EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Playoff football in New York City wasn't supposed to be so blue, at least not this year. The New York Jets, who share MetLife Stadium with the New York Giants, were the favorites to make the Super Bowl from the AFC this year with a veteran team that was loaded with plenty of playoff experience. But given the massive overhaul their team had, Giants fans were planning to spend the second Sunday of the year taking down holiday decorations and not watching their team in the playoffs.
Instead, it was an intense atmosphere at the first ever playoff game at the two-year old MetLife Stadium with Giants fans celebrating not only a 24-2 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon but also the continuation of what is now a Cinderella season. Not much was expected of this team after the Giants spent the offseason reshuffling the roster, mainly by letting players go out the door and bringing in unproven and unheralded talent as replacements.
Tight end Kevin Boss, center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert were among the long-tenured veterans jettisoned by the Giants in a youth movement. A popular pick to finish third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs, not even the Giants themselves thought they were a postseason caliber team.
"It took us a little while. We had to get some game time under belt to see what this team was about," Victor Cruz told Yahoo! Sports. "It took a few weeks but once we saw the talent we had and saw everything we could accomplish - I think that's when we kind of saw we had a good team and we just had to put it all together."
Getting rid of the veterans who helped the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2007 made for tough decisions that helped make what was once a veteran unit into the third youngest offense in the NFL. The moves weren't popular and made head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese the laughingstock of the tabloid back pages. But the Giants stood their ground, committed to their vision for the team.
Making matters worse was the pressure being felt for the Giants to keep up with the Jets who, across the city, were re-signing much of their core team that had made consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances and brought on board free agents like Plaxico Burress. It appeared that the perennially lackluster Jets were poised for a big year.
Now, it is the Giants in the playoffs, united behind a belief that they can win and the Jets are splintering apart.
A team and a fan base with zero playoff anticipation is believing that they can mirror the success of their 2007 Super Bowl winning team, as evidenced by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul saying he is "80 percent" certain that "We're going to win" in Green Bay. As a Wild Card team four years ago, the Giants won three playoff games and knocked off the Patriots after their undefeated season to win their first Super Bowl since 1991. Another Super Bowl run isn't far-fetched this time around.
"True indeed, those individuals who said we wouldn't win gave us up for dead but now, with this opportunity, what they said doesn't matter," right tackle Kareem McKenzie told Yahoo! Sports. "Right now, we still have detractors but there's a lot less people saying that — that we're not a good team. We just need to perform like we have been and then that will speak for itself."
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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