The Giants might well sneak into the playoffs — as a division champion, no less! — in this wacky NFL season. If they do, who knows where things might go from there?
Many New York teams with mediocre records have qualified for postseason play across the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL over the decades, but a relative few have done much damage once there.
Here are our top 10 most memorable teams that reached the playoffs with modest resumes and low expectations yet made significant noise. (Championships not required. Bonus points for shock value.)
1. 1973 Mets
The "Ya Gotta Believe" Mets were in last place in the NL East on Aug. 30, then finished strongly to sneak into the NLCS with an 82-79 record. They upset the 99-win Reds in a five-game series most famous for the Game 3 brawl between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose, then took a 3-2 World Series lead to Oakland but lost both games there.
2. 1999 Knicks
The Knicks barely made the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season, winning six of their last eight to go 27-23. They upset the top-seeded Heat on Allan Houston’s game-winner in the final second of Game 5. Larry Johnson’s four-point play in Game 3 keyed a conference final upset of the Pacers. They lost to the Spurs in five in the Finals.
Not that 33-25-22 is bad for a third-year franchise, but the Islanders placed third in the division before shocking the lordly Rangers in the first round on an overtime series winner by J.P. Parise. Then they overcame a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Penguins in seven. Then they overcame a 3-0 deficit against the Flyers before falling in Game 7.
4. 2011 Giants
The Giants allowed more points (400) than they scored (394) in the regular season, and needed late wins over the Jets — highlighted by Victor Cruz’s 99-yard catch and run — and Cowboys to eke out a 9-7 record. They then beat the Falcons, top-seeded Packers and 49ers en route to a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots. They won it again.
5. 2000 Yankees
It is difficult to call the Yankees’ third title in a row and fourth in five years a surprise, but they did stumble to an 87-74 record by losing 15 of their last 18 games, the final seven in a row. They survived a tense five-game series with the Athletics, then beat the Mariners in the ALCS and the Mets in five in the first Subway Series since 1956.
6. 2009 Jets
First-year coach Rex Ryan’s team started 4-6, then won five of six to make the playoffs at 9-7. After a loss to the Falcons made them 7-7, Ryan erroneously said, "We’re obviously out of the playoffs." On the contrary, they got in, then beat the Bengals and Chargers on the road before losing the AFC Championship Game to the Colts, 30-14.
7. 1971-72 Nets
This Nassau Coliseum-based, Rick Barry-led team turned a 44-40 record into a shocking six-game, first-round upset of Artis Gilmore and the Kentucky Colonels, who were 68-16 in the regular season. Then they took care of the Virginia Squires, led by 22-year-old Julius Erving, also in six. They lost to the Pacers in six games in the ABA Finals.
8. 1927-28 Rangers
After a 19-16-9 season, the Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bruins in the first two rounds, then took out the Montreal Maroons in the Cup Final. The circus was in town in New York, so every game was at the Forum, the last Final played entirely in one arena until 2020. Coach Lester Patrick, at age 44, filled in in goal in Game 2 and won, 2-1.
9. 1950-51 Knicks
After a 36-30 season, the Knicks beat the Celtics and Syracuse Nationals in the playoffs, then met the Rochester Royals — with future Knicks coach Red Holzman in the backcourt — in the Finals. They lost the first three games, then won three before losing Game 7. The circus pushed home games from the Garden to the 69th Regiment Armory.
10. 1934 Giants
The Giants’ 8-5 record made them huge underdogs to the Bears in the NFL Championship Game after Chicago went 13-0 and outscored opponents, 286-86. The Giants won, 30-13, behind 27 fourth-quarter points after switching to sneakers borrowed from Manhattan College to better handle the icy field conditions at the Polo Grounds.