While I was answering five questions from ETVal at Big Blue View (see below), I came up with five questions of my own.
- What is the biggest difference between the regular season and the playoffs?
Pressure, attention, the fact that a team's season can turn on one play. A player can make a good play in the regular season and it's just that, a good play. Make the same play in a championship game, it becomes historic. Also, this is really the time when quarterbacks make or break their reputations.
- The Giants appear to have a very good offensive line. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Well, the key to this offensive line has been David Diehl's ability to move from guard to left tackle and do an exceptional job. That was a huge question mark heading into the season, and he has been terrific. The best player is right guard Chris Snee. Also, this line is rarely penalized. Unlike Giants teams in the past that were penalty-prone, this one is not. They only had 77 regular-season penalties, which I believe was fewest in the league. The discipline of the line was a big part of that. The Giants run blocking is also helped because they have a terrific blocking back in Madison Hedgecock.
- When we talked back in week 2, the Giants pass rush was MIA, but now it seems to be getting the job done. What has changed over the course of the season?
Several things. First and foremost, Michael Strahan has rounded into shape and is playing better football than he has in years. In Week 2, he had missed all of training camp and was still out of shape. Secondly, this team has really taken to defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. It took some time, but Spagnuolo has instituted an aggressive, blitzing, all-out defensive scheme that is hell-bent on pressuring the quarterback. The first couple of weeks the Giants had guys playing new positions, a new coordinator and all that goes with that, and they were still figuring out what everybody could do. Now, that's different. Keep in mind, as good as this pass rush is it would be even better if DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka hadn't broken his leg.
- Is there something to that playing better on the road thing? I looked at the schedule and saw that the Giants played five teams with losing records on the road (Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo) and only two losing teams with losing records (Jets and San Francisco) at home. They also played three of the top four regular season teams at home (Packers, Dallas, New England). It looked like their home schedule was just a lot tougher.
That's entirely possible. That said, though, I truly believe that there have been times throughout the season when getting away from Giants Stadium has been good for this team. The Giants crowd tends to be very apprehensive, and when Eli and the offense struggle you can sense the discomfort in the stands. I think there have been times when that has worked against the Giants. Sometimes, I think being away from home where everything works against them anyway has allowed them to just play. No matter what the reason, nine straight wins on the road -- which has never been done before in a single season -- is impressive as hell. Lambeau Field, in the cold, in a title game, is an unfriendly place for a visiting team to play. The Giants, though, are as well-equipped emotionally to handle it as I think any team could be.
- The Packers have struggled covering the tight end this season, but Jeremy Shockey is out for the season. Kevin Boss had at least one big catch against Dallas. Should the Packers be concerned about him?
I would be. Boss, a rookie, doesn't have Shockey's reputation, and the Giants don't rely on him as much, but this guy is going to be a big-time player in the NFL. Like Shockey, he's big, he can run, his routes are good and he has great hands. If that has, indeed, been a Green Bay weakness the Giants will not hesitate to throw the ball in Boss's direction.