There was little optimism surrounding the New York Giants during the start of this season. Key players suffered extensive injuries. Rival teams poached the Giants for crucial players. Prognosticators thought the Giants would trudge through a tough season.
Five months and 12 wins later, the Giants’ bandwagon is at overcapacity. New York is heading back to the Super Bowl after playing five must-win games in as many weeks.
New York’s story is similar to the one the Green Bay Packers wrote last season. The 2010 Packers were 8-6 with two weeks to go and were a long shot to make the Playoffs. That team won the Super Bowl.
- The Packers suffered key injuries during their 2010 campaign. It started during training camp when defensive back Atari Bigby suffered an ankle injury. Then starting running back Ryan Grant fell. Tight end Jermichael Finley, defensive back Morgan Burnett, linebacker Nick Barnett, and linebacker Brad Jones landed on the bench, too.
In total, eight Green Bay starters were on the injured reserve list when the club played Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.
The Giants suffered through similar casualties this season. New York lost five defensive players before the season began. This group included cornerback Terrell Thomas, linebackers Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim, and rookie defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Wide receiver Domenik Hixon, running back Brandon Jacobs and running back Ahmad Bradshaw were shelved for parts of this season.
Osi Umenyiora and other defensive ends were nicked up during the season.
Who knows if the adversity of key injuries galvanized these teams. But the Packers found key contributors in James Starks, Desmond Bishop and Brian Bulaga because of the injuries. For the Giants, the Hixon injury helped Victor Cruz become the Giants’ all-time leading receiver in a single season. Injuries to Umenyiora and Justin Tuck shined a light on Jason Pierre-Paul’s pass-rushing abilities.
The Giants do not make the Playoffs without Cruz or Pierre-Paul playing so well.
- The 2010 Packers had two huge regular season games to clinch a Playoff berth. After losing two-straight games, the 8-6 Packers beat the 9-5 Giants in Week 16. The Packers went into their season finale with Chicago controlling their own destiny. Green Bay beat Chicago 10-3 to clinch the sixth and final NFC Playoff bid.
Green Bay kept rolling off that momentum to win the NFC and then the Super Bowl.
The Giants entered Week 16 having lost six of their last seven games. After beating the rival New York Jets, who were also fighting for a Playoff spot, the Giants knocked the Cowboys out on a Sunday night elimination game to win the NFC East Division.
Both teams essentially played two Playoff games to finish the regular season. With their seasons on the line, both squads persevered and used that experience to win the NFC.
- New York is riding the Eli Manning wave. Manning has dominated competition and, more importantly, has avoided turnovers. His eight touchdowns to one interception this postseason are helping New York fans forget his 17 interceptions during a rough 2010. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have yet to produce consistently, but the Giants’ offense continues to thrive.
The Packers climbed Aaron Rodgers’ back all the way to a Championship last year. Rodgers became a first tier quarterback with his stellar performance for Green Bay. Though James Starks emerged as a workhorse running back, Green Bay did not rely on the ground game simply because of Rodgers’ ability to distribute the ball. It wasn’t a well-rounded offense, but it was effective offense.
Green Bay continued a trend of teams playing in the Wild Card round winning the Super Bowl. The Packers did not take any breaks during the end of the season and rode momentum to a Super Bowl trophy. New York has followed a similar blueprint to be on the verge of a championship after a 7-7 record.