The epic collapse of the 2009 New York Giants defense is well known.
Big Blue went from 5-0 to 8-8 because of a defense that allowed opposing offenses to score 40 or more points in five games and consistently surrendered leads.
Now, the New York Giants enter the 2010 season as underdogs, a role they generally love to accept.
They were underdogs in 2007. Every postseason game they played was thought to be their last. That is, until they pulled off the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.
Can they sneak up on opponents this year and hoist another Lombardi Trophy, or will they squeak out another .500 season?
For the Giants to make a deep run in the 2010 playoffs, there are some players that need to step up this year.
Hakeem Nicks: This guy had a great rookie year. Now he needs to follow it up by showing a bit more consistency. He had a few key drops last season that I'd like to see him turn into catches this year. He has the size and strength to become Eli's No. 1 target, even dethroning Steve Smith. If he plays to his potential, I think the Giants passing game will get even better.
Kevin Boss: Now don't get me wrong, I love "Da Boss", but he's got to start getting open and catching Eli's attention a little more. He's a solid blocker and has gotten better every year at pass catching, but this is the year he needs to make the jump to elite tight end. Having a big target up the middle of the field is such a powerful weapon for quarterbacks.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Jacobs was hurt last season and the running game as a whole suffered because of it. Bradshaw has been waiting in the wings for his shot at a starting role. If Jacobs falters again, Bradshaw needs to prove he can stay healthy and run up the middle effectively. Right now, he's just a good compliment to the big fella, but he has the potential to be much more.
Keith Bulluck: A free agent who spent 2009 in Tennessee, Bulluck comes to New York still recovering from an ACL injury. He also has to deal with switching positions from strong side linebacker to middle linebacker. How he deals with this change and whether he can stay healthy will have a big effect on how the Giants defense plays.
Antrel Rolle: The back end of the defense, mainly the safety position, was the Achilles heel of the G-Men last year. They gave up big play after big play in the air. Rolle was brought in to stop all that. He'll be counted on to play the role of enforcer. The Giants didn't give him a huge contract to roll over and play dead, so it'll be up to Rolle to continue to perform at the high level we all know he is capable of.
The Giants face the seventh toughest schedule heading into 2010. Their opponents were a cumulative 135-121 last year.
Aside from their obviously tough divisional games, the G-Men have quite a few challenging games they will need to try and find a way to win.
Here are some important match-ups:
Week Two—Giants at Colts: This game is important because the Giants will have to get off to a fast start to avoid a complete collapse. Manning vs. Manning is always interesting. If Eli can find a way to out-duel his brother, the Giants can start the season off on a positive note.
Week Five— Giants at Texans: What better way to test their shiny new pass defense then against Matt Schaub and the explosive Texans? Winning, or at least not letting the Texans score 40 points, is important for the defense to keep its swagger heading into the middle of the season.
Week 14—Giants at Vikings: If nothing disastrous has happened, Big Blue and the Vikings should both be playing for a shot at the playoffs. Imposing their will on the Viking offensive and defensive lines will show the rest of the NFC that the G-Men are to be feared heading into the postseason.
Week 16—Giants at Packers: The Giants will probably need to win this game to earn a playoff berth. By now, the Packers may be coasting their way into the postseason. Keeping their momentum alive by beating the Pack at home will ensure the Giants are fired up for January.
Looking at those key games, the Giants will need to become road warriors again. Winning on the road is tough to do, but I think Big Blue has the physicality to overpower a few of these other teams on their home turf.
Lets just hope they stay healthy along the way.
My prediction: 10-6 record, wild card
Your thoughts Giants fans?