The Giants Must Prevent Another Meltdown In 2013
In the last decade, since Tom Coughlin arrived in East Rutherford, the New York Giants have been wildly successful (two Super Bowl victories and a handful of division titles would qualify a team as being "wildly successful," especially in this era of parity where only one other team has won multiple Super Bowls in that span of time — the Pittsburgh Steelers). However, for the better part of the decade, when they weren't hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the team has been a complete mystery. In fact, those two Super Bowl titles could be three or even four if not for the Giants' patented late-season meltdowns; something that every Giants fan has come to fear and even expect as the season begins to head into the home stretch.
In four of the last five seasons, the Giants have exploded out of the gate with such ferocity that they seemed to be on a straight path to postseason success, yet somehow they sputter out and lose steam right around the halfway point of the season, either limping into the playoffs or missing out altogether. This season, things must be different or else sweeping changes are likely to come down upon the franchise. Simply put, the Giants cannot afford another late-season meltdown, and furthermore, Tom Coughlin, as beloved as he is, might not survive another one.
The late-season woes began during the 2008 season when an 11-1 Giants team that had flat-out dominated the league through Week 13 ended up losing three of its last four games post-Plaxico. Then, in 2009, a red-hot 5-0 start gave way to losing eight of the last 11 games. In 2010, a 6-2 start was squandered by a lukewarm 4-4 second half, and last season, another 6-2 start was spoiled by a 3-5 second half. Recently, these late-season troubles could be attributed to the fact that the Giants schedule has been bottom-heavy, with a soft first half that opens up into a gauntlet of playoff teams and division rivals right after the bye week. That kind of scheduling would wreak havoc on just about anybody. Just looking at last season's run of Green Bay, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta and Baltimore is enough to give you cold sweats.
However, it hasn't always been that way.
The collapse in 2009 came at the hands of inferior teams like Denver, Carolina and Minnesota; 2010's collapse can be summed up in two words: DeSean Jackson. But the fact remains that the Giants simply don't look like the same team late in the season as they do in the beginning. Either they turn it up a gear and play like Super Bowl contenders (and eventual champions) or they slip down a gear and play sloppy, mistake-filled football that is uncharacteristic of a team with so much obvious talent, experience and discipline.
Whatever the true reasons behind the Giants' late-season troubles, they must find a way to right the ship this season. With a second-half schedule that's a little more forgiving than last season's, the team should focus on playing consistent football all the way through Week 17. Whether it's a matter of the team flipping the cruise control switch too early, a lack of preparation or whether they simply run out of steam, they must find a way to fix these problems and right the ship in 2013. With a schedule that's split directly down the middle — their bye week coming in between two neatly packaged eight-game sets — the Giants have to avoid losing that early-season momentum that they've become accustomed to gathering, and they need to finish strong.