On Tuesday we examined some of the potential reasons for the Giants turnaround, but might have left out the one that provides the best explanation.
Thankfully, Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News was mining some similar ground and hit on an interesting theory that feels pretty right. Per Vacchiano, the Giants of the Coughlin era need chaos to bring out the best in them and provides some historical notes to back up that theory.
He obviously starts with the hellfire that rained down after the losses to the Colts and Titans, but also reaches back to the hubbub that surrounded the 0-2 start in 2007 and the firing of offensive coordinator John Hufnagel late in the 2006 season. That team beat Washington in their most impressive performance of the season to slide into the playoffs and save Coughlin's job. There's more at work here. The Giants of '07 didn't quiet all their doubters until they beat Dallas in the second round of the playoffs and they were still heavy underdogs all the rest of the way. The various snipings of players like Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey always seemed to bring out the best in the head coach, which is a bit bizarre given his own quasi-fascistic fetish for law and order in the organization.
It's not even unique to the Coughlin years. You can go all the way back to Jim Fassel pushing all his chips into the middle of the table to launch the run to the Super Bowl after the 2000 season. For a team that's always prided itself on being a calm, cool and collected ocean of professionalism, the Giants sure do love a good roll in the mud to get their motor running.
So that's a good explanation for what's happened over the last two weeks, but the flip side is that the Giants of the Coughlin era have made it a habit of choking up when people expect big things of them. The 2005 team went 11-5 and then fell apart against the Panthers in the first round. The 2008 team was flying high until the Plaxico Burress incident -- the exception that proves the chaos rule -- and, of course, last year's bunch was 5-0 before nosediving straight into the gutter.
That brings us to now and a Giants team that suddenly finds itself as the apple of NFC watchers eyes. They have the number one ranked defense in terms of total yardage, Football Outsiders ranks them as the best team in the conference and it's hard to make an argument that any team is better put together than the Giants at this point in time.
Does that foreshadow a coming fall off a cliff? It's worth noting that the Football Outsiders gang rate the Giants as the second least consistent team in the league, just behind the Bears. Also worth noting is how tough the schedule looks once the Giants finish with the Lions on Sunday. All six divisional games and no games outside of a home tilt with the Jaguars that would fall into the definite win column.
The expectations have been raised dramatically, now the Giants have to prove that they can handle all that comes with that.