No league changes season to season like the NFL.
But that's what keeps fans coming back.
From injuries to personnel moves to just the nature of sports, teams constantly jockey for position with the goal of making it to the postseason. And 2015 has been no different.
The year has seen its share of twists and turns, and as the Giants ready themselves for the stretch run following their bye week, here are three surprises from the season to date:
THE NFC EAST RACE
The NFC East has not produced a repeat champion in more than a decade, so really the way the race is playing out should not come as a surprise. Nonetheless, the defending division champion Cowboys have lost seven in a row since losing Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo, who suffered a broken clavicle in Week 2.
Meanwhile, the Giants rebounded from two heartbreaking losses to start the season and climbed back into the lead with a 5-5 record at the break. Washington and Philadelphia trail at 4-5. Meanwhile, around the league, the NFC South, whose 2014 champion Panthers had a 7-8-1 record, is one of the strongest divisions. Carolina is the lone undefeated team in the NFC, and Atlanta (6-3) has already matched its win total from last season.
"Well, we just have to handle our business these next six games," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We are in a good position --- you would obviously like to have more wins, but we still have the lead in the division and if we take care of our business and do what we have to do and win these next six games, that would guarantee us a spot in the playoffs, so we know what is ahead of us, we know what we have to do and we just have to take it one game at a time. It starts with Washington, go get a win there and take it week by week and know what it is going to take to get into the playoffs."
A credit to his conditioning and athleticism, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is returning to form after suffering serious hand injuries in a Fourth of July fireworks accident. In his debut in Week 9 against Tampa Bay, the two-time Pro Bowler notched two solo tackles and a pair of quarterback hits. He followed it up by deflecting a pass and putting pressure on Tom Brady last week against the undefeated Patriots. General manager Jerry Reese was asked this week if he has been surprised by how quickly Pierre-Paul has come back and made an impact.
"A little bit, because obviously the injury was a big injury," Reese responded. "For him to come back and to even be out there, I think it's amazing and I'm happy for him. But the way he's come in and he's continued—I thought he played better [vs. New England] than he played the week before, and I think he'll continue to get better as he goes. I think you have a better understanding of what he can do with his hand and what he can't do. Yeah, I'm a little bit surprised by that. But he's such a great athlete, if anybody could come back from something like that, it's him."
THE WIDE RECEIVER CORPS
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Hakeem Nicks, one of the key pieces in the Giants' 2011 title run, is back with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2009. After climbing to ninth all-time in receptions and receiving yards over five seasons with Big Blue, Nicks played for Indianapolis in 2014 and spent this past offseason with Tennessee.
"I told myself, 'Just be patient, man, there's a lot of football left,'" Nicks said. "I knew I could help a lot of teams. I knew once November, December football came around, I was going to be getting a phone call. I wanted it to be from here and it happened like this. I'm just ecstatic and happy that I'm back in the building."
Nicks' return, however, came with the news that fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz would need surgery on his calf, thus ending his season prematurely for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, others have stepped up in his place, including Dwayne Harris, who is proving he is more than a return specialist with 25 receptions for 304 yards and four touchdowns so far. The same can be said for the tight ends room. Stony Brook product Will Tye has averaged 10.1 yards per reception in place of Larry Donnell, who missed the last two weeks with a neck injury. They have all contributed to a top-10 passing team as Manning is on pace for another career year.