The New York Giants are a lock for the playoffs this year, right?
They have a great defense, a league-leading running game, and a franchise quarterback who has already won a Super Bowl.
The Giants and Philadelphia Eagles are the front-running picks to win the tough NFC East division. Dallas and Washington are no pushovers and should sneak out a combined victory or two against their rivals, probably determining the division winner.
All the chatter around the National Football League has the Giants going to the playoffs this year and many have them as the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
However, there is one glaring weakness that could ruin travel plans to Florida on Feb. 7, 2010 for Super Bowl XLIV (that’s “44”, for all those who are Roman-Numerically-challenged).
Who is Eli Manning going to throw the ball to?
When the Giants lost Plaxico Burress to the “Idiot Test” gun law last season, their offensive production was about as prolific as if they were actually playing in an eight-by-ten cell.
In three of their final four games the Giants had no touchdowns from the red zone, Manning threw interceptions and opposing defenses limited the rushing attack to an average of 108 yards per game.
That was the production they were getting without Burress. Manning looked for Kevin Boss as his main outlet because he had no chemistry with his remaining receiving corps outside of Amani Toomer.
This year, they are going with Steve Smith (not the Carolina Panther All-World receiver) and Domenik Hixon as their main threats at wideout. Those are the same two they relied on last season, post-Burress.
Giants fans are a little worried, especially since Toomer, the career leader in touchdown catches for New York, is no longer with the team. Could the receiving group actually be worse than at the end of last season?
Others included in the discussion to join Smith and Hixon are Hakeem Nicks (missed most of training camp with an injury), Ramses Barden, Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, Derek Hagan and David Tyree (yes, he who caught the miraculous pass in the Giants' Super Bowl victory two years ago).
These are not the household names one might think of to replace Burress and Toomer. If the Giants fail, these receivers may be more likely to be part of the "layoffs" than the playoffs!
There are reports that the Giants’ neighbor in New York, the Jets, are interested in trading for disgruntled Denver receiver Brandon Marshall. If the Giants were smart they would get in the running as well.
They could package a couple players (probably including Nicks) and two draft picks (a second round pick and a fifth round pick) to get him and then sign him to a new three-year contract at $7 million per year.
Smith and Hixon would be able to develop in the offense, as opposing defenses would focus on Marshall, Boss and the running game. Eli would be able to choose his targets. Marshall draws double coverage and he can still catch a pass with his speed, great hands and size advantage over smaller defenders.
The Giants already have a young, core group of players they are relying on for 2009. Brandon Marshall is only 25 years old.
The Giants could make a dynastic run in the next few years with their defense, Manning, Jacobs and a dominant group of receivers anchored by Marshall.
The season is looming. Hindsight is 20/20, but the odds of the Giants receivers being productive this year is more like 50/50.