Team: New York Giants
Record: 12-4 Home: 7-1 Away: 5-3 Division: 4-2
Coaching Staff – A
Tom Coughlin has managed to keep this team focused through countless distractions and has certainly improved his relationship with his players. Steve Spagnuolo, a superb defensive coordinator, is one of the league's hottest head coaching candidates. Defensive backfield coach Peter Giunta, a former coordinator with the Rams, is one of the most intelligent individual in the game.
Offensive Line – A +
Perhaps the game's best front five; equally adept at pass blocking and run blocking. Two Pro Bowlers: C Shaun O'Hara and RG Chris Snee who is without question the top offensive guard in professional football. Left tackle David Diehl has limited athletic ability and foot quickness, but is strong, understands angles and is as tough as a two dollar steak. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie is a more than adequate athlete with size, but I just don't think he's a particularly tough individual.
Wide Receivers / Tight End – B
Obviously Plaxico Burress will be missed primarily because of his big-play ability. Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith are developing receivers who have stepped up nicely in Burress' absence and old reliable Amani Toomer no longer has top speed, but continues serving as Eli Manning's security blanket. Kevin Boss is an inviting target and improving blocker.
Running Backs – A +
They're only the fourth RB tandem (Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward) to each top 1,000 yards in the same season. Ahmad Bradshaw is without question to top third string running back in the country. Fullback Madison Hedgecock a former Rams draft selection, is an exceptional lead blocker and makes the running game go.
Quarterback – B
Eli Manning has finally grown into his own skin, earning his first Pro Bowl invite. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes and only threw 10 INT's all season. Although he will never be the equal of his older brother in terms of throwing the football, has without question become the offensive leader and has his entire offense taking on his unflappable personality.
Defensive Line – B
The pass rush has faded as the season has gone on. Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka both give you solid two-way end ability, but both have been slowed some of late. DT Fred Robbins was a Pro Bowl alternate and Jay Alford has impressed in his second season. Nose tackle Barry Cofield, who was banged up late in the season, is a strong inside player who restricts the inside running game.
Linebackers – C
It seems as if the league has caught up to Antonio Pierce, who has had a tough year and been on the allowing end of a lot of big plays. Danny Clark and Chase Blackburn make their share of plays, but aren't the type of guys to keep opposing offenses up at night.
Secondary – B
Corey Webster has developed into one of the game's better corners, while Aaron Ross has been up and down. He's capable of superb play one week, so-so the next. Rookie Kenny Phillips is getting more and more snaps at safety, and making the most of them.
Special Teams – B -
The kicker (John Carney, only one non-blocked miss all season) and punter (Jeff Feagles, who averaged more than 40 yards net) are both Pro Bowlers. However, both the coverage and return units leave some room for improvement, particularly with the loss of Droughns and Goff (see injury factor below).
Injury Factor – By the time their playoff game rolls around they should be fully healthy. Coughlin utilized the wise option of resting several nicked up starters in the season finale, including Jacobs, Ross, TE Kevin Boss and DT Barry Cofield. The Giants lost their top defensive player Osi Umenyiora in the preseason, but also lost two very underrated special teams players in the veteran Reuben Droughns and rookie Jonathan Goff.
Team Offensive MVP – Eli ManningHe's developed quicker than even they could have hoped. The strides he's made in terms of leadership from last December something to behold.
Team Defensive MVP – Justin Tuck
Like his predecessor at LDE, Michael Strahan, this defense follows and rallies around the Pro Bowler Justin Tuck. The versatile Tuck was virtually unblockable in last year's Super Bowl victory over the Patriots from his tackle position and has the ability to convert speed to power.
Top Rookie – Kenny Phillips
He has shown excellent cover ability for a guy that played basically only in the box at Miami. He's a big hitter and has shown great prowess as a blitzer and special team's player. Believe me when I say, he's going to be an awfully good one in the not too distant future.
Top Free Agent – John Carney
What can you say about the 44 year old Carney? On the season the twenty year veteran hit on 35 of 38 field goals, was 38 of 38 in placements and his 143 points was his highest total as a professional.
Team Strength – Offensive line, running back
As they go, so do the Giants. I said earlier in the season that this group was the Giants offensive line was easiest the most underrated in the league and far superior to any of their more publicized division rivals offensive fronts.
Team Weakness – Linebackers, Wide Receivers
DC Steve Spagnuolo is doing his best to prevent opposing teams from exposing New York's mid-level of defense. Not enough speed and playmaking ability from this trio who are at best journeymen performers.
Final Word – This team is very capable of defending its Super Bowl crown. They showed during the regular season that they can perform as the favorite. Now we have to see if they can do it in the postseason. There's really no reason to believe they can't and won't win two games at Giants Stadium and be playing in Tampa on Feb. 1.