NFL Preview: New York Giants

Key Additions: An entire secondary anchored by Antrel Rolle, a draft class full of defensive linemen, Osi Umenyora’s fully-healed ACL, Justin Tuck, and presumably Brandon Jacobs’ power game.

Key Losses: Antonio Pierce, Domenik Hixon (IR), Chase Blackburn (carted off vs. Jets), Jeff Feagles, and, sadly, still Michael Strahan. So, really, old defensive players to retirement and most of their special teams to injuries.

Vegas O/U: 8.5

Last Season

Last season, as you may recall, the Giants rushed out to a fast 5-3 start before crapping a big 3-5 down the stretch. This mostly occurred for two reasons. First, the Giants’ running game fell apart as Brandon Jacobs turned in a frustrating season where he went from “unfair 250 lb running back who barreled in to the line for 5 yards” to “250 lb back who tried to avoid contact like Barry Sanders.” Second, injuries to the Giants’ secondary started piling up until they reached the point where Drew Brees showed everyone how to slice them up at 3rd and long on EVERY 3rd and long. Following that crap-fest against the Saints, the Giants gave up three or more touchdowns in nine of their last eleven games. The only saving grace in a truly ugly second half was taking down a flying-high Dallas team and sweeping the season series. If there was anything good last season, it was the Giants going in to Dallas’ Temple To Excess and brushing the Cowboys aside like gutter trash in the inaugural game. But, hey, the Cowboys got a playoff win out of it bringing their total in the last decade to, well, one.

The Giants have been snakebitten by injuries the last few seasons. They continue to pay off the deal they made with Satan to defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl 42. This season has started off quite the same. The Giants have already lost Domenik Hixon to a season-ending injury when the new practice facility’s fieldturf hyper-extended his knee and tore his ACL. Chase Blackburn, second on the depth chart at all linebacker positions, was carted off the field during the first pre-season game. Eli Manning suffered a freak head gash when Brandon Jacobs bumped his helmet off and set-up a crushing sack.

This Season

The Giants rebuilt their secondary from scratch and spent half their draft picks on defensive line players. Osi Umenyora should be fully recovered from his ACL tear (a two-year injury, really) and Justin Tuck should be healed from Flozell “Cheatin Douchebag” Adams’ dirty play (which, for the record, I’m a proponent of not starting a single first-string player against the Steelers so Cheatin Douchebag can get dirty shots in). The defense got the bulk of the attention last year since they were almost entirely responsible for the team’s ineptness down the stretch. Lost in the pile of awful that was last season was Eli Manning turning in his finest statistical season to date as he was able to make use of the Giants’ complement of decent receivers. This season, the Giants grabbed undrafted free agents like Victor Cruz who have gotten a chance to shine with minor injuries to Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks. Victor Cruz put on a one-man show in the first preseason game (6 receptions for 145 yards an 3 TDs) vs. the Jets and with the help of Gartrelle Johnson (a running back getting a look) the Giants appear to have a few players to plug in as injury replacements. I imagine that Tom Coughlin’s patience with Brandon Jacobs will be short this season and, should Jacobs continue to disappoint, a guy like Johnson might be on the cusp of getting a real look.

Another sub-plot of this season, and I find this stunning, is going to be Tom Coughlan job-watch. It is absolutely stunning to me that a guy who pulled off one of the most unlikely Super Bowl victories in recent memory has still not been extended past 2011. Let’s keep in mind here, Coughlin has been the Giants’ coach for six seasons. In that time, he’s won the NFC East twice, gotten four playoff berths, and one Super Bowl. It’s utterly baffling to me that Coughlin has to sing for his supper again this season less than 5 years removed from a Super Bowl win. Such is life — along with unconscionable PSLs and insane season ticket prices — in post-Wellington Mara Giant-land.

Schedule Breakdown

First Quarter — vs. Carolina, at Indianapolis (Sunday Night), vs. Tennessee, vs. Chicago (Sunday Night): The Giants’ schedule is bizarrely bottom-heavy this year. Save for this Week 2 game vs. Indianapolis and the Week 7 game at Dallas, the crushing part of the Giants’ schedule comes almost entirely in the second half. Carolina and Chicago should be wins. Chicago is still Chicago — a team with an aging defense, no receivers, and Jay Cutler. I’m reserving judgment on Indianapolis until I see how they perform in this new era, but let’s say I’m not pencilling in a win.

Second Quarter — at Houston, vs. Detroit, at Dallas (Monday Night), Bye, at Seattle: The Giants have to do some damage through this part of the schedule. Houston, Detroit, and Seattle should all be wins with the regular toss-up in Dallas. I will say, of all the teams in the East this season, Dallas scares me the least. We know what they are — they’re an OK team with, as of today, the worst coach in the division. I don’t know that any NFC East team is going to be sweating games against them. My bold prediction this season is Dallas doesn’t make the playoffs, finishing behind both the Giants and the Redskins and getting trounced on their trip through the AFC South.

Third Quarter — vs. Dallas, at Philly (Sunday Night), vs. Jacksonville, vs. Washington: Brutal second half with five of their six divisional bloodbaths coming in the last eight weeks and the top half of the NFC North filling out two of the other three. 2-2 would be an “acceptable” outcome through this stretch. If the Giants are a playoff team they’ll go 3-1. They should take one from a Philly team who still doesn’t know quite what it did when it got rid of Donovan McNabb and continue their ownership of the Redskins at the Meadowlands. I’m going to presume that Jacksonville is a should win. Asking them to sweep Dallas two years in a row is tough.

Fourth Quarter — at Minnesota, vs Philly, at Green Bay, at Washington: Tough stretch to close the season, too. Assuming Favre isn’t totally done, the Vikings should be hunting for the division with the Packers. Besides that, Philly won’t be a lay-up and the idea of facing Donovan McNabb the final week of the season with a playoff spot on the line is going to give me nightmares in the months to come. McNabb murders the Giants and I expect a change in laundry won’t change that.

Should Win: Philly(x2), Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, Carolina, Seattle (7-1)
Toss-Up: Dallas (x2), Washington (x2), Minny, Green Bay, Tennessee (4-3)
Should Lose: Indy (0-1)

Projected Record: 11-5, Over 8.5. 2-seed. Hopefully not a Divisional Round playoff exit.

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