Before you laugh:
The Giants are only a few years removed from a Superbowl victory over the New England Patriots, and much of their personnel remains in tact. Many forget that the Giants began the 2009 season by winning their first five games, but lost 8 out of the final 11 games to finish at .500 and out of the playoffs.
At a closer look, the season was marred by injuries, including those to Eli Manning, Kenny Philips, Justin Tuck, and Antonio Pierce, all critical players on the team. With the healthy return of these players, minus of course the retired Pierce, the Giants should again be competitive in the NFC East.
Eli Manning looks to continue his strong play. While many mistakenly imagine that 2009 was an off year for Manning, he actually posted the highest QB rating of his career at 93.1. He also threw for the most yardage (4,021), most touchdowns (27), and highest completion percentage (62.3). His solid performance may, in part be due, to an emerging young receiving core led by Steve Smith, who caught over a hundred passes a year ago.
The running backs, particularly bruiser Brandon Jacobs, appear to be healthy, and ready to return to the physical smash-mouth style that propelled them to success in recent years.
The defense will be bolstered greatly by the healthy return of Justin Tuck. Several rookies in phenom Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph will battle for playing time on the defensive line, again a strength for the team. Keith Bullock, who was signed in free agency, will likely get reps at outside linebacker.
But don't book your tickets to Dallas yet:
Early on, it doesn't seem like the Giants have yet shaken the injury bug. Manning was bloodied on a freak play in which his helmet came off in preseason. Injuries to Sinorice Moss, Dominik Hixon, Aaron Ross, and Shaun O'Hara have left the Giants thin at several positions such as returner and offensive line.
Little has been done to improve a porous offensive line. While many imagined wholesale changes in the off-season, the coaching staff clung to the notion that second year tackle William Beatty would step up into a starting role. Beatty has struggled in camp thus far, and with O'Hara's health ailing, the offensive line has more questions than ever.
Also, the defense has several new pieces joining the team this year in Keith Bullock and Antrel Rolle (and even returning Kenny Philips). Neither have dazzled in preseason, and it's yet to be determined how they can contribute.
There is still a ton of talent up and down this roster, and the coaching staff, led by Tom Coughlin, is still among the best in the league. While the NFC East is likely the most competitive in the league, the Giants have a solid chance of going 4-2 or even 5-1 in the division with questions surrounding the core of both the Eagles and the Redskins.
The key for the Giants, as it is with many teams, is health. If Kenny Philips and Aaron Ross can stay healthy, the Giants may have the strongest secondary in the division, key in an age of pass-happy offenses.
Could they find themselves in Dallas more that once this season? Chances are better than you might think.