The Giants are the talk of the town. Back in the good graces of New Yorkers, at least those with an NFC bent, times are good for the men in blue.
Football traditionalists would say that's the way it should be in the great metropolis.
But just six weeks ago you'd be hard-pressed to find ten people in the NY-NJ metro who spoke / wrote well of Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin or signal-caller Eli Manning. SB42 ('08) had become as distant a memory for Giants' fans as SB3 has for Jets' faithful.
An old guard franchise of the NFL and the team of New York's cufflink-set, the G-Men had turned unpredictable and appeared to many to be in need of a change. The natives were getting restless in the stands and the press box.
The standard spiel went something like this: 'Tom Coughlin's worn out his welcome in New York. Ownership likes Tom but with no Michael Strahan around to keep things together there's a disconnect. And Eli, he's just a notch above Sanchez and will throw it away in the clutch.'
Not exactly crazy talk but definitely gave the aroma of sour grapes.
I too was befuddled by the Giants inconsistent play through much of 2011, describing them in Week 12 (v GB) as a "Jekyll & Hyde" operation. And this was after the season got off to an embarrassing start in Week 2 with Faker-gate against the Rams (9/19).
But in this League, as in rounders (Cards '11), late-season momentum, a sound QB, general health and a ticket to the post-season are all you need to hoist the hardware. Regular season mediocrity is just a bump in the road to title-city.
Though no one paid much mind to Rex Ryan's boast of Jets' supremacy last month before the Gotham City grudge match with their NFC rival, the fact he even said it, given his team's sorrowful season, suggested just how unimpressive the boys in blue appeared.
Ryan's braggadocio may've been the tipping point, the impetus the Giants needed to salvage their regular season and charge like a roaring freight-train towards the playoffs.
Having lost five of their previous six, including the prior week's head-scratcher at home to intra-division rival Washington (23-10), the thought of dropping their Week 16 match to the lowly Jets and outta' the playoff race might've been too painful a thought to bear.
The Giants won in impressive fashion (29-14) and have not looked back.
And all that December chatter about Tom Coughlin on the outs? Now he's the wise, old sage who knew how to marshal his troops at just the right time, while his detractors have gone as silent as a witness in a Tony Soprano investigation. Winning streaks will do wonders for a new perspective (See; Tim Tebow).
Maybe the Giants did get a tad lucky in their 2008 post-season run. But remember the famous words of that other New York sage from the 30s, the great Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez: "I'd rather be lucky than good" (Wikipedia).
The Giants wouldn't be alone in the luck department. Patriots (Cundiff), Saints (5 MIN TOs & 12-man penalty / '10 NFC) and even the Packers with their EZ-Pass (ATL / PHI / CHI) on the 2011 PS-highway, were all recipients of, if not full-fledged luck, certainly optimum circumstances.
But when good luck, ideal conditions, whatever you wanta' call it, graces one's state and happens with a regularity, you gotta' figure, somebody on that sideline must know what he's doing.
Belichick & Brady are so regular you could set your watch by it. As for Coughlin & Manning's chances on February 5th: Watch the turnovers, push the pressure on TB and stitch a four-leaf clover into every Giants' uniform. Better safe than sorry.
Ahead of the Curve