The New York Giants reached the playoffs for the first time since their last Super Bowl triumph in the 2016 season.
The Giants last venture in the post-season in the 2011 campaign ended with the club’s fourth Vince Lombardi trophy, but on this occasion their journey ended in the wildcard round at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
Eli Manning had a mediocre season, despite the presence of All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. However, the club’s defense rose to the occasion to become of the stoutest units in the NFL, being the only side to stop the offensive juggernaut of the Dallas Cowboys in the regular season.
As a result, there are plenty of positives to build on, while the Giants have the opportunity to bolster their roster in the upcoming NFL Draft. Manning is approaching the end of his career and that could prompt a move for his successor or further talent around him in the offense for one last surge.
The Giants kicked off their season by inflicting a defeat on rookie quarterback Dak Prescott in his first NFL start, replacing the injured veteran Tony Romo. Manning and company managed to put enough points on the board, leaving the Cowboys no time to mount a comeback late in the contest.
New York’s defense displayed their talent against the New Orleans Saints, limiting Drew Brees and company to just 13 points in their clash at MetLife Stadium. Manning manoeuvred his side into field-goal range late in the match before Josh Brown dispatched his kick through the posts.
The Giants’ first defeat of the season came at the hands of their divisional rivals – the Washington Redskins. Manning struggled for rhythm throwing two interceptions, while the defense were unable to stop Kirk Cousins moving downfield twice in the fourth quarter, allowing Dustin Hopkins to nail two decisive field goals.
Ben McAdoo’s men had another poor outing in their next match against the Minnesota Vikings as once again Manning and the offense stalled against a quality defense, while Sam Bradford played efficiently to secure a comfortable win.
Two first-half touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers guided the Green Bay Packers to victory at Lambeau Field, with the offense once again failing to pull their weight, mustering only nine points until late in the fourth quarter.
Manning improved slightly against the Baltimore Ravens, but he still needed Beckham to do the heavy lifting late in the game by take a simple slant route 66 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The return skills of Landon Collins on an interception then delivered the crucial score to guide them past the Los Angeles Rams at Wembley Stadium, leaving the club 4-3 at the bye.
The Giants brushed aside the Philadelphia Eagles on their return to action following their bye week. The contest was close in the third quarter as Carson Wentz attempted to mount a comeback, but any hopes were dashed by a strike from Manning to Sterling Shepard, while the defense held the Eagles to just six points in the remainder of the game.
Another close match was to follow against the Cincinnati Bengals. Momentum changed hands several times before a strike to Shepard handed the Giants a one-point lead they would not surrender.
McAdoo’s men trailed the Chicago Bears on home soil 16-9 at the break before the offense jolted into life in the second half with Manning connecting with Tye and Shepard to guide his side to victory. Their clash against Cleveland Browns was a straightforward victory, with the club never having to get out of first gear.
However, the following week against the Pittsburgh Steelers provided a foreshadowing of the Giants’ playoff exit as they failed to cope with the offensive power of the AFC North side.
With a point to prove against the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants ended their bitter rivals’ 11-game winning streak by shutting down Prescott, Elliott and Dez Bryant to get back to winning ways, while they were equally as good in another win over the Detroit Lions.
Manning had a three-interception game against the Eagles to cost his side, but the playoffs were secure with a final-day win over the Redskins, ending their rivals’ hopes.
The jaunt into the post-season proved to be short as the Packers’ power – much like the Steelers – overwhelmed the team, resulting in a heavy defeat on the road as Rodgers carved apart the secondary in an outstanding display.
Manning showed signs of a potential decline in his play in the 2016 season. His statistics were down on his efforts in the 2014 and 2015 campaigns, while his accuracy was off, particularly towards the end of the term. As a result, it could behove the Giants to look for a replacement in the draft.
McAdoo was on the Packers’ staff when they selected Rodgers as a replacement for Brett Favre and should one of the top-rated signal callers – Mitch Trubisky or DeShaun Watson – fall to them in the 23rd pick it should at the least be worth considering. They have signed former Jets quarterback Geno Smith as a backup option, but turning to him as a long-term solution would not be advisable.
Elsewhere the club have made a long-term commitment to pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who had a solid season, notching seven sacks. With Olivier Vernon on the roster, the Giants have their bookends at defensive end set for the near future.
The loss of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins could prompt a move for a replacement, but perhaps not in the early rounds of the draft, while linebacker could also be considered due to the lack of quality depth at the position.
Brandon Marshall has been signed from the New York Jets and should alleviate the pressure on Beckham Jr to perform week in-week out, although Shepard could take the next stage in his development.
The big position for the club to fill is running back. Adrian Peterson has expressed curiosity in the Giants, although Jamaal Charles’ skill set could be alluring, especially due to Shane Vereen’s injury issues. Either player would be a decent fit in New York’s offense and would also take the ball out of Manning’s hands – which could be a blessing.
The Giants’ hopes in 2017 all hinge on the performances of Manning. He has been inconsistent throughout of his career and his displays in the last campaign could just be one of the down years he has experience during his NFL career. However, if it was the start of a major decline then the club have major issues.
On the bright side for the club after his last down year in 2013, he responded with excellent seasons in 2014 and 2015, which happened to coincide with the drafting of Beckham Jr. Should he be the Eli that delivered two Super Bowls in four seasons then McAdoo’s men have a strong chance of making a surge in the playoffs due to their talent on defense.
As a result, backing New York at +900 with TopBet sportsbook to win the NFC Conference might not be a bad option to take given the unpredictable nature of the Giants during Manning’s career as their starter.
New York Giants To Win NFC Conference
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