Many analysts predicted a rough year for the Giants. Despite highs and lows throughout the season, the Giants, with a 9–7 record, returned to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2008, when they won the NFC East and finished the season as the NFC's #4 seed. New York finished 10–6 in 2010 but failed to qualify for the playoffs due to not having any tiebreakers over any NFC playoff team. The Giants entered their week 17 match up with the Cowboys with both teams tied for the division lead with 8–7 records. The Giants took a 21–0 first half lead and while the Cowboys closed the gap to make the score 21–14 early in the 4th quarter, the Giants held on to defeat the Cowboys 31–14, clinching the divisional title and a playoff berth.
In the playoffs, the Giants defeated the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, and the San Francisco 49ers to win the NFC championship. The Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, which was a rematch of Super Bowl XLII from 4 years earlier in which the Giants defeated the previously undefeated Patriots. As in 2007, 1990, and 1986, the Giants played their eventual Super Bowl opponent during the regular season. The Giants also played the Packers and 49ers during the season, losing both games in the final minutes of play.
The 2011 Giants were the first team in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl with a negative point differential (minus-6, 394 points scored, 400 points allowed). With a 9–7 record, the Giants became the third NFL team to win fewer than 10 games in a 16 game season, and reach the Super Bowl. but became the first of the three to win the Super Bowl. The previous teams to go 9–7 and reach the Super Bowl (the '79 Rams, who only needed two playoff wins were the first, and the 2008 Cardinals) were both defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Additionally, upon defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI the Giants became the first NFC East Division champion to win the Super Bowl since the Dallas Cowboys in 1995 (the Giants were a Wild Card team when they won Super Bowl XLII).
Some news organizations, among them The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said that the Giants' victory in the Super Bowl made them NFL's version of the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, saying that these two championship teams that had been given the last rites by many near the end of the season, emerged as champions at the end.