The New York Giants will begin their 2009 campaign by facing off against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. This will be the first step in a long journey for the boys in blue, a step that will show many fans of football what the Giants are all about this year.
Now, as many football analysts, commentators, and fans of all 32 teams will tell you, this season will bring upon some extremely fascinating and recurrent story lines...from Tom Brady's return, to Jay Culter's play as a Bear, to T.O in Buffalo, Michael Vick as an Eagle, and all sorts of other goodies.
This, without a doubt, will be the most interesting football campaign in a while.
But while those teams have their own questions to deal with, the Giants are, surprisingly, being flown under the radar. However, this really shouldn't be that surprising, since the Giants never really drew attention to themselves during the offseason since the end of the 2007 season, when they won the Super Bowl. This is how the Giants like it.
Going into the NFL season, prognosticators and newspaper writers are starting to make predictions concerning the teams in the NFL. What record will this team have? Will this team make the playoffs? Who's overrated? Who's underrated? And so on and so forth.
But one thing seems to be a constant over the past three years, the New York Giants simply do not get enough attention or respect from the rest of the league.
Sure, you can point to how the Giants are ranked high in Power Rankings, and you can say that the Giants' defense will be stout this year. But that's it, there are no other complements. It's like the rest of the team isn't worth mentioning.
However, coming into this year, without Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, it looks like Eli Manning and his receiving core are under fire. Because the Giants do not have a No. 1 wide-out for Manning to throw to, there is a reason to believe that the Giants will falter.
At least, that is what some people are saying.
I'm here to say that the Giants have nothing to worry about.
When an organization makes the playoffs four consecutive seasons and wins a Super Bowl championship, it must be doing something right. Most of the core Giants are still with the team, and are still very hungry for a second title. Their playoff upset loss to the Philadelphia Eagles left a bad taste in their mouths after winning 12 games last season. Motivation is not an issue.
When you have a quarterback that, granted, does not put up the best numbers in the NFL, gets paid more than his big brother, that guy is going to have major pressure on his back. Eli Manning's response? He shrugs it off. He loves the challenges that await him. Don't like the contract? He doesn't care. He can just show you his Super Bowl ring and tell you to get your own. The quarterback is not an issue.
When you have a team that had the top rushing offense in the NFL, this means two things:
1) The offensive line is intact and one of the best in the league.
2) The Giants have running backs that are tenacious and consistent.
Without Derrick Ward, the Giants will rely on the former. As long as an O-Line can open holes, your backs will have a fairly decent chance of running for a big gain. Brandon Jacobs can run you over, Ahmad Bradshaw can breeze right through you, and Danny Ware can stomp you out. Call it the new "Earth, Wind, and Fire". The running game and offensive line are not issues.
When your GM goes out and spends money on talented players that do not get paid like Albert Haynesworth, then you are in good shape. When those players are DT Rocky Bernard, LB Michael Boley, DT Chris Canty, and S C.C. Brown, then you know your team might just have the deepest defense in the NFL.
With Osi Umenyiora coming back healthy from a knee injury, you have a defensive line that consists of dangerous results for opposing offense lines. Also, the Giants' secondary is starting to mature and blossom into one of the NFL's top 10. S Kenny Phillips and CB Corey Webster both have Pro Bowl talent, and with the help of an improved linebacking core (and a focused Antonio Pierce), you have the makings of a defense that has to be reckoned with. The defense is not an issue.
Coaching is big in the NFL, but the Giants have that covered. Tom Coughlin has gained the respect of his players since the 2007 Super Bowl run. Kevin Gilbride, while criticised for being too conservative, is still an offensive coordinator that can call great plays in certain situations. The big question is with Steve Spagnuolo's replacement as defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. He might not know the timing of calling blitz packages, but he has created little wrinkles in his defensive schemes, like the rumored 5-1-5 defensive set, that have the potential to wreck havoc on offenses around the league. Coaching is not an issue.
The Giants have been to, and won the Super Bowl. That alone shows that if the young players, rookies and second-year players, experience troubles or doubts about their abilities, the veterans will tell them not to worry. The Giants have great leadership in the locker room and will have no trouble on righting the paths on all of the young, inspiring athletes that need some guidance. Leadership is not an issue.
When the Giants are behind in a game, they know how to come back and win. They have done it time and time again. Resiliency is not an issue.
We look at all of these potential problems that good teams have. There is a difference between "good" and "great". Great teams have all of the holes plugged up, and they concentrate on winning. The New York Giants are an example of a great team, no questions asked.
Yet, the reason the Giants are being doubted again, is because of their receivers? Let me tell you: The receiving core is not an issue.
Steve Smith is the clutch 3rd down receiver.
Domenik Hixon is the acrobatic receiver.
Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham are the speedsters of the group.
Derek Hagan and David Tyree are the veterans.
The two rookies, Hakeem Nicks (who has the biggest hands and is the most physical of all of the receivers) and Ramses Barden (who could be the next Plaxico Burress with his size and wingspan) might not contribute every game, but could have big impacts in helping the Giants move the football down field.
These receivers might not be big superstars, but they function as a unit, and as the old saying goes, "United We Stand."
That quote could also be a motto for the Giants as a whole. They are a team with one goal on their mind: Winning a Super Bowl. They do not have big holes in their roster, their foundation is strong, their toughness is never questioned, and no matter what critics say or state, the New York Giants will prove them wrong.
Now, in the NFC East, you can look at the Eagles and say they will win the division because of their offseason acquisitions and how "this is the year" for QB Donovan McNabb and Head Coach Andy Reid, just because they got hot at the right time. You can say Dallas might win the East because of losing the distraction, WR Terrell Owens, allowing QB Tony Romo to play his best football.
But, at the end of it all, when last year was supposed to be Dallas' year, who took that away? The New York Giants.
When the 2007 season ended, who was the champion? The New York Giants.
And at the end of the 2009-10 season, which team will have won the NFC East, crowned themselves as NFC Champions, and will hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy over their heads for the second time in three seasons?
The New York Football Giants.