giants with three interceptions, and against the Vikings he was co-team leader with six tackles, adding an interception and a pass defensed to his accomplishments.

The second-round pick, guard Chris Snee, has been starting at right guard all season. There was no third-round pick (part of the draft-day trade that landed QB Eli Manning) but the fourth-round pick, DE-turned-LB Reggie Torbor, has been an impact player on special teams and had a partial block of a Darren Bennett punt in the Metrodome.

Even the sixth-rounder, WR Jamaar Taylor of Texas A&M, has been impressive and is now the third wideout with the loss for the season (fractured hip socket) of Tim Carter.

Starters who were acquired via the UFA route include center Shaun O'Hara, DTs Norman Hand and Fred Robbins, SLB Carlos Emmons, WLB (although injured) Barrett Green and FS Brent Alexander.

"I needed my own scorecard to learn who all the new guys were," DE Michael Strahan joked. "I thought we'd take a lot longer time getting to play together as a team."

That was something the harsh and edgy Coughlin wouldn't allow. He has the Giants one victory above last year's total after only seven games -- and he has them very much in the playoff race as well.

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