Thursday, December 13, 2012

NFL Picks Week Fifteen: Yeah, I didn't see that coming either

Some time after David Wilson's final touchdown run in the fourth quarter gave the Giants a 52-27 lead, I thought to myself, "Wow, I can't remember the last time I saw the Giants score 50 points." There was good reason for not remembering, and that was because, well, I had never seen the Giants score 50 points before in a lifetime of watching them. That isn't to say it hadn't happened in my lifetime; it had. But I was a wee 17 months old when Big Blue closed out the 1986 regular season with a 55-24 trouncing of Green Bay. The Giants won their first Super Bowl a month later and I, much to young to be cognizant of any of it, missed out on one of the greatest offensive performances in team history.

Sunday's raucous victory over the Saints is right up there in the greatest offensive performances New York has had in franchise history, and while I thought the Giants would get caught up in a shootout with New Orleans given their superb offense and mediocre defense, I never could have foreseen anything like this kind of resounding statement win. Even after the first quarter, which featured a mundane 14-7 score, just about the most bizarre opening seven minutes of a game I've ever seen, and a decision to punt on the opening drive that drove me utterly, utterly bonkers (we can get into why punting is often the wrong decision some other time) it never would have occured to me that we might be in for the offensive show from the Giants we ultimately got.

Much of that, of course, can be put on the shoulders of Wilson, who has shown flashes throughout the season of his speed when he gets limited touches in the return game, but Sunday put on a clinic for how to move the ball on the ground, resulting in three touchdowns and a franchise-record 327 all-purpose yards. He became the first player in NFL history to record 200 return yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game. It was an absolutely mind-boggling performance that will be talked about for years by Giants fans.

But does it mean anything?

This was an all-too-necessary victory for the Giants, who could have feasible ended Sunday in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East with a loss. At one point Sunday it looked as if a two-game lead would be possible with Washington and Dallas both losing late to Baltimore and Cincinnati respectively. But after each of them completed an unlikely comeback on the final play of the game (as did the Eagles, all of this happening within a 10-minute span in a nightmare scenario for Giants fans) the pressure was suddenly on New York to win a game that, from the outset, appeared an enormous challenge.

Well, in all honestly, I don't think it really means anything at all. Sure, it was satisfying and, if you root for New York, extremely fun to watch, but no one really doubted the Giants' big play potential given their quarterback and skill players. We all knew the Saints' defense was completely discombobulated this season given the in flux roster, bounty scandal impacts and the need to learn new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system (something Giants fans know well).

All of that added up to what was undoubtedly a potentially explosive offensive performance, which means in retrospect, the game was impressive, but not all that impressive -- or meaningful. Instead, if Giants fans really want an indication of where this team is going or if it's starting to crest at just the right time (the playoffs are a mere three weeks away after all), we just might get that this weekend at conference-leading Atlanta, or a week later at AFC North leading Baltimore, a game I am planning on attending. If the Giants wind up 1-1 after those two, it may be safe to say they have a chance to be a tough out in the playoffs. If they wind up 2-0 with convincing victories at the homes of two potential Super Bowl participants, it could be a sign they're ready to chase a third championship in six years. And if they end up 0-2, it could be a sign the magic is fading.

Either way, it will provide some answers. It likely won't provide them in the form of a 52-point outburst -- those apparently only come up once every 26 years -- but it might just give some clarity as to what can reasonably be expected of the defending champions this season. And if Dallas and Washington continue to chase hot on New York's tail, the Giants may need to bring that clarity sooner rather than later.

If they feel like scoring 52 points again, however, that would be fine with me. It just may be silly to expect it.

Last week: 6-8-2
Season: 101-101-7

PHILADELPHIA (+5) over Cincinnati
NY Giants (+1) over ATLANTA
Green Bay (-3) over CHICAGO
Washington (-1) over CLEVELAND
ST. LOUIS (-2) over Minnesota
MIAMI (-7) over Jacksonville
NEW ORLEANS (-4) over Tampa Bay
BALTIMORE (+3) over Denver
Indianapolis (+10) over HOUSTON
BUFFALO (+6) over Seattle
Detroit (-6) over ARIZONA
SAN DIEGO (-3) over Carolina
Pittsburgh (-1) over DALLAS
OAKLAND (-3) over Kansas City
San Francisco (+5) over NEW ENGLAND
NY Jets (+1) over TENNESSEE

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