Before the 2011 NFL season got underway, there was an NFC East team that was the popular choice of commentators to reach the Super Bowl. It just wasn't the New York Giants.
"I think the Giants will contend for the NFC East title," Peter King wrote before the season started. "But I don't think they're good enough to beat Philadelphia this year."
The Giants didn't do much to dispel the notion that they were an also-ran squad in the first week of the season, dropping the opener to the Redskins . Adding self-inflicted ignominy to fake injury, the Giants' defense then garnered as much attention in Week 2 for appearing to feign injuries to slow down Sam Bradford as the team accrued credit for actually beating the Rams. Despite the many doubters, Tom Coughlin's team would get on track with that Monday night win over St. Louis and sprint out to a 6-2 record.
After victories over the New England Patriots and the much ballyhooed, but ultimately disappointing, Philadelphia Eagles, New York was the surprise frontrunner in a division title previously gifted to Philadelphia's "Dream Team." Of course, just when the future looked brightest, the G-Men promptly, precipitously fell back to earth. First by losing to San Francisco, then dropping a game against a Vince Young-led Eagles team, and suddenly, just as quickly as they were considered contenders, the team had lost four games in a row and sat at 6-6.
With their backs against the wall, the Giants managed to upset the division-leading Cowboys in Dallas, and rode that momentum to a 9-7 finish, which would be good enough to make the playoffs.
The Giants entered the post-season with 12 to 1 odds of winning the Super Bowl, the seventh best of the twelve teams who qualified for the playoffs. Now, after defeating the NFC's two top-seeded teams in consecutive weeks, the Giants once again sit as underdogs entering the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
Stop us if you've heard this one before.
Before the Giants take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, let's take one last look back at Big Blue's roller coaster season. Here are highlights from every game played during the Giants' run to the Super Bowl. Which wins were the most crucial? Which loss provided the much-needed wake-up call?