However, with the personnel changes occurring across the division, how will the Giants fare against their rivals?
In 2008, the Giants defensive line ranked sixth in the NFL in sacks. Since 2007, the defense has allowed an average of 274.5 yards against the Redskins while sacking Jason Campbell 9 times over those four games.
This season, the Giants welcome back Pro-Bowl defensive lineman, Osi Umenyiora, whose career 231 tackles and 41.5 sacks were sorely missed last year. Adding Umenyiora to the already potent line is equivalent to the addition of the entire cast of Seinfeld to this coming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Expect both previously proven commodities to elevate to new heights in 2009.
The Giants defense should be able to contain Redskins RB Clinton Portis, forcing third year starter Jason Campbell to beat them. The New York pass rush will pressure Campbell and force him into making bad decisions and poor throws, resulting in at least one turnover per game.
At the same time, the Giants have proven they can run against the Redskins defense, amassing 497 rushing yards between 2007 and 2008.
Combine the return of one of the top offensive lines in the game with that of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw—the earth and fire of the NFL leading earth, wind, and fire rushing attack of 2008—and expect the Giants to continue their success on the ground both in East Rutherford, NJ on September 13 and in Washington, D.C. on December 21.
The Verdict: 2-0
In recent memory, Giants-Eagles games have been extremely physical battles reminiscent of the trench warfare utilized in World War I or the devastation exemplified in Balboa-Creed II.
However, it is impossible to quantify the impact that New York’s loss of defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, will have on the Giants’ defense.
While the defensive line will still be one of the strongest in the league, the schemes of incumbent Bill Sheriden have yet to be put to the NFL test.
Add that to the fact that the Giants secondary has shown a susceptibility to big plays, and New York may struggle with the Eagles offense, punctuated by the continued maturation of receiver DeSean Jackson, a healthy Brian Westbrook, and the acquisition of Michael Vick.
That being said, the Eagles will not be the same, having lost safety Brian Dawkins to free agency, Linebacker Stewart Bradley to injury, and, sadly, coordinator Jim Johnson to cancer.
Thus, the Giants should be able to rely on their dominant ground attack, while utilizing tight end Kevin Boss to convert some big third downs throughout the game, keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field.
As such, the Giants should find success in Philly on the first of November, but may struggle in the swirling winds of the Meadowlands on December 13.
The Verdict: 1-1
Vs. Dallas Cowboys
Where Giants-Eagles games are akin to the physically taxing fights between Apollo and Rocky, the Giants and Cowboys have recently looked a lot like the shoot-out in the final scene of Last Man Standing.
This season, both teams have questions on the offensive side of the ball.
Without Terrell Owens, opposing secondaries will be able to key on the physical rushing of Marion Barber and will not have to roll coverage to one side of the field. Roy Williams could pose problems for opposing defenses.
However, if the Giants’ defensive line can pressure Tony Romo, it might create mistakes and opportunities for turnovers.
That being said, every analyst commenting on the Giants is contractually obligated to mention the fact that the offense became ineffective following the—ahem—unfortunate incidents involving Plaxico Burress, a concealed hand gun, and New York nightclub The Latin Quarter.
Prior to the week 13 departure of Burress, quarterback Eli Manning had built up a completion percentage of 62.2%, thrown for 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions, and established an 11-1 record.
In the subsequent four games following the loss of the 6’5” target that is Plaxico Burress, Manning’s completion average dropped to 55.1%, he threw but two TDs in relation to two interceptions, and led the Giants to only one more win.
Furthermore, this preseason, the Giants offense has looked lethargic as receivers Steve Smith, Dominick Hixon, and Mario Manningham have yet to instill confidence or excitement in an increasingly concerned New York fan base.
If the Dallas defense keys on stopping the New York rush and forces Manning and company to beat them, it could be a long day for Big Blue on December 6th at the Meadowlands.
That said, Tom Coughlin is a better coach than Wade Phillips. By a lot.
The Verdict: 1-1