After a 5-0 start, a lot of people, myself included, penciled the Giants in as the best team in the National Football League. Dismissed from the Giants five wins was the fact that only one of the wins was against a serious contender. Like a majority of NFL fans, I saw the Giants 5-0 record as a carry over from their previous two seasons and assumed that this team would be ready to get back to the Super Bowl.
Three weeks later the Super Bowl seems a lot less likely for "Big Blue." Eli and company have dropped three straight against potential playoff teams; at New Orleans, vs Arizona, and at Philadelphia. To add validity to the situation is that all three losses were "clean" losses; no bad calls or last second miracles; the Giants were simply outplayed.
Next week the Giants will host the San Diego Chargers; who like the Giants have used a soft schedule to get hot. This game will be crucial for both teams to legitimize their 2009 seasons, with the loser likely to miss out on the 2009 tournament.
If the Giants get past Rivers and the Chargers in what's likely to be a grudge match, the Giants schedule won't get much easier. Following the Chargers will be a bye week, then vs Atlanta, @ Denver, vs Dallas, and vs Philadelphia will follow consecutively. Depending on whether or not the Giants defeat the Chargers, the Giants will need three or all of those games to be wins. The team then finishes vs Carolina and at Minnesota in a game that could be for home field or a bye for Minnesota.
It's still likely the Giants will win 10 to 12 games in 2009, but the odds of the Giants winning 8 or 9 have increased tremendously raising the question, "are the 2009 Giants a playoff team?"
This year, unlike previous season in the middle of the 00's, 10 wins will be the minimum to advance to the playoffs. Personally, I see the Giants as an 11 win team, enough to get the team into the playoffs. Therefore, I personally believe the Giants will be in the playoffs.
Helping the Giants is the positioning of their bye week. If the team can squeak by a hot, desperate San Diego team, they'll head into their bye week 6-3, with an opportunity to rest before the stretch; something few teams have the advantage of doing in 2009.
Are the Giants a great team? No. But the thing that separates them from teams like Chicago, Atlanta, Green Bay, and San Francisco is that they can be. There are maybe five teams in the NFC this year with a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl, and chances are there are only 3 that can actually do it; the Giants are one of them.
It's just a matter of beating San Diego, getting healthy, and staying focused. If the Giants do that they will not only be in the playoffs, but they'll have an opportunity to go deep in the playoffs.