It's safe to say that nine wins just doesn't buy what it used to.
All kidding aside, the New York Giants finished 9-7 in 2011, allowed more points than they scored, got hot and won Super Bowl XLVI. This past season, Tom Coughlin's team again finished 9-7 and wound up plus-85 in scoring differential. They failed to make the playoffs.
Despite a pair of NFL championships dating back to 2007, the G-Men have been an enigma and consistency has been a four-letter word.
Still, the New York Giants will reach the playoffs for the second time in three seasons…
If: Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell can get his unit back on track. Last season, only the Saints gave up more total yards than the Giants, who also ranked 25th in the NFL against the run. That meant fewer opportunities for the New York pass rush, which dipped from 48 sacks the previous season, tied for the third-most in the NFL, to just 33 sacks in 2012. The Giants did force 35 turnovers last season, 30 in nine wins and just five in the team's seven setbacks.
And: The running game continues to make a comeback. A year after finishing dead last in the league in that category (89.2 yards per game), the Giants averaged 116.4 yards per game on the ground, good for 14th in the NFL. There will be a new look in the backfield with the offseason release of Ahmad Bradshaw as 2012 first-rounder David Wilson takes over the main role. New York's offense scored 44 touchdowns a year ago (18 rushing 26 passing).
But: This strong start followed by a shaky second half thing has got to end. Last year, the Giants opened at 6-2 for the third straight season. But those first-half records have been followed by 4-4, 3-5 and 3-5 stretch runs from 2010-12, respectively. Dating back to 2003--the year before Coughlin took over the team--the Giants are a combined 57-23 in their first eight games of the season but just 30-50 over their final eight contests.
So what do you think? Since 2006, the Giants have won 10 or less games six times. Two of those seasons (2007 and 2011) resulted in Super Bowl titles. But Coughlin's erratic club has also missed the playoffs three of the last four years. Which version of the G-Men will we see in 2013?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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