The Giants' defense is noticeably better in 2016 than they were a year ago when it seemed like they collapsed on a weekly basis. The personnel is better for sure and the injuries have been kept to a serviceable minimum.
The addition of veterans such as Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison and Keenan Robinson, along with the emergence of safety Landon Collins, have some people comparing this defense to the great Giants' units of the past. But is it Super Bowl caliber?
Yes, they are a good defense in that they are not blowing leads like they did in the past, but they are not even close in resemblance to the defenses that helped the franchise to two championships in the new millennium.
Actually, the Giants' defensive numbers do not give the impression that they are even a highly functioning unit. They are only 16th overall in the NFL (7th rush, 22nd pass) and still have just 14 sacks (30th) and 10 takeaways on the season. They have been improving on those numbers the past few weeks, however, but truth be told, they have been getting by on guile and guts more than execution.
"We have a ways to go," DC Steve Spagnuolo on Friday when asked if this was a Super Bowl defense. "To me, there's no such thing as perfection but we chase perfection. Our motto is 'we chase perfection and rely on relentless.' That's what you need to do. If you start thinking that way, that's when you go backwards, in my opinion. Let's talk about the next game, the next play. All the stuff you hear from coaches, that's what we're focused on. If you do that, the success will come."
Although they have been limiting QBs to a 75.7 QBR this season, the Giants have been susceptible to deep pass plays. They have allowed 33 passes over 20 yards and eight over 40. But I'm chalking that up to the injuries they've had at the free safety position. The corners have been fairly steady. Expect those long plays to happen less and less going forward.
One area where the Giants have been standing tall is in the red zone. The Giants are the best defense in the league when their backs are to the wall, allowing touchdowns inside the 20 an NFL-low 41.94 percent of the time.
DC Steve Spagnuolo's group is not particularly effective when it comes to getting off the field on third downs, allowing teams to convert 39 percent of the time, and have surrendered four of eight fourth down attempts against them this season.
The defenses that led the Giants to Super Bowl championships were all predicated on pressure and were very physical. Yes, the rules have changed when it comes to the type of physicality that is allowed but sacking the quarterback is still a thing -- a thing they haven't been able to do often enough.
So the answer to the question is no, this isn't your father's Giants defense. But that doesn't mean they can't get to the postseason and make a run. The way the pass rush has been coming on, it is only a matter of time before they become a real force. It's no mistake that the turnovers have been coming more frequently since the front has been getting more pressure.
But until they start producing some results other than not breaking in the red zone and in the fourth quarter, they won't be considered a great defense.