Is Big Blue for real?
IT'S THE NFC EAST
The New York Giants began the season 0-6, yet are serious contenders to win a division title.
Sounds a little ridiculous, but it's true.
The Giants have won four games in a row since their wretched start. They've played against mediocre opponents, and haven't looked particularly good beating them. But any win in the NFL is nothing to sneeze at.
Suddenly they are just one and a half games behind the first-place Eagles -- a single game in the loss column -- with six to play.
Eli Manning still leads the league in interceptions, but he's thrown only two the past four weeks. Victor Cruz is having another big year, and you have to believe Hakeem Nicks will have another big game at some point. And Andre Brown looks capable of resuscitating the running game.
The defense has quietly risen to No. 11 in the league in yards allowed per game (336.1). Antrel Rolle is wreaking havoc each and every week. Jon Beason has made a huge difference at MLB. And the old Jason Pierre-Paul might finally be back, as evidenced by his pick-six against the Packers.
And perhaps the biggest reason of all to be optimistic? The Giants have pulled off this kind of thing before.
No, they've never made the postseason after an 0-6 start -- no team has. But just two seasons ago, Big Blue snuck into the playoffs on the final Sunday at 9-7, and ended up winning Super Bowl XLVI.
It's way too early to talk about this year's Super Bowl, but plenty of key pieces remain from that team.
No one is good enough in this year's NFC East to run away with it. The 4-6 Giants could win this thing by going 4-2 down the stretch, maybe even 3-3.
Don't forget, a division title gives the Giants a home playoff game on the first weekend in January.
Who knows? This could be the beginning of another storybook finish.
Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com
LOOK AT WHO THEY BEAT
Beat Tony Romo. Then we'll talk.
Sorry, but until the Giants beat a top quarterback, it's hard to consider them more than pretenders as they enter the final six games of the 2013 season.
While the Giants have played a better brand of ball in their last four games as they've gone from 0-6 to 4-6, you have to remember which quarterbacks they beat to get there.
First, it was Josh Freeman with Minnesota when he clearly shouldn't have started. He overthrew more of his receivers that night than some quarterbacks do in an entire season.
That win was followed by triumphs over the Eagles' duo of Michael Vick and Matt Barkley, the Raiders' Terrelle Pryor, who was still dealing with a knee injury, and Green Bay third-stringer Scott Tolzien. There's a possibility that all four of those quarterbacks, as well as Freeman, may not start next year.
In those wins, the Giants' defense looked vastly improved, but one has to wonder: Has the Giants' defense truly improved? Did it help that it was facing weaker signal-callers? It's probably a mixture of both, and it doesn't mean the Giants are ready to slow down great offenses week after week.
Even in those wins, the Giants' offense didn't fully click and was still a little out of sync. Sunday against Green Bay, despite good ball movement, the Giants should have scored more than 20 offensive points. The Giants should not have needed a defensive touchdown to ice the game.
As the old saying goes, you play who's on your schedule. That doesn't mean the Giants are suddenly a team that has fixed all its mistakes and is on the way to claiming the NFC East crown.
Yes, the Giants beat their last four foes, like they should, but they're more pretender than contender at this point.
At least until Sunday.
Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor for ESPNNewYork.com