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Fact or Fiction: Second-half stories & predictions

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The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Xavier McKinney is the Giants' breakout player of the first half.

John Schmeelk: Fact – For the first six games of the season, the vote would have gone to Andrew Thomas, and it would not have been close. His emergence as a top left tackle and the ability to be left on an island and be trusted to block top edge rushers is invaluable to the offense and can impact the entire way the offense operates.

Availability, however, is a big deal. Andrew Thomas missed three full games and parts of others so he can't get this award over Xavier McKinney. The safety's two interceptions against the Raiders were legitimately great plays where his combination of intelligence, preparation, instincts and athleticism allowed him to create takeaways. His four interceptions are tied for fourth most in the league and that cannot be overlooked. He will man center field with the ability to play the slot/star position for a long time.

Dan Salomone: Fact – McKinney heads into the break as the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week, setting up the opportunity for him to take his game to the next level when the Giants return to the field. He already has five interceptions in his first 15 career games, the first Giants defender to accomplish that since cornerback Will Allen in 2001-02.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Xavier McKinney's last game was quite the showing with a pair of interceptions including a Pick 6, but in fairness, his four interceptions have come in two games. So let's lean more toward someone who has consistently made plays and that's rookie Azeez Ojualri, who is tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. He also has a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Ojulari has made his presence felt in several games and he's had at least one sack, tackle for loss or quarterback hit in four contests this season.

Matt Citak: Fact – Xavier McKinney could not have had a better performance against the Raiders, ending the first half of the season on an incredibly high note as Pro Football Focus' highest-graded defender in Week 9 (94.5). The second-year safety has five interceptions in his first 15 career games, becoming only the fourth player in franchise history to ever accomplish this feat and the first since Will Allen in 2001. He ranks among the top 18 NFL safeties in overall, run defense and coverage grades from Pro Football Focus - all while not missing a single defensive snap over the last six weeks.

Kadarius Toney will lead the team in receiving yards for the rest of the season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – This is very possible, but Toney's has been up and down in his young career. The Giants could have their top four wide receivers and Evan Engram healthy and on the field for the first time this season after the bye. Who will be team's top target in the passing game? If he is healthy, one would think Sterling Shepard would get more targets, and probably Kenny Golladay, too.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – As Kenny Golladay gets healthier, the connection with Daniel Jones should only grow. And for what it's worth, the top three games of his career in terms of yards have all come in the second half of the season.

Lance Medow: Fact – Health is always a wild card in this category given the injuries that have impacted the receiving corps, but it's hard to argue for another player besides Kadarius Toney. Although he missed one game, played less than a quarter against the Rams, and was limited in the first few contests of the season, he still tops the list with 352 receiving yards. Sterling Shepard has battled hamstring and quad injuries, Kenny Golladay a knee issue and Darius Slayton missed time with a hamstring injury. No one in that group is guaranteed to play every game in the second half, but Toney is - by far - the most explosive one in that unit and, therefore, he's the best bet.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Heath in the receivers room has been an issue all season. Against Las Vegas, it was tight end Evan Engram who led the team in receiving yards with 38, while tight end Kyle Rudolph finished with a team-high five targets. Let's say it is Kenny Golladay who will lead the team in receiving yards from here on out. The veteran caught two passes for 28 yards this past week while playing just 55 percent of the offensive snaps. Following the week off, Golladay should return in Week 11 healthy and ready to go.

From Daniel Jones' one-handed catch on a trick play to Xavier McKinney's pick-six to the OT thriller in New Orleans, re-live the best moments from the first half of the season in this must-see photo gallery.

Players getting healthy for the home stretch is the biggest story line heading into the break.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Giants need to get healthy on offense in order to fully realize their potential. As important as it might be for Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard to return, the most important player to get back is Andrew Thomas. The Giants have had to chip and help for both offensive tackles at different times since he went on injured reserve. It has limited some of the things Jason Garrett can do offensively. Saquon Barkley's return will also force opponents to put eight players in the box more often – and this can open up the passing game. Until they get back, we will not truly know what this offense can do.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – It's the re-emergence of the defense. After its low point with allowing 82 points in back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Rams, the Giants have allowed an average of 13 points in their last three games. They are 2-1 in that stretch, with the loss coming on a last-minute field goal after they held Patrick Mahomes and Co. to 17 points.

Lance Medow: Fact - If the offensive production needs to pick up in the second half of the season, then one way to get there is welcoming back Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Andrew Thomas. We have yet to see how this offense can perform with all the key weapons on the field simultaneously. We've seen flashes but not complete games. Whether you can bank on that happening for every game in the second half remains to be seen but it's still a valid talking point heading into the final eight games.

Matt Citak: Fact – The Giants sit at 3-6 on the year, and of the six losses, three of them were by three points or less. Although you'd be hard pressed to find anyone on the team happy with their record, it is impressive how the team has been in most of their games this year despite the number of injuries they've had. The offense has had a revolving door of playmakers in the lineup each week, while 60 percent of the starting offensive line in Week 1 are on injured reserve. However, the team could be getting some key contributors back after the bye for the second half of the season. Andrew Thomas is eligible to come off IR in Week 11, while Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Lorenzo Carter should benefit from the extended rest. It remains to be seen who exactly will be back the next time we see the Giants on the field, but both sides of the ball getting healthier is the biggest story line heading into the bye.

The game to watch over the bye week is Browns at Patriots.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - For Giants fans, the game to watch is probably Bucs-Washington so they can get a feel for what the Bucs will be doing the following week on Monday Night Football. Others will want to see the Raiders play the Chiefs, and whether or not Kansas City can get their offense going, or the Raiders can bounce back. Others will want to see whether the Cowboys bounce back from a blowout loss against an Atlanta team that is playing better football every week. If Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are healthy, Seahawks-Packers also becomes a must-watch.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – It's Ohio State vs. Purdue. The Buckeyes are the only team that matters over the bye week.

Lance Medow: Fiction - It's the Seahawks visiting the Packers, Russell Wilson is set to return after getting cleared to play following a three-game stint on the sidelines due to a dislocated right middle finger that required surgery. On top of that, Green Bay could get Aaron Rodgers back after he missed last weekend's game in Kanas City because of his placement on the COVID-19 reserve list. The Packers had their seven-game win streak snapped Sunday, but they're still battling for the top spot in the NFC and even though the Seahawks are just 3-5, with Wilson back in the mix, they can easily go on a second-half run and make a playoff push.

Matt Citak: Fiction – One game sticks out more than the rest on the Week 11 slate, assuming both teams get their starting quarterbacks back in time, and that is the Seahawks-Packers matchup in Green Bay. Seattle has already announced that Russell Wilson has been medically cleared to return, so the Seahawks will get a tremendous boost from Wilson being under center instead of Geno Smith. The question is whether or not Aaron Rodgers be out there for the Packers. Rodgers was put on the COVID list last week after testing positive, and is first eligible to be cleared on Saturday. But last year's league MVP will need to clear the protocols first, which is far from guaranteed. If he is able to suit up on Sunday, this NFC matchup is easily the game to watch during the bye week.

In honor of the NFL's Salute to Service military appreciation initiative, the Giants featured a special pregame demonstration by the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team.

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