I don't want to make this post sound like a Giants fan whining, but it's really hard to take the fact that the Giants are not in the playoffs. Looking at the season and the team's record dispassionately and coldly and just analyzing the final results, one could argue that the season was not a total disaster. After all, the Giants did have a winning season, the last game they played had relevance and playoff meaning though of course they did need some help from other teams. Furthermore they did discover some weapons that unfortunately lay dormant for too much of the season. (More on that in later posts.) In addition to that, this 9-7 record was built on what could surely be considered the toughest schedule in football. Very often, the schedule looks difficult coming into the season but turns out otherwise. This is because you evaluate strength of schedule coming into the season on the basis of last year's playoff teams and last year's record. This doesn't always translate into a hard schedule in the current year, because there are always some teams that rise and fall from last year's performance. However for the Giants in 2012, the schedule was rough coming in and even in retrospect was among the hardest in the league. Specifically, the way the NFL schedule is constructed, the maximum number of current year playoff teams that could be on one team's schedule is 7 and the minimum number is 2. This year, the Giants had 6 playoff teams on their schedule and no team had the theoretical maximum of 7. Of course, the Packers also had 6 of the team's that made this year's playoff on their schedule, and they won more games than the Giants and amde the playoffs in a tougherr division. But it doesn't diminish the fact that the Giants had a rough schedule. By comparison, the 49ers and Redskins had 4 current-year playoff teams on their schedule and the Falcons had only 2.
Those are the facts, and I don't want to sound like a Giants apologist, because the raw numbers certainly must be taken in context. The music surrounding these facts is that the Giants won the Super Bowl last year and should be expected to follow up with a better season. They were 6-2 through the first half, sank to 3-5 in the second half and kicked away several winnable games that doomed their playoff hopes. They beat badly 2 of the teams that are still in the NFC playoffs in the Packers and 49ers, which certainly rubs more salt on the wounds of a playoff-less season. If Giants beat them, they should have done better against some of the weaker teams. The Giants showed no grit, no toughness and lost to teams they should have beaten. The most painful defeats were the loss to the Eagles, particularly painful in retrospect when we see what a bad team the Eagles really were; the loss to the Redskins when the Giants showed a complete inability to adjust their defense from the first Redskins game and allowed the Skins to trample the Giants running defense. The other two bad losses were the opener to the Cowboys, where the Giants just assumed that the Cowboys would give the game to them and did not play tough at all and the game against the Steelers, when the Giants were winning by 10 going into the 4th quarter and fell apart on special teams and defense to give the game away.
The flip side of these 4 losses was the fact that the Giants got one gift from the Cowboys in the game in Dallas and won a close game against the Redskins on a last minute TD to Cruz. Giants were 2-4 in close games and winning those close games is about doing the little things right, not having the mental mistakes and having the coaches giving the players a slight advantage in the game deciding plays. Giants did not have that this year. Perhaps after a Super Bowl season, where everything falls into a place, the players subconsciously feel that the same will happen the next year. The games will come to them and they don't have to go and get it. Giants did not fight hard enough in those close games and let them get away from them. When they fell behind against good teams (Bengals, Ravens and Falcons) they showed no fortitude, no grit in mounting a comeback of any kind. They did come back against the weak teams of the league - Browns, Buccaneers and they were even trailing the Saints early - but in those games they washed over them in talent and got some turnovers. They didn't display toughness. Wait until next year.