Bulletproof

Losing Plaxico will not hurt the Giants because depth trumps stars.

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In all likelihood, they will direct more of the passing game toward Amani Toomer and Plaxico’s replacement Domenik Hixon. Hixon had five catches for 71 yards on Sunday against the Redskins, but he and quarterback Eli Manning failed to connect on two deep balls. I can imagine more of the passing game getting directed toward slot receiver Steve Smith, too. In other words, the Giants’ passing game will take a hit but not a big one, and it won’t slow their march to the Super Bowl, unless the teams coming out of the NFC South raise their game substantially. The distance in quality between the Giants and the rest of the NFC is immense.

This may not seem self-evident because we’re accustomed to looking at sports as a character-driven drama. The Giants and Titans in particular lack leading actors, so their 11-1 records may not seem so imposing. I was having beers this week with another egghead sportswriter, and he couldn’t believe that the Giants are Super Bowl bound. “Eli Manning is no star,” he said. I didn’t disagree; Manning is not the best quarterback in his family, and he may not even be second (fans of a certain vintage will recall that Archie Manning, Eli and Peyton Manning’s dad was a very good quarterback). But I pointed out that via the Football Outsiders stats—numbers that parse yardage by down and distance—the Giants are seventh in the league in passing and first in rushing.

My pal was unimpressed.

So I pointed out that the Giants are 11-1, and most football teams that win 11 out of 12 games are usually on to something special. He agreed. The loss of Plaxico Burress might nick their chances, but it won’t be a serious dent. The Giants are built to absorb loss.

Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.

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