The New York Giants appeared destined to fail before the 2011 season began.
General manager Jerry Reese's laid-back approach in free agency had NFL fans and analysts nationwide crying aghast, especially because he allowed both Steve Smith and Kevin Boss—two vital cogs in Big Blue's Super Bowl XLII run—to sign with the Eagles and Raiders, respectively. The Giants' biggest offseason splash was the signing of center David Baas.
To make matters worse, Philadelphia was doing everything New York wasn't. The Eagles were given the 2011 free-agency crown for their acquisitions of cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive linemen Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins and quarterback Vince Young.
A string of devastating injuries appeared to further doom Big Blue's chances of success. Corners Bruce Johnson and first-round pick Prince Amukamara both went down in training camp, a mere prelude to an even more-disastrous preseason.
Big Blue lost second-round pick Marvin Austin, middle linebacker and captain Jonathan Goff, and cornerbacks Brian Witherspoon and Terrell Thomas, the latter of which led Big Blue in tackles in 2010.
The Giants looked weaker than ever going into their Week 1 game at Washington. Beset by injury problems and overshadowed by the Eagles' dream-team moniker, the team needed to win right away—not only for the sake of maintaining inter-city supremacy over the loud-mouthed Jets but also to keep coach Tom Coughlin off the hot seat.
That Big Blue would finish the 2011 season brandishing its second Lombardi Trophy in the last five seasons—against the mighty Patriots, no less—is almost unthinkable.
The Giants were written off multiple times throughout the season, most notably when they hit a four-game skid in November that appeared to put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. With their backs against the wall, they won three of four and rode that late-season momentum into the playoffs.
The one constant throughout the Giants' 2011 season was Eli Manning, and for Big Blue to have a shot at defending its Super Bowl title, he will need to reprise his mastery from the pocket to the tune of another 4,900-yard season.
Eli's health is imperative, that's not up for debate. But who else do the Giants need to stay healthy this season in order to avoid a Super Bowl hangover?