The New York Giants entered Super Bowl 42 as two touchdown underdogs to the New England Patriots. Sportscasters had already anointed the 18-0 Patriots as the greatest team of all time, and the Super Bowl being a mere exercise for them.
People had already given up on trying to find a team that could compete with them, and were debating which historical teams such as the 1972 Dolphins and the 1985 Bears could defeat them.
Needless to say, the Giants, who were supposed to be merely props in the story of the New England Patriots, delivered a shocking ending to what was supposed to be the greatest football story ever told. For Patriots fans, it was a more tragic ending than “Old Yeller” and football fans, more shocking than “The Usual Suspects.”
Even as champions, the Giants were seen as a team that simply lucked out, and entered their title defense as second billing even in their own city when Brett Favre came out of retirement to quarterback their houseguests the New York Jets.
Instead, the Giants won two more games than the previous year and earned home field throughout the playoffs.
For once, sportscasters were actually behind the Giants. And why not? The Carolina Panthers, who seemed as the only legitimate contenders to compete with the Giants had been upset at home the day before by the Arizona Cardinals. Fans including myself were already planning ahead for next week’s conference championship game.
But to gain participation in the next round of the playoffs, a team must win the current game. They not only lost at home to Philadelphia, they didn’t even score a touchdown. A season that began with doubt and provided success now ended with a postseason of expectations now ended with a choke.
So what are the expectations for the New York Giants’ 2009 season? Well, it might be a good idea not to have any. After all, going into the season where they won their Super Bowl, both coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning were on the hot seat.
Despite their playoff disappointment and the loss of their two top receivers, the G-Men enter this season once again with high expectations. Then again, they do have the longest playoff streak in the NFC after earning postseason berths the last four seasons. So what would make this season any different?
Playoffs seem like a certainty barring any injury. Even though offense was their Achilles heel last season, they spent most of the offseason beefing up their already strong defense. Add in the return of Osi Umenyiora from injury, and big blue looks to be able to compete with any team’s offense.
But, someone who will not return to the defense is their coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who bolted to St. Louis to take its head coaching position. What impact will his absence have if any?
The biggest question marks are still offense. The bright side is that the Giants have been able to replace departed pieces of their offense such as Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey.
Not only the most important question, but perhaps the biggest key to the Giants’ 2009 success will be who will emerge as the top receiver on the team to leap up over the defensive back and haul in that big catch...