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3 Reasons New York Giants Still a NFC East Favorite After Steve Smith Departure

Geoffrey NixonContributor IIIAugust 17, 2011

3 Reasons New York Giants Still a NFC East Favorite After Steve Smith Departure

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    New York Giants fans were shocked as they received word that their record-breaking receiver Steve Smith opted to leave the G-Men, to sign with their arch nemesis, the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Just in 2009, Smith broke the Giants franchise record for receptions in a season, with 107. He helped the Giants to a Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots in 2007, and filled the huge void of Plaxico Burress, after Burress was sentenced to a two-year prison term.

    In 2010 though, Smith was plagued by injuries highlighted by a season ending knee injury he suffered against the Vikings on December 13th. Just days later Smith received season ending micro fracture knee surgery. He was limited to just nine games last year recording 48 catches for 529 yards and three touchdown receptions.

    That same injury is what eventually led for Steve Smith to leave the New York Giants, being that the Giants were too cautious with their offer sheet, causing Smith to accept the first offer the Eagles had presented to him.

    The majority of the Giants fans base seem to have lost all hope for the upcoming season, talking themselves into believing that Steve Smith was all that made this team go. These reactions of course are way exaggerated. The G-Men will be just fine even without Smith, for a number of reasons.

    Here are the top three reasons why the Giants are still amid the NFC East favorites, and therefore poised for a play-off run.

1. Steve Smith Is Not Indispensable

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    First and foremost, if there is any position in which the Giants are not lacking talent, depth, and reliability, it is most definitely the wide receiver position. The New York Giants wideout position is one of the deepest in the NFL.

    Hakeem Nicks is quickly establishing himself as one of the premier receivers in the game. In 2010, Nicks caught 79 balls for 1,052 yards, while scoring 11 touchdowns, all whilst missing three games.

    Steve Smith's highest TD total was only seven, which came in the 2009 season without missing a game. 

    Nicks really seemed to flourish in Smith's absence last year, and now with Smith gone he'll be Manning's primary target. Look for Nicks to make a lot of fantasy football owners really happy this upcoming season.

    Hakeem Nicks was no secret last year. His potential and dominance was felt league wide and well respected. Unlike his compliment, Mario Manningham.

    Manningham had a great year amassing 944 receiving yards while scoring nine TDs. The speedy ex-Michigan Wolverine is always a deep threat and a great possession receiver. The Giants coaching staff have been raving about Manningham's improved route running capabilities which makes him a scary weapon and puts him among the elite receivers within the NFC East.

    The slot receiver position, where Smith was mostly utilized during his time as a Giant, could be filled by Domenik Hixon, who has also made great strides and could make this his breakout year.

    Add Victor Cruz, Michael Clayton, and former third-round pick Ramses Barden, and you get one of the most solid receiving corps in the NFL.

    The wild card will be rookie Jerrel Jernigan, this year's third-round pick out of Troy. Jernigan's 4.35 second 40-yard dash makes him destined to be the Giants slot receiver of the future.

    The only question will be, how deep into the future until he can establish himself as that guy.

2. Giants Lack of "Sexy" Free Agent Signings Blown out of Proportion

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    Most experts feel that the New York Giants "whiffed" on Plaxico Burress. When in reality, the Giants didn't feel the urge to sign an aged receiver who has not played in two years.

    The Giants offer to Plaxico was a modest one-year deal with $1 million guaranteed. The contract totaled $4 million, but $3 million of the deal were only in incentives.

    The Jets on the other hand gave Plaxico a full pledged one-year, $3 million deal of guaranteed money. Burress made an easy business decision by literally and figuratively choosing the green over the blue.

    Kevin Boss simply could not be retained due to the Oakland Raiders lucrative offer of four years worth $16 million. An offer the Giants just simply were not going to match.

    Priority lied within re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw which they've done successfully, in part thanks to Brandon Jacobs who took a pay cut to make the re-signing of Bradshaw possible.

    And no, the Giants did not pursue Nnamdi Asomugha and aren't looking to sign Terrell Owens and Randy Moss so they can call themselves the self-proclaimed "Dream Team" a la Vince Young.

    But there just was and is no need to. Kenny Phillips will actually be healthy this year, so even though Prince Amukamara will miss significant time the Giants secondary should be just fine as their defense has always been solid.

    Sure the G-Men should look to add some depth to their defensive backs unit since they seem to wear down towards the end of the year, but beyond that Aaron Ross and Corey Webster should be able to make plenty of plays for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

    The Giants didn't need to add more play makers they simply just need to cut down on their turnovers. Over and over again they shot themselves in the foot as they led the league with 42 turnovers.

    But still they managed to end the season with a solid 10-6 record which barely had them missing the playoffs. They lost their last two out of three games of the season, which enabled the Eagles and eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay to make it to the playoffs in the first place.

    Speaking of which, what huge offseason free agent deals do you remember the Packers inking prior to their Super Bowl season of last year?

    They actually lost a huge part of their defense in Aaron Kampman. It's not always who you sign, but how you develop the players that you do currently have under contract.

    And that is what makes the Giants a favorite along with the Eagles to take the NFC East crown.

3. "Paper Champions" Philadelphia Eagles Overrated

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    The Philadelphia Eagles certainly have enjoyed a very successful offseason. General Manager Howie Roseman has managed to sign six former pro-bowl players just within a few weeks.

    But what all do Justin Babin, Ronnie Brown, Nnamdi Asomugha, Vince Young, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Steve Smith have in common? Oh yeah, neither one is a linebacker. This position was by far the the Eagles weakest link going in to the offseason, and thus far remains the same.

    The Eagles most experienced linebacker is Moise Fokou, who is entering his third year as a pro. Next, are five linebackers who were all drafted within the last two years with not one getting drafted sooner than the fourth round.

    Andy Reid is putting a lot of faith into rookie linebacker Casey Matthews who will likely start at middle linebacker and will be responsible for relaying defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's play-calls. 

    Jim Washburn, the Eagles defensive line coach, likes to play his line rather wide which generates in to a vicious pass rush, but will put a lot of pressure on the Eagles unproven linebackers to close the gaps. Game-planning against the Eagles therefore will be a given. Run the ball until Castillo has no other choice but to move up the safety for desperate run support, at which point the offense can counter with going over the top via play-action.

    Nnamdi Asomugha is a great corner back don't get me wrong. But he also is a tad bit overrated. The passes that Asomugha does give up usually go for big yardage. 

    A weak run-stopping defense is not something you want to burden yourself with in a division like the NFC East where you have to face the one-two-punch combinations of Bradshaw-Jacobs and DeMarco Murray-Felix Jones twice a year.

    How about their offense? You don't really know what to expect from a thus far underachieving Ronnie Brown who is looking to revive his career. Definitely look for Vince Young to get some playing time due to the dangerous playing style of Michael Vick who seems destined to get injured at some point.

    Even with the arguably the best running back in the game, Chris Johnson in his backfield, Vince Young still was far from an effective passer in Tennessee. Speaking of passing. Sure Michael Vick is poised to produce another MVP type season, but that depends on his luck just as much as it does his talent.

    According to KC Jones of ESPN, Michael Vick ranked first in the NFL for having only 19.4 percent of potential interceptions turn in to actual interceptions.

    Even Philadelphia's wide outs enter the season with some serious question marks. You already know DeSean Jackson will give you mind blowing extraordinary performances. But his sidekick Jeremy Maclin reportedly has lost over 15 pounds due to a mono-like illness, and has yet to step on the practice field.

    And brand new signee Steve Smith comes into this season rehabbing from micro fracture surgery in his knee. The New York Giants medical staff predicted that Smith would start the season on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he would miss the first six games. But after Smith's departure to the Eagles camp, he was re-evaluated and it has been said that he could make his return in early October.

    Champions are decided on the grid iron and not on paper. And even though the Eagles enter the season as the defending NFC East champions, look for the Giants to step out of the Eagles shadow and take back the division. The New York Giants and Giants fans alike do not mind flying under the radar. We all remember the Giants last achievement as underdogs back in 2007 right? If not, ask Tom Brady and the Patriots. I'm certain they haven't forgotten.

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