In the end, the NFC will be represented in the Super Bowl by a team that was largely depending on mathematics 15 weeks into the season. With a loss to the lowly Redskins in Week 15, the Giants were at 7-7 and losers of four of their last five games. Head coach Tom Coughlin was widely rumored to be on the hot seat. The entire coaching staff might have been blown up if New York didn't make the playoffs.
The Giants, like the Packers last year, have become a metaphor as to how quickly NFL teams can turn things around. If not for Chicago resting some of its injured players in a Week 17 loss to the Packers in 2010, Green Bay might not have made the playoffs. They did, they caught fire on the road and went all the way to a Super Bowl championship.
What the Giants have accomplished this year is similar, if not even more impressive. They've been competing in elimination games since Christmas presents were still unopened. They had to beat the Jets – a feat that was much easier than many anticipated – just to stay alive. They had to beat Dallas for the second time in 22 days to get into the playoffs. Once they got there, the party really started.
Atlanta came in predicted by many to be a road winner at the Giants. Instead, the Falcons' only two points came from their defense. The Giants then went on the road and took the top two seeds in the NFC in succession – beating Green Bay and San Francisco.
The Vikings are nowhere near a playoff team at the moment – their star running back is less than a month removed from significant knee surgery – and there are plenty of unanswered questions as the coaching staff begins its work down in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl.
But, if Vikings fans can take anything out of the playoffs (aside from the glee that Green Bay became the first team to win 15 regular season games and no playoff games), it's that there is a fast rise and fall of franchises. It can change from one year to the next – six of the eight division champions didn't win their divisions the year before – or even within a season like the Giants.
The talk of the New York sports media prior to Christmas was the possibility of Coughlin being fired and a massive overhaul taking place with the Giants. Now all the talk is of Eli going to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, where his brother has won so many games, to try to bring home another championship away from the Patriots.
There is hope, Vikings fans. The Giants are proof.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.