The New York Giants are set to kick off their 2012 campaign tonight against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium and hope to start the season the way they finished the last one, as the defending Super Bowl champs aim at a 1-0 start in the division and on the season.
New York had yet another one of the most thrilling playoff runs in NFL history, led by Eli Manning and capped off with their second victory over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. This year, much has been made of the Giants brutal regular season schedule and how it will affect their chances to defend their NFC East crown as well as their Lombardi trophy.
Today, we take an in-depth look at the Giants upcoming season.
New York Giants 11-5
Philadelphia Eagles 10-6
Dallas Cowboys 9-7
Washington Redskins 6-10
The Giants come into this season a little banged up in the secondary and along the offensive line, but also come into the season with Eli Manning and one of the best wide receiver duos in the league in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks healthy and ready to go. On the other side of the ball the defensive end trio of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora is finally healthy together (knock on wood) – as it looks like the Giants bread and butter will be in place to start the season.
The Philadelphia Eagles focused on getting bigger and more formidable in the front seven when they traded for linebacker DeMeco Ryans and drafted defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in the first round. If Michael Vick can stay on the football field, they have a legitimate shot to challenge the top teams in the NFC, as there are more than enough playmakers on offense and defense for this team to win football games.
The Cowboys underwent a complete overhaul at cornerback with the big signing of Brandon Carr and the trade on draft night to get in position to select Morris Claiborne. The offensive line is a question mark, and Dallas is going to need big steps forward from DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant to offset some of their deficiencies. Tony Romo gets a lot of the heat, but this football team has underperformed across the board, and this year their roster looks to be a couple of steps behind New York and Philadelphia.
Washington has taken some of the right steps towards building a contender by putting some defensive pieces in place and drafting a legitimate franchise quarterback prospect in Robert Griffin III. That said, they gave up a ton to get in position to draft RGIII, and still look questionable in regards to the quality of playmakers they have around the young quarterback in comparison to the rest of the division.
Put it all together and Giants and Eagles look like the two teams with enough talent, continuity, and to battle it out at the top of the division. The Giants schedule is certainly daunting, but they have the look and a feel of a very focused and together team coming out of camp.
BREAKOUT PLAYER – RB David Wilson
An elite physical skill set along with a lot of heart and love for the game makes David Wilson just what the doctor ordered for this Giants running game. Wilson is still a bit raw in pass protection, but as he gets work in this offense Giants fans are sure to fall in love with his combination of speed and toughness. Wilson brings another big play weapon to the Giants offense, and you can expect him to be incorporated on swing passes and screens in addition to the touches he gets as a rusher.
I wouldn't put 1,100 total yards and eight total touchdowns out of his reach even in a supporting role, and if Ahmad Bradshaw has trouble staying on the field this season with his foot injuries, Wilson could get some time as the feature back in the Big Blue offense. Explosive young talent with the right mindset to succeed in this league. If he can learn to avoid taking unnecessary hits and stay on the field, I expect an electric rookie campaign from the Giants new #22.
THREE BOLD PREDICTIONS
1. The Giants will go 5-1 or better in the NFC East
Divisional games are always a huge part of the focus for every team each season as they play the biggest role in a team's playoff prospects, but with the way the Giants schedule is set up this year with tough games across the board in the second half you can be sure Tom Coughlin has put a little extra emphasis on what these games mean for New York, as they will basically be New York's ticket to another postseason. The Giants match up well with both Dallas and Philadelphia as they can get hits on the quarterback, and have the offensive weapons to score with both teams. And you know they haven't forgotten what Washington did to them last season.
2. Jason Pierre-Paul will win Defensive Player of the Year
He may only be entering his third NFL season, but this guy is clearly one of the most disruptive defensive forces in football already – and that's a scary thought. Pierre-Paul is far and away more physically gifted than any offensive lineman he lines up against, and his long arms and incredible athleticism make him extremely difficult to keep contained game in and game out. 20 sacks and 90 total tackles? For JPP, that's reasonable.
3. Eli Manning will throw for more than 5,000 yards and 35 touchdowns
He's smack in the prime of his career, and boy is Eli Manning looking more and more unstoppable in big games and big spots with every time he steps on the field. The Giants are 100% comfortable with putting their fate in Eli's hands offensively, and why wouldn't they? They had the least productive run game in the league during the regular season last year, and Manning still managed to throw for almost 5,000 yards in the winds of East Rutherford. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are two of the best playmakers in the National Football League, and Martellus Bennett makes for a nice athletic red zone target over the middle. Don't forget the element David Wilson brings as a receiver out of the backfield. Eli Manning with all those weapons? Maybe this prediction isn't all that bold after all.
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