Playoff Preview: New York Giants

The New York Giants were 6-2 at the season's midpoint and making a case to be the best team in the NFC. Despite losing six of their next seven games, they topped Washington 34-28 in Week 17 to qualify for the postseason as the No. 6 seed. Bear Report takes a look at Tom Coughlin's club as they face division rival Philadelphia in the wild card round.

Rushing Offense
The Giants are 7th in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 134.8 yards per game. Tailback Tiki Barber will be retiring at the end of the season and just inked a $10 million TV offer with Disney, but if you look at the numbers, he still appears to have an awful lot of football left in him. He had another sensational season, running 327 times for 1,662 yards and catching 58 passes for 465 more. Barber averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the year and ripped the Redskins for 234 yards and three touchdowns in the season finale to clinch a playoff berth. Brandon Jacobs, a 264-pounds battering ram of a backup, scored nine TDs this season and gets most of the looks in goal-to-go situations.

Passing Offense
The Giants are 19th in the NFL in passing offense, averaging 191.1 yards per game. Quarterback Eli Manning was red hot in the early going and threw for 13 touchdowns in the first six games of the season, but he struggled mightily down the stretch once again. Peyton's little brother finished the year with 3,244 yards through the air and 24 TD tosses, but he was intercepted 18 times and also lost two fumbles. After the midseason loss of veteran Amani Toomer to a knee injury, Plaxico Burress is the only real threat at the wide receiver position and led the club with 10 scoring catches. Tight end Jeremy Shockey is headed to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time after pulling in a team-high 66 receptions for 623 yards.

Rushing Defense
The Giants are 14th in the NFL in rushing defense, averaging 114.4 yards allowed per game. Three players hit the century mark in tackles this season, led by linebacker Antonio Pierce with 140. The other two were safeties Gibril Wilson (103) and Will Demps (100), proving that way too many running backs were breaking the line of scrimmage and reaching the second level. The loss of Lavar Arrington to a season-ending injury robbed this unit of some much needed athleticism, and both Carlos Emmons and Brandon Short missed several games this year, as well. Tackles Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield have played admirably up front.

Passing Defense
The Giants are 28th in the NFL in passing defense, averaging 228.1 yards allowed per game. Ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora are perhaps the best bookends in the league when operating at full capacity, but both of them have had trouble staying healthy this season. Strahan played only nine games and will finish the year on injured reserve with a foot problem, and Umenyiora didn't register a tackle between Week 8 and Week 13. Rookie Mathias Kiwanuka has stepped in and played relatively well with four sacks and two interceptions. Aging veteran Sam Madison and former Bear R.W. McQuarters are the starters at cornerback, but they combined for only four INTs and 18 passes defensed in 2006.

Special Teams
Kicker Jay Feely was incredibly accurate this season and converted 23 of 27 field goal attemps, but he didn't get enough opportunities and scored only 107 total points this year after registering 148 in 2005. 40-year-old punter Jeff Feagles has been getting it done in the NFL for quite some time, although his 40.2-yards average is almost a yard-and-a-half below his career mark. Return specialist Chad Morton is very reliable on both kickoffs and punts, but his overall numbers are average at best. He averaged 21.6 yards returning kickoffs with a long of 51 and 9.2 yards on punts with a long of 38. Derrick Ward was equally unimpressive returning kickoffs this year, averaging just 20.3 yards per attempt. The G-Men did not return a kickoff or punt for a touchdown in 2006.


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