It has only been five years since the Giants last played in (and won) a Super Bowl, even though to some it feels like a lot longer than that. The drought since then included three losing seasons and not a single playoff berth until they finally returned this year.
They are most certainly on the upswing coming off an 11-5 season and a wild-card berth in their first season under head coach Ben McAdoo. But with maybe three or so years left in the Eli Manning Era, how close are they really to making another Super Bowl run?
Here's a look at where the Giants are in relation to their championship dreams, including the championship pieces they have, the ones they need, and whether they should set their sights on Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, or whether they'll need to think a little longer-term than that:
What they have
The Giants have two essential championship pieces -- a top defense and a top quarterback.
Start with the latter: The Giants' D last season was excellent with the potential to be better. It didn't have the devastating pass rush their 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams had, but it had a far superior secondary that -- as it showed in the first half of the wild-card loss in Green Bay -- has the ability to lock down anyone. They created turnovers all year and kept some terrific NFL offenses in check. And the D-line did get decent pressure in the second half of the season and was monstrous against the run.
That's huge, and it's not just because of the "defense wins championships" cliché. Just think of what happened in 2015 when the Giants went 6-10 but lost five games they led in the fourth quarter. Being able to keep a score reasonable and make a key stop when it matters can be almost everything.
The most important ingredient for a championship team, though, is the quarterback. Not everyone loves Eli Manning, but there's obviously no doubt he's capable of leading a team to a championship. And when he's on he's still a Top 10 passer, maybe higher.
A look at the final four teams in the NFL playoffs is proof of the importance of a top quarterback. Or, for that matter, just look at the list of quarterbacks who have been in Super Bowls. To find one that isn't an elite quarterback, or wasn't at least playing at an elite level, you've got to go back to Rex Grossman in 2006. For a non-elite winner, go back to Brad Johnson in 2002.
What they're missing
Right now, it's all about the offense, which was basically Manning, Odell Beckham, Jr. and not a lot else. The Giants won 11 games with one of the worst and lowest-scoring offenses in the NFL. You could find a lot of reasons for that, but there are two big ones:
First, they need to get better along the offensive line. Nothing on offense can work -- no quarterback, no scheme, no play calls -- if holes aren't there for the running backs and if a quarterback is constantly rushed. That's what happened last season. The Giants have a couple of good pieces -- left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg -- but they need better pieces around them. They'll need to find at least two good linemen this offseason, maybe three.
And they need better weapons in the passing game. That most importantly includes a viable tight end and a more reliable third receiver. The Giants got nothing out of their tight ends this season, and Victor Cruz was clearly on the decline. If the Giants are going to run such a pass-happy scheme, the weapons have to be there. They badly misjudged the weapons they had.
And finally, throughout the entire team, the Giants need depth. Years of bad drafting left their cupboard bare, which is why they had to spend so much on defense in free agency last offseason and will likely have to spend on offense this season. Peel away a starter at almost any position and there really isn't much there.
They need better draft picks, more development of young players, and better personnel decisions when it comes to low-level free agents. Last summer they brought in a bunch of offensive linemen they thought would provide depth and competition. By the end of camp, they were all cut.
Unless they screw up the offseason or suffer an injury to an irreplaceable player -- i.e. Manning or Beckham -- the Giants really aren't far away at all. All season long, the Dallas Cowboys looked like the NFC's best team and the Giants beat them twice. In the end, the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers were the NFC's best. The gap between the Giants and Falcons looks large, but the one between the Giants and Packers probably isn't as big as it seemed in the second half of their playoff game.
What the Giants need to do is keep their defense intact by re-signing at least Jason Pierre-Paul and maybe Johnathan Hankins too. And then they need to quickly rebuild their offense back to where it was a year ago (Top 10 in both 2014 and 15 under McAdoo's direction). They should have the cap room to add a tight end and maybe a couple of offensive linemen, and there's the draft too.
It's doable and, coming off an 11-win season, there's no reason to think they won't enter the 2017 season as a possible Super Bowl contender. Is Super Bowl LII realistic? With good health and the right breaks? Maybe.
But Manning has three seasons left on his contract (and before he turns 39). They are in great position to ride him on one last championship run.