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NY Giants Know What To Expect In 2009: The Unexpected

Dean GlanzmanContributor IMay 9, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 21:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants talks to his team in a huddle before a play against the Carolina Panthers on December 21, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Could anyone see the Giants passing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of Wild Card play in 2007?

It was unexpected, seeing how Big Blue hadn't won a playoff game since thrashing the Minnesota Vikings in the 2000 NFC Championship game.

How about going on to beat America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, on the road at Texas Stadium the next week? With Big Blue losing both meetings to the heavily favored Cowboys in the regular season, that was certainly unexpected.

Or icing the legendary Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers on a frigid, almost arctic January day, at Lambeau Field to capture the NFC Championship, could anyone have expected that?

Then, after all of that, defeating the once undefeated New England Patriots after having lost to them in the regular season finale 38-35? You couldn't make something like this up.

Four playoff wins on the road and a World Championship, all for a team that didn't even win their division. That's what the Giants did in 2007 and despite their second round exit from the 2008 playoffs, you can expect Big Blue to be right back in the hunt for the franchise's fourth ring in 2009.

There were several obstacles the Giants had to endure last season that many feel, especially this writer, held them back from repeating as champs.

For one, the Giants lost not only a great player in Michael Strahan, but a great leader as well. Strahan retired shortly after Super Bowl XLII.

Then came the mid-season mishap with wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the leg at the Manhattan night club two days before the team was set to face the NFC East rival Washington Redskins

The Giants' depth on the defensive line took a hard hit in Strahan's absence. It was obvious that by season's end, defensive end Justin Tuck was extremely tired and certainly not himself on the field—he recorded just 3.5 sacks in the team's last eight regular season games after gathering 8.5 first eight games.

And with Tuck not playing at the level he is capable of, the Giants' pass rush was mere mortal compared to the team's onslaught the year prior.

With a bullet in Burress' leg, Big Blue was without their star wide receiver, their go-to guy in crunch time. Most importantly, it left Eli Manning without a 6'5" target to throw to.

That proved costly when the Giants finished the season 1-3 after winning in Washington and being beat by Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs. Manning, to keep it simple, looked lost without Burress.

Who were the Super Bowl XLII Most Valuable Player's remaining targets?

Amani Toomer, a 35-year-old veteran declining in production, Domenik Hixon, a 25 year old with a bunch of potential but not quite ready for the load of a spotlight receiver, the 5'8" Sinorice Moss, Steve Smith, who in his second year couldn't quite get on the same page as his quarterback, and rookie Mario Manningham. 

The loss of Plax not only hurt Eli's quarterback rating, it gave the opposition every chance to set another defender in the box and shut down the team's running attack of Earth, Wind and Fire—Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, respectively. 

But as they did after Super Bowl XLII, the Giants came out big winners in this year's NFL Draft after drafting wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (UNC), Ramsees Barden (Cal Poly), and outside linebacker Clint Sintim (Virginia).

The Giants believe that Nicks, a big, strong playmaker with outstanding hands, and Barden, a big, physical receiver with tremendous talent, give the team what it needs to replace the production once given by Burress.

Sintim brings depth to the defensive line and could keep Tuck fresh by sparing him of some playing time down the stretch.

On paper it's all good, sure. What's left to be seen is if the three can make significant contributions this season.

Just keep in mind, like 2007 proved, and like 2008 followed—Strahan's retirement and Burress' legal troubles—Giants fans and the NFL have to expect the unexpected. 

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