There are three stages to the evolution of a dominant team in the NFL.
The first stage begs the question:
The G-Men came into the season as defending Super Bowl Champions, but their playoff run was regarded as fluky. Many pundits thought the Dallas Cowboys were more talented on paper, and other NFC teams could easily get on a hot streak and be just as good. Throw in the loss of Michael Strahan, and later Osi Umenyiora, and most anticipated that championship defense losing the edge.
But after four wins out the gate, with a couple smack-downs thrown in, it was clear, at the least, the New York Giants were legitimately ranked among the best in the league. And you could pose the question about whether they were #1.
Then they entered the next stage where the question becomes a definitive statement:
The New York Giants are the best team in the NFL.
This became the analysis du jour sometime around the stretch that encompassed a tough win on the road in Pittsburgh, the pantsing of of the Cowboys at Giants Stadium, followed by another tight victory in Philadelphia. These were the games that eliminated the question mark and allowed the Giants to step front and center as the consensus favorite. Aside from a hiccup against a feisty Browns team, Big Blue had proven themselves on the scoreboard, with wins and losses, and on the field, by dominating most opponents.
Now they're entering the third stage, where there are mandatory air quotes:
"The New York Giants are the best team in the NFL."
After poo-pooing the preposterous antics of their pathological wide receiver, and steamrolling a Redskins team that had established themselves as contenders since they met in Week 1, there is no more question. A simple statement now amounts to understatement. Referring to the Giants as the "best in the NFL" is cliché, such that you need air quotes to acknowledge the universality of this fact. For example, next week the Eagles won't be linking up against the Giants, they'll be playing "the best team in the NFL."
The New England Patriots last year achieved air quote status much earlier in the season, because they were undefeated, had some marquee names, and the franchise has been the team of the past few years.
Of course with air quote status, comes air quote expectations. The "best team in the NFL" now has to translate it into becoming "Super Bowl Champions" or otherwise be labeled a "disappointment" despite a season already better than even the most die-hard Jints fans were dreaming about.