Do you believe in fairy tales? Do you believe in improbable, even implausible, victories against all odds? If you do then the New York Giants should be the team you root for in the 2023 NFL Playoffs.
History tells you
The Giants never take the easy road to glory. Think back in recent NFL history to the 2007 and 2011 Giants. On both occasions they barely scraped the playoffs, and the seemingly unbeatable dynasty of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots stood in their way. For both of those roads to Super Bowl victories they were led by a quarterback many around the league questioned or even mocked. Sound familiar?
Names to look for
The 2022 Giants have surpassed all expectations. General Manager Joe Schoen has worked miracles with a wafer thin roster and almost no wriggle room in terms of cap space. Take wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins as an example. Known to Schoen and Daboll from his Buffalo Bills days he was picked up in November off waivers. He is now arguably WR1. Rookies have also stepped up, with edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and tight end Daniel Bellinger the standouts. Everyone has played their part. In the playoff win against the Vikings the reason Kirk Cousins faced 4th and 8 was due to great coverage and pass defense on the play before from 3rd rounder Cordale Flott. He is hardly a household name.
There are stories all over this roster. Starting guard Nick Gates has only recently returned to the offensive line following rehabilitation from a potentially career-ending lower-leg fracture that required seven surgeries. The roster is still threadbare in places but the coaching staff have clearly improved the players they have at their disposal. Andrew Thomas has become a pro-bowl left tackle and Dexter Lawrence is an all-pro wrecking ball of a defensive tackle. The key offensive duo of QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley have now displayed their first-round draft pick credentials to the extent that they have given the Giants a headache. In the offseason both could be free agents. No one will mind if those discussions take place with the Lombardi Trophy in the room.
If the Giants do win the Super Bowl it will be because the coaching staff have elevated the players to a level no one could have foreseen. Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka has subtly altered game plans during the season to emphasise Barkley or Jones and has preached ball security at all times. Defensive mastermind Don “Wink” Martindale has terrorised opposing quarterback all season as the Giants have leaned on the blitz more than most. However, Wink is able to change gears to take away an opponent’s strength, as the gameplan against the Vikings demonstrated. Both coordinators are on the shortlists for vacant head coaching jobs. Brian Daboll is a strong candidate for Head Coach of the Year. He has created a culture and an environment which should lead to a period of sustainable success. Remarkable given the starting point when he was hired less than a year ago.
The Giants gameplan is clear. Keep it simple, keep it close and don’t beat yourself. They were 2nd in the league regular season in terms of committing the fewest turnovers. This meant they were always in the game, and things usually went right up to the end. They are 9-4-1 in games decided by one score and in the heat of the playoffs games are often close.
Is there are a happy ever after for the 2022 New York Giants? The path is treacherous; the Eagles lie in wait followed by either the 49ers of Cowboys and then, probably one of the AFC powerhouses (Bengals, Bills or Chiefs). But that is always the way in fairy tales, isn’t it?
(image courtesy of giants.com)