Why the New York Giants Are The Best Team in the NFC for 2009

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Why the New York Giants Are The Best Team in the NFC for 2009
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The pre-season will kick off for the Giants on Monday night against the Carolina Panthers, and they will be less than a month away from the 2009 season.

Many are worried that without the true No. 1 wide receiver on the team, the Giants passing attack may falter.

If there is one thing that the Giants can do is learn from the mistakes of 2008 and move on. They did put the bulk of the passing game on Plaxico Burress and when he was gone after the November New York nightclub gun incident, the Giants were a one- dimensional team.

Granted, the running game was probably the best in the NFL with two 1,000-yard rushers in Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, but you can't run the ball 65 times in a game because defenses will use the 8-in-the-box strategy to stop it.

Late in 2008, many Giants fans though Domenik Hixon would be the new No. 1 receiver to take Burress spot, but he struggled and at times, looked confused.

Hixon can only learn and get better from his mistakes. With proper coaching and a good team to support him, he could turn into the No. 1 receiver. He's got the speed, agility and skills to be a go-to guy for Eli Manning.

Speaking of the new $97.5 million man, Manning too has a lot to learn from 2008.

His playoff game against the Eagles was not his best performance, mostly because the wind conditions and cold of Giants Stadium played a huge factor in the passing attack.

If Manning is going to stick around for the Giants and continue to take them to the postseason, he has to change the way he plays games in December and January.

Maybe a new grip on the ball or develop a certain type of short passes, but Manning must know January's performance can not be repeated if he wants to be a champion again.

Manning seems like he has gotten smarter as he gains more experience in the NFL. You learn to adapt to your environment, and Manning must adapt to this stadium and the new one in 2010.

Now, before I was mentioning the whole No. 1 receiver situation during the off-season. Teams in the past have proven they can win without the "No. 1" receiver.

The Patriots of 2001, 2003 and 2004 didn't need to win with one and the Steelers of 2008 didn't need one to win Super Bowl XLIII in February. Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are good receivers, but they aren't considered Randy Moss or Larry Fitzgerald types.

The Giants will just need to change their offense around to compensate for what they have. They will rely on the powerful running game with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw carrying the bulk of the carries.

Bradshaw will be the perfect compliment to Jacobs as he is the speed guy who can cut to the outside while Jacobs is a bruiser who pushes the piles and knocks people over.

Not to mention, the Giants offensive line of David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie may be the best in the NFL and have great chemistry with each other.

The wide receivers the Giants do have will have to step up, but will also get valuable playing time. Along with Hixon, Steve Smith is the dependable 3rd down conversion receiver and one of Manning's favorite targets.

Tight end Kevin Boss also stepped up in 2008 and caught six touchdowns last year and will only get better.

But it will be guys like Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden who will need to prove how good they can be.

Sinorice Moss is factored in to play, but he's on his last chance. He's very quick, but very injury prone, but if he can stay healthy, Moss can be another deep-threat for Manning.

One thing will be for certain, the Giants will have a loaded defense, which will be the key to how far they go in 2009.

After missing all of 2008 with a knee surgery, Osi Umenyiora is back on the defensive line, which will add at least 10-12 sacks back on the line. Justin Tuck broke out during Super Bowl XLII and showed how great he was against the Patriots, and he continued to show he could take over Michael Strahan's place.

Mathia Kiwanuka moved back from linebacker to end and he was good in Umenyiora's place. Having three top-quality ends on the line will only give opposing offensive line's trouble, especially since they are all powerful and quick.

In the middle, the Giants can rotate fresh bodies with Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and newly added Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty. A seven man line is going to spell trouble for offenses.

Antonio Pierce looks like he is free and clear of the Burress situation, and can get back to being the terror he always is at linebacker.

He may be playing with a chip on his shoulder from the criticism he took, and if so, look out, because he is a vicious hitter to go along with being a smart player.

The secondary is quietly becoming one of the Giants best parts on defense aside from the line. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross are top-quality corners who are young and will only get better with experience.

Their backups, Kevin Dockery and Terrell Thomas, could be starters anywhere else, but they too are good and will get playing time in dime situations and to rotate bodies.

Kenny Phillips, the second year safety for the Giants, is a star in the making. Some have compared him to Ed Reed and he's shown that he can be a force in the back field.

He hits hard, he can intercept the ball and he can cover receivers if needed. He's strong, he's quick, and he's agile. Wide receivers might want to think before coming over the middle.

Did I forget to mention they are coached by Tom Coughlin, who won a Super Bowl two years ago with this very Giants team. Coughlin believes in great preparation and has his players bought into his system and it's shown over the last two years.

Overall, from offense to defense to special teams and coaching, the Giants look like the most complete team in the NFC. If their offense can formulate a better strategy of play to go along with their pressure-packed defense, they may be representing the NFC again in Super Bowl XLIV.

Like in 2008, the only team that can stop the Giants, is the Giants themselves. Only this time, Plaxico won't be around to shoot himself in the leg. And I'm pretty sure Coughlin has forbidden any player to even look at a gun for next season.

The Giants lies on their own shoulders. Barring any setbacks or distractions, and of course the dreaded injuries, 2009 may be a better year for Big Blue.

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