Next, unexpected losses and disappointing play from a starting quarterback, leading to widespread speculation that both that quarterback’s as well as his head coach’s days with the team could be numbered.
Then, when the season looked lost, and the playoffs gone, a key late win to barely make the postseason.
Subsequently, a big road win in the wild-card round to set up a playoff matchup with an NFC East rival enjoying a first-round bye week as the top seed in the NFC.
If you’re a Giants fan, it should.
The aforementioned recipe was the beginning of what became the Giants’ remarkable run to the most seemingly improbable of Super Bowl championship runs.
Fittingly, as the Giants are now on the other side this year as the team to beat in the NFC, they open the playoffs on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, who are in pretty much the same position now, that the Giants were in a year ago.
The similarities are almost like looking at a mirror from one year to the next:
2007: The Giants started terribly, allowing 80 points in successive losses to Dallas and Green Bay.
2008: The Eagles lost 3 of 4 early, including surprises against non-playoff teams Chicago and Washington.
2007: The Giants bounced back with 6 straight wins before losing to eventual top seed Dallas at home.
2008: The Eagles righted their season with 3 consecutive wins before losing at home, to the current top-seeded Giants.
2007: In Week 12, Eli Manning had an awful game, throwing 28 incomplete passes and 4 interceptions in a blowout loss to Minnesota, causing many to question if the Giants might be better off moving in a different direction without Manning and for that matter, without Head Coach Tom Coughlin.
2008: After a week 11 tie at lowly Cincinnati in which Donovan McNabb threw 30 incomplete passes and 3 picks, McNabb was criticized not only for his poor play, but for being unaware that NFL rules allowed for the game to end in a tie. After getting routed in Baltimore a week later, talk started as to whether both McNabb and Head Coach Andy Reid would remain in Philadelphia.
2007: The Giants get a key Week 14 win at Philadelphia but its playoff chances are temporarily damaged with a Week 15 loss to Washington in which they are held to just 10 points.
2008: The Eagles playoff hopes are revived when they win in Week 14 at Giants Stadium, but appear to lose out on the playoffs after a Week 16 loss at Washington in which they score only a field goal.
2007: With the Giants’ playoff hopes hanging by a thread, trailing 14-0 at Buffalo, the Giants roll to a 38-21 win to clinch a playoff spot.
2008: The Eagles, needing help, get it, when Tampa Bay loses a game it figured to win (to Oakland, at home). Like the Giants in Buffalo last year, the Eagles cruise from that point, with a 44-6 crushing of Dallas to make the playoffs.
2007: The Giants go on the road and upset Tampa Bay in a wild-card playoff game.
2008: The Eagles win a wild-card game in Minnesota.
2007: The Giants go to Dallas, their huge division rival and the NFC’s top seed, and well, we know the rest of the tale from there.
2008: The Eagles return to Giants Stadium on Sunday, looking to knock off a 1 seed and big NFC East rival.
The moral of the story?
The Eagles are certainly capable. But, if anyone should be ready for them in the playoffs, it’s this year’s Giants. Since the Giants were able to sneak up on Tampa Bay, Dallas, Green Bay, and New England en route to winning a championship last year, they know first-hand how dangerous the Eagles could be this year. That should at least keep the Giants from being overconfident and on their toes, now that they are ironically in the same position as the Dallas team they knocked out last year, and now that the Eagles have taken the Giants’ place from last year.
There will be many keys on Sunday. The Giants will have to limit turnovers (as in any game). They’ll have to run the ball effectively with Derrick Ward, and mostly, with a healthy Brandon Jacobs. Their offensive line will have to give Manning time to throw, and his receiving corps will have to pick up the slack for the missing Plaxico Burress. And, the Giants will have to get plenty of pressure on McNabb and try to limit the damage that Brian Westbrook could do as a double threat both rushing and receiving.
But, one thing the Giants shouldn’t have to worry about is the Eagles catching them by surprise. Thus, the only question that remains now is, will the Giants become last year’s Cowboys, or will they write a different ending, avoiding an Eagles’ upset, continuing the road to another possible championship?