The New York Giants were fortunate to have made the playoffs in 2011. Not fortunate in the sense that they won games they should have lost, but in that a nine-win season was good enough to earn them the NFC East crown. In fact, the 2011 Giants were the only team ever to win the NFC East with only nine wins since the league expanded to a sixteen-game schedule in 1978. In 2010, the team actually had ten wins and was left out in the cold during the post season.
Historically, nine wins is sometimes good enough to earn a Wild Card berth; however, the Giants received a four-seed and a home playoff game in 2011. As impressive as the team's playoff performance was, they were placed in a much more favorable position than most other nine win teams normally receive.
Although Big Blue eventually got healthy and went on an improbable run to their fourth Super Bowl victory in franchise history, there were several moments throughout the 2011 campaign in which it looked like the Giants were going to be on the outside looking in come playoff time. For these reasons, some believe that Big Blue will fail to make it through the NFC and into the playoffs in the upcoming season.
Throughout the last few weeks, several NFL analysts and so-called "experts" have predicted that the team will not make the playoffs in 2012. Although many fans disagree with these prognostications, Big Blue still has several questions to answer after their 9-7 regular season campaign a year ago.
Ironically, the outcome of the 2012 NFL season will be determined largely by the results of the 2011 season. For many teams, their schedule will be the make-or-break factor that will either vault them into post-season lore, or will have them sitting on their couches come January. For the 2012 New York Giants to make the playoffs, this can not be the case.
The Giants will have the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2012. On top of playing their annual divisional bouts, Big Blue will face seven other teams that made the playoffs in 2011. To complicate matters further, the Giants will play on the road against the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, and Baltimore Ravens. While objectively examining the team's ferocious line-up of opponents, it seems that a ten win season would be extremely difficult to attain.
That being said, the 2012 Giants have improved over the offseason. With a full gauntlet of workouts and OTA's, there will be more consistency and continuity with the team heading into next season. The rookies that the team relied upon last year in several key positions will be no longer be inexperienced liabilities; and both the offensive line and linebacker core should improve as these younger players continue to develop.
Furthermore, it is imperative that the Giants beat the teams they are "supposed" to beat in 2012. Big Blue can not afford to have a game this season similar to last year's home matchups with the Seattle Seahawks or Washington Redskins. With such an unforgiving schedule, the team must win their games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, and Redskins. The Giants have more talent and experience than all of the aforementioned teams and need those five victories to give them some wiggle room against their more competitive opponents.
All things considered, it is still very early to give an accurate prediction on whether any team will make the playoffs in 2012. Nobody knows how teams will mesh during training camp, or if any significant injuries will be suffered during the preseason by key players.
However, the Giants will certainly have their work cut out for them in the upcoming season. As we saw last year, they have the ability to beat any team they play, but can also lose games they most definitely should have won. With the talent and experience returning to the team this season, the Giants should make the playoffs, but that is far from a guaranteed statement. Big Blue must be extremely focused for each and every game to avoid following up their Super Bowl championship season with a clunker in 2012.
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