The New York Giants have been hit hard this offseason. They lost seven veteran starters either during free agency or as a result of cuts, they were restricted on the open market due to salary-cap constraints and they've seen several more key players suffer injuries this summer.
None of it bodes well for their chances of making the playoffs for the second time in five years, but you'd also be crazy to count Tom Coughlin's team out. The Giants feast on doubt, so there's no telling what they'll bring to the table in 2013.
With that in mind, here are our predictions for Big Blue this season...
Offensive MVP: Eli Manning
I do think David Wilson has a strong first season as a starter in the offensive backfield, but Manning is still undoubtedly the centerpiece of this offense. Without him, this is a four- or five-win team. With him, they're always in the Super Bowl conversation.
Defensive MVP: Prince Amukamara
Jason Pierre-Paul is the obvious choice here, but you have to wonder about the status of his back and keep in mind how much he struggled to finish in 2012. Amukamara had a very solid second season and should only continue to improve in Year 3. This defense might not be very good in 2013, but the 2011 first-round pick will be a bright spot.
Best Rookie: Damontre Moore
All eyes will be on first-round pick Justin Pugh, but he could have some trouble adjusting to a starting right tackle role at the pro level. I'm not necessarily down on Pugh, but I'm high on Moore, who was stellar when healthy during training camp and the preseason.
Osi Umenyiora is gone, JPP is a question mark and Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck have become inconsistent and unreliable. The window is open for Moore to deliver as a rook.
Most Improved Player: David Wilson
The guy is a lightning bolt on first and second down, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him step up and handle his business as a third-down back. Wilson took heat for his poor pass-protection skills as a rookie, but that's something lots of young backs have been able to fix early in their careers.
I don't expect Wilson to suddenly become a stud blocker, but I think he can avoid Coughlin's doghouse while becoming a potent offensive weapon in his sophomore season.
Biggest Disappointment: Hakeem Nicks
Those expecting him to bounce back and become a 1,000-yard guy again could be in for a rude awakening. Nicks just hasn't been able to stay healthy at all and is now slowly getting re-acclimated. I don't trust that his body will hold up, and I can definitely envision Randle stepping up in his second NFL season and stealing a lot of that spotlight out wide.
Why They Can Win the Super Bowl
Because Manning and Coughlin have teamed up to win two of the last six Lombardi Trophies and because there might still be some magic left. And because they still have some superb top-end talent if Nicks, Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz, Wilson, Antrel Rolle and Amukamara can stay healthy and productive.
Why They Can't Win the Super Bowl
All of those offseason losses combined with the fact that the league's 31st-ranked defense from 2012 doesn't look as though it has gotten any better this year.
This is a team that has gone 36-28 the last four years, never winning more than 10 or fewer than eight games. If that trend continues, their Super Bowl odds will remain long.
2013 Prediction: 8-8, Third Place in NFC East, No Playoffs
I have no horse in this race, but for over a year I've looked at this Giants team and have failed to see how they're much better than average. Nothing that has happened this offseason has caused that opinion to change.
Coughlin has a way of keeping his guys in contention every year, and that'll again be the case in 2013, but the Giants should fall short of a wild-card spot yet again.
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