Three Reasons These Are Not Last Year's New York Giants
Tim Heitman, USATSI

Possessing a reliable defense and an ability to win close games, these 2-0 New York Giants look a lot different from last year’s squad.

Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, the New York Giants are sitting pretty atop the NFC East standings at 2-0. The Giants’ two victories have been nail bitters, squeaking out 20-19 and 16-13 wins over the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. In both games, New York put up the winning points within the final four minutes of the contest.

Those close, last-minute wins are far from what Giants’ fans were used to seeing. A season ago, New York went 1-5 in games decided by three points or less. In games decided by seven points or less, Big Blue was 2-8 in 2015.

The Giants are winning the big games they need to, something they failed at last year. This team has the makings to be a dangerous ball club and here are several why.

The Defense Is Legit:

The biggest difference maker has been the Giants’ reliable defensive lineup. Last season, New York was dead last in total yards allowed. This year’s team now ranks thirteenth in passing yards allowed, fourth in rushing yards allowed, and seventh in the league in total yards allowed.

The stark improvement has been the key to New York’s newfound late game success. Offensively, the team has failed to convert ample scoring opportunities. Numerous fumbles, a missed field goal, and a failed fourth and goal attempt nearly cost the Giants their week two matchup against New Orleans. The defense’s consistency held the high-powered Saints to just 13 points while adding a touchdown off a blocked field goal.

Against Dallas the week prior, New York held the Cowboys’ vaunted offensive line to producing just 101 total rushing yards. Pro Bowler Dez Bryant was held to just one eight-yard catch and forced Dallas to settle for four field goals.

In the end, the Giants offense was able to squeak out some last-minute points to capture the victories in both games. Yet, without their stingy defense, this team could easily be 0-2.

Eli Manning Is As Good As Ever:

Eli Manning‘s career completion percentage stands at a respectable 59.3 percent. This year the veteran signal caller is leading the NFL with a gaudy 73.9 percent clip. Factor in New York’s league-leading five dropped passes and Manning’s Pro Football Focus adjusted percentage stands at 82.4

Manning also sits at tenth in the NFL in passing yards with 575. He currently boasts a three touchdown to one interception ratio, the lone pick coming off a miss-run route by rookie receiver Sterling Shepard.

The Giants’ captain has been manufacturing yards for this team all year, finding ways to get the job done despite the many drops and fumbles by his pass catchers. He’s orchestrated two game-winning drives, as this offense lives and dies with Mr. Manning.

Sterling Shepard Is As Good As Advertised:

Despite being the target on Manning’s lone interception, rookie receiver Sterling Shepard has been a revelation. His 160 yards put him at 22nd in the league, one slot ahead of teammate Odell Beckham Jr.

The Oklahoma product has caught 11 of his 12 pass targets, including this absolute monster touchdown grab.

The hype around Shepard was legit, and the scary part is that he will only get better.

The 2016 New York Giants are looking in the mirror, seeing no part of the team that couldn’t finish games one season ago.

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