In Part Two of Ben Sathananthan’s four-part preview of the NFC East, he takes a look at the Superbowl Champion New York Giants.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Must Watch Games
Week 1 vs. Cowboys
Week 4 @ Eagles
Week 6 @ 49ers
Week 9 vs. Steelers
Week 12 vs. Packers
Week 16 @ Ravens
Week 17 vs. Eagles
L @ Jaguars 31-32
W @ NY Jets 26-13
L vs. Bears 17-20
W Vs. Patriots 6-3
The Giants surprised everyone last year again winning the Superbowl and ran through some very good teams on the way in the Packers, 49ers and Patriots getting there. The Giants seem to enjoy the underdog tag having already won a Superbowl from a similar position in 2007, so be it will be interesting to see how they respond to be the hunted once more. They lost in the divisional round to the ‘’ in 2008 after being the top seed through the season and unless they can reverse the hoodoo, I don’t see the Giants getting to New Orleans this year.
Unlike the Cowboys, the Giants slumped in the midseason before flying home in December behind some inspiration comebacks by 4th quarter king Eli Manning. Expect Manning to be a force again this year after finishing last season strongly, however Giants fans would rather it if he was protected leads in the 4th rather than chasing them down, as was so often the case last season. The Giants were the 4th worst team in terms of pass defence last season and through 3 games in the preseason are ranked 2nd best in the league, behind only the Eagles. This might prove to be false hope though, as the Giants have played the Jaguars, the touchdown-less Jets, and the Bears and the real test will come against Tom Brady and the Patriots this weekend. Without any notable additions to the secondary this off-season, you can expect the Giants to engage in high scoring, quarterback driven contests.
The changes in this Giants team compared to last year come on offense. The Giants were the worst rushing team in the NFL last season and are only projected to be worse this season after losing Brandon Jacobs, half of their running back attack, to San Francisco through free-agency. With Ahmed Bradshaw’s injury plagued history, the Giants can only hope that drafted RB David Wilson can provide as much, if not more, than Jacobs to keep Bradshaw off his feet (So far, signs are good, Wilson has rushed 20 times for 119 yards over 3 preseason games.)
Manning will also be missing Superbowl hero Mario Manningham who also followed Jacobs across to the 49ers in free agency. Whilst Manningham was only the 3rd receiver in the rotation, he provided timely catches and yardage when teams double teamed WR Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Cruz was arguably the find of the year last season as a receiver and looks poised to keep his rich vein of form going. However, now that Manningham is gone, and Nicks is most likely to miss Week 1 against the Cowboys, the Giants have to look to other options to support Cruz. Rueben Randle and Ramses Barden seem most likely to fill their places for the time being, but neither seems ready to contribute consistently at the top level. Tom Coughlin has never favoured the tight ends in his system which will leave the Giants will precious few options if Cruz or Nicks were to go down.
The Giants still have one of the best pass rushing defences in the league with Defensive Ends Justin Tuck, Jason Pierce Paul and Osi Umenyiora but will miss DT Chris Canty to start the season after having surgery to repair his knee in the offseason. The Giants will have to continue to pressure the quarterback to even out the effects of having a leaky secondary.
Whether or not the Giants succumb to the Superbowl curse is irrelevant. Everything points to the Giants having a less productive year that last year and I base this on the fact that they have the toughest schedule in the NFL without a doubt. Their run home is brutal, playing the Packers, Saints, Ravens, Falcons and Eagles after the bye in Week 11. They could go 5-1 or they could go 1-5 very easily. Either way, it all comes down to the Manning factor. Protect Manning, as their offensive line does so well, and the Giants will go a long way to getting back to the playoffs. However due to that tough run home, I believe that the Giants will be most likely to get an 8-8 record and just miss playoffs.
Tomorrow – Philadelphia Eagles. Read yesterdays piece on the Dallas Cowboys here.