The Giants at the Halfway Point - NBC New York

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The Giants at the Halfway Point

The highs and lows of the first eight games



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    In many ways, it has been the same old story for the Giants in the first half of the season.

    The Giants always make it to the midway point with a record in the neighborhood of 6-2, which means that there probably isn't much reason to throw a parade in Tom Coughlin's honor.

    Still, it feels like the team has pulled off some kind of miracle to get to this point of the season with a two-game lead in the NFC East.

    Credit good marketing for that. By making such a big deal about injuries in the preseason and by allowing bad/mediocre teams to hang with them into the fourth quarter, the Giants were able to make it seem like they were overcoming extreme circumstances to come up with victories.

    That creates a lot of goodwill, especially when you follow the script in a trip to New England, and it makes everyone smile at the midway point of the season. Let's take one last look at the first half before we get back to wondering if this is the year the Giants finish as well as they started.

    MVP: This should probably be an award given to the most valuable player who isn't Eli Manning because the choice is so obvious that it is boring. Alas, MVP means MVP and there's no reasonable choice other than the man who has led the Giants to five of their six wins in the fourth quarter of games.

    Is there any doubt the Giants would be 2-6 at best right now if it wasn't for Manning? That should settle elite debates.

    Breakout Player: You want to know the best argument against ever giving Osi Umenyiora one more cent? Jason Pierre-Paul.

    Unlike Umenyiora, Pierre-Paul is capable of making plays without a big-time player on the other end of the line and he isn't completely lost when the other team runs the ball. His motor and athleticism should have him as the best defensive player on the team as soon as next year.

    Most Improved: Jake Ballard could probably fit as the breakout player, but we're going to say that an undrafted player who stuck around for his blocking did some work to improve his pass catching game between last year and this year. He's a real weapon in the passing game and might have had the most important play of the year against New England last Sunday.

    Biggest Disappointment: It's a close race between the offensive line and the inability to stop the run, but we're going to go with the latter. The line has shown some life while the problems stopping the run are going to be a serious concern over the second half as teams learn that they have to keep the ball out of Manning's hands as much as possible if they want to beat the Giants.

    Best Game: This one is just about as easy as the Manning choice for MVP. Beating the Patriots on the road is great, beating them by coming back in the fourth quarter is greater and scoring twice in the final 3:03 because Manning is simply better than Tom Brady is as good as it gets.

    Worst Game: If the Giants don't win the division or make the playoffs this year, their 36-25 loss to the Seahawks is going to be the reason why. For all the talk about how the Giants love to prove doubters wrong, they spent a lot of time acting like they were better than the opposition just by showing up in the first half and the Seahawks loss was the result of that.

    Unsung Hero: Michael Boley was a pretty big flop in his first two years after signing as a free agent, but he's finally bringing the team the kind of linebacker play that they thought they were getting in 2009. He was almost as important to the Patriots win as Manning and that was just the flashiest of several strong performances this season.

    Biggest Questions: How healthy can they be down the stretch? The Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks injuries feel like ones that aren't going to go away immediately and the team hasn't exactly proven itself sturdy down the stretch in recent seasons. They've done an admirable job of ignoring missing players thus far, but you never know which straw breaks the camel's back.

    Will the run game materialize? If they remain a totally one-dimensional offense, the Giants are asking for teams to do to them what they have done to the Patriots the last two times they've faced them. Some is on the backs and some is on the line, but the Giants have to fix it all.

    Are they going to fold up again in the second half? As the Magic 8-Ball might say, "Outlook unclear, ask again later." It certainly doesn't look like a team that will have a hard time winning the majority of their remaining games but, then, neither did any of the other ones that couldn't pull it off.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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