New York Giants Face Brutal Second Half: Fan’s Take

The New York Giants barely escaped a winless Miami Dolphins team on Sunday, October 30th, winning 20-17 thanks to a last ditch effort in the fourth quarter. Now comes the hard part.

The Giants, 5-2 on the season, face the harshest part of their schedule in the upcoming weeks, and can't rely on the "we'll get 'em in the end" mentality any longer if they hope to come out with a playoff berth.

First up for the G-men is a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, when they take on the New England Patriots on Sunday, November 6th, in the first meeting of the two teams since that iconic 2007 game. That day, the Patriots saw Manning's best; this year, his best is even better. But the question is, which Eli will show up?

Manning has played brilliantly for the Giants as of late, and takes a passer rating only slightly less than Tom Brady's(notes) into Sunday's matchup (Manning - 102.1, Brady - 104.4). Four years ago, Brady took a league-best 117.2 passer rating into Super Bowl XLII, while Manning was 25th with a 73.9. Brady also threw more than twice as many touchdown passes that season as Manning.

Through the weaker half of the Giants' schedule, Manning has thrown for 2,127 yards, 13 touchdowns, and, perhaps most importantly, only 5 interceptions. Now it's time to see him in action against the big boys. If the same Eli shows up to play on Sunday, and the Giants pass rush can take advantage of a weak Patriot's offensive line, they may just take this one from Tom Brady and team.

But win or lose, things don't get any easier after that. Their next two road games are against San Francisco and New Orleans, who lead their respective divisions and combine for a record of 11-4. Sandwiched in between is division rivalry Philadelphia, a team that already lost to New York once this season, but notoriously gives Giants' fans conniptions at home. Then we've got 7-0 Green Bay, Dallas on the road, and Washington, who already beat up on the Giants in week 1. Big Blue close their season with a Christmas Eve "road" game against the Jets, and then Dallas again, this time at home.

The Giants have a known tendency to play up or down to the level of their opponents, as evidenced Sunday against Miami. With very few opportunities so far this season to play "up," is their 5-2 record really representative of this football team, or just a mirage? Can Eli continue to play the way he has against the A-list teams, or will he fall back into old bad habits? We should have plenty of opportunities to find out; an injury-worn Ahmed Bradshaw and rusty Brandon Jacobs(notes) combined for just 60 yards against Miami, and I expect we will continue to see the ball in the air.

And how about the Giants' defense? After looking like they forgot how to tackle for three and a half quarters against Miami, it took 4 sacks in the final 6 minutes to finally nail the coffin. There's nothing wrong with fourth quarter heroics, but it's going to take a sustained effort to win the upcoming football games.

On a positive note, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks(notes) is cleared to play after an MRI revealed no serious damage to his hamstring. But after watching him hobbling off the field last week, it's possible that he won't be standing after the brutal weeks ahead. With any luck, the New York Giants will be.

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Updated Thursday, Nov 3, 2011