I've taken a lot of heat this summer. For starters, I spent some time in Spain, where it was like, 148 degrees Fahrenheit. But also, I declared on more than a few occasions that—in my humble and probably faulty opinion—the New York Giants aren't an especially good football team.
So with that in mind—and considering that I'm currently in the Greater New York area—I'd like to ask all Giants fans to stop reading right here.
Who am I kidding? You can't help yourselves. The "hate" only jacks you up more, doesn't it?
Well, then click on through and "enjoy" my 10 predictions for the G-men this year, and note before coming after me with pitchforks that several of them are positive.
Don't trust Will Beatty to stay upright and on the field. Don't trust Sean Locker to stay upright while on the field. And don't trust David Diehl, period. All I know is that I fully expect to see all three receive significant reps on Eli Manning's blind side at various points this season.
And that's not a good thing.
The rookie second-round pick has shown glimpses this summer and was a stud in organized team activities, but Tom Coughlin doesn't like to rush his youngsters.
Domenik Hixon is probably the default No. 3 for now, but I don't know how well Hixon's body will hold up over the course of the year, and Jerrel Jernigan and Ramses Barden don't have the ability Randle possesses.
Wilson, too, will be brought along slowly, but he's also been tearing it up throughout the offseason. And when you consider how often Ahmad Bradshaw goes down, it's only a matter of time before the speedy rookie out of Virginia Tech emerges as the team's top back.
Frankly, it might not even require a Bradshaw injury. The Giants wouldn't have used a top pick on Wilson unless they thought he could make an impact fairly quickly. I fully expect him to do that.
JPP had 16.5 sacks in his first full season in 2011, and the 23-year-old's only going to get better going forward. That doesn't mean he's a shoe-in to break Michael Strahan's single-season sack mark of 22.5, but he's certainly one of the lead candidates.
And if he doesn't do it this year, he'll likely be in contention for the next decade or so.
Working in his favor is that offenses won't be able to key on him with Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck healthy and in the lineup. But working against him is that Umenyiora and Tuck will inevitably steal some of his sacks.
My guess? He finishes with 20 sacks in 2012.
Passing yards are tremendously overrated, so I'm not necessarily expressing confidence in Manning by suggesting that he'll once again accumulate a lot of them in 2012, but I do believe he'll have another very effective season despite receiving a lack of support at times from his line, his backs and his receivers.
Eli's a confident dude smack dab in the middle of his prime, which means he could be in for a career year. I don't know that he'll throw for 4,933 yards again, but he'll rack up a ton of 'em, and I'd estimate that he'll also post a passer rating in the mid-90s while averaging more than 8.0 yards per attempt.
Have you seen Rivers this summer? He looks like the guy Cincinnati drafted ninth overall in 2008. He's only 26 and making less than a million dollars a year, so this could be quite the coup for the Giants.
At this point, I'd guess that Rivers will finish the year as a starter and that he'll earn more playing time this season than every linebacker on the roster not named Mathias Kiwanuka.
This could do the Giants in this year. I know a lot of people still believe in Prince Amukamara, but he's hurt again and has done little on or off the field to inspire confidence. With Aaron Ross gone and Terrell Thomas out, that leaves guys like Michael Coe, Jayron Hosley and Justin Tryon opposite Corey Webster.
What's more, they'll likely be forced to again move Antrel Rolle over into coverage, weakening a safety group that lacks depth, especially with Tyler Sash suspended for a quarter of the season.
With Robert Griffin III joining the division, the NFC East is going to be lights-out through the air this year. That could pose a problem for this defensive backfield.
I'm still worried about Nicks' foot. Receivers struggle with injuries like those for entire seasons, and Nicks doesn't appear to be 100 percent as he pushes himself onto the field Wednesday. That's a concern.
But even with that aside, Cruz should take over as the team's top threat going forward. That's where things are trending, and I'd argue that it makes sense. Cruz is probably a more versatile option in the offense.
I don't know that he'll be a Pro Bowler because there are so many good players up front that Joseph might again be overshadowed. That said, he'll play at a Pro Bowl level in his third season. Joseph has that ability.
He's a versatile former second-round pick with the size to crush backs and the pass-rushing prowess to help inflict harm on signal callers. With Chris Canty out early, the Giants will see how valuable Joseph is. Watch for a breakout year here.
I'm guessing some of you saw this coming, but I should note that nobody really knows what the heck is going to happen year in and year out, and the Giants have defied the odds enough that I don't feel confident in this prediction.
That said, this is a team that got very hot at the perfect time last year. Prior to that, they were an average team that had surrendered more points than it had allowed. Logic tells me luck won't be on their side quite like it was last year.
Predicted final outcome: 8-8