Super Bowl champion Giants lacking respect
From oddsmakers to experts, people aren’t giving the New York
Giants the respect a Super Bowl champion deserves.
Eli Manning and Co. sneaked into the playoffs last year and then
played their best football in January and February. For the second
time in five years, they beat the favored New England Patriots to
claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
With nearly all their starters on defense returning and the core
on offense back, the Giants have a legitimate chance to repeat. At
least, they should be considered the team to beat in the NFC.
Apparently, that’s not the case.
In Las Vegas, 10 teams are listed ahead of the Giants in the
Super Bowl odds. The Giants opened at 16-1 and have dropped to 22-1
at the Bovada Sportsbook.
Then there’s the AP Pro32 NFL power rankings. The Giants were
No. 3 behind the Green Bay Packers and the Patriots in the
first-ever poll released July 31.
So, who do opponents think is the best team in the NFC? Even
”It was a coin flip whether the Giants even got into the
playoffs,” Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis said. ”They
played very well, obviously, and they deserved it, but Green Bay,
with their experience, should be the team to beat.”
The Giants went 9-7 last year and split with the Eagles, losing
at home with Vince Young starting in place of Michael Vick. Had one
play gone differently in any of Philadelphia’s close defeats, the
Eagles (8-8) would’ve won the division.
Meanwhile, the Packers steamrolled to a 15-1 record and seemed
on their way to winning their second straight Super Bowl before
losing to the Giants in their first playoff game.
”The Giants are the Super Bowl champs, so they’re the team to
beat,” Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. ”Each year, each
team, it’s a new season. But the Giants hold the reign.”
Maybe until Week 1.
”We know we’ve got to improve,” Manning said. ”We were 9-7
last year in the regular season. That’s not good enough. We were a
better team than that. Obviously we showed that throughout the
playoffs. We’ve got to have that urgency, that consistency,
throughout the whole season, and play our best football for the 16
regular-season games. That’s what we’re going to work on and just
keep grinding, staying hungry to get better and to make sure we can
have another successful year this year.”
The Packers might not place as much emphasis on the regular
season after last year’s debacle.
”We went through a great regular season, winning 15 games and
doing a lot of things that hadn’t happened here in Green Bay
before, and got knocked out in the first round,” NFL MVP Aaron
Rodgers said. ”It makes you realize the only thing that matters is
winning championships, and you have to win some playoff games to
There are other serious challengers in the NFC besides the
Giants and Packers.
The Eagles are looking to bounce back after failing to live up
to enormous expectations last year. If Vick can stay healthy, the
offense should be dynamic with All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy
and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. An improved
defense will be the key to Philadelphia’s success.
The North might be the toughest division in the conference. The
Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions will make it difficult for the
Packers to cruise to another division title.
In the South, the New Orleans Saints have plenty of talent, but
must overcome a turbulent, bounty-plagued offseason. The Atlanta
Falcons are trying to get over the hump in the playoffs after
failing three times in the last four years.
And the West is no walkover anymore. The San Francisco 49ers
were perhaps a fumble in overtime away from going to the Super
The Giants have an elite quarterback, a strong defense led by
All-Pro Jason Pierre-Paul, and a Hall-of-Fame caliber coach in Tom
Coughlin. But they’ve never won a playoff game the season after
winning a Super Bowl. And, they’ll have a hard time just getting
out of a tough East.
The Eagles are determined to prove last year was an aberration,
and expect to build off a season-ending four-game winning streak.
Players rallied around coach Andy Reid after his 29-year-old son,
Garrett, died during training camp. They have an explosive offense,
but need a revamped defense to do its part.
In Dallas, the window could be closing on Tony Romo and the
Cowboys. They lost four of five down the stretch last season to
finish 8-8 and have won just one playoff game in 15 years. Dallas
beefed up its defense in the offseason, giving second-year
coordinator Rob Ryan more talent to work with. Romo and coach Jason
Garrett have been together a long time, and the offense could be
There’s plenty of reason for optimism in Washington because the
Redskins finally have their franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin
III. With RG3 leading the way and a defense that made huge strides
last year, the Redskins have a chance to win more than six games
for the first time under coach Mike Shanahan.
The Packers had little roster turnover and were nearly
invincible last year until running into the Giants. Rodgers and the
league’s No. 1 offense have a new weapon in running back Cedric
Benson. But the worst-ranked defense needs to improve to make
things easier. The Packers invested their first six draft picks on
defense, so that should help a bit.
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are reunited in Chicago,
bolstering an offense that was potent until injuries hit last
season. Keeping Cutler healthy is a top priority. On defense, the
Bears have some aging stars. Still, they could give Green Bay a run
for the title.
The Lions learned to win last year, going 10-6 and making the
playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. They return
almost all of their starters and have continuity on the coaching
staff. QB Matthew Stafford, whose chief target is All-Pro WR Calvin
Johnson, could be even better if the offense finds balance. All
that means Detroit probably wasn’t a one-year flash.
It’s clearly a rebuilding year in Minnesota. The Vikings won
three games last year, and their best player, running back Adrian
Peterson, is coming back from major knee surgery.
The Saints lost coach Sean Payton to a suspension, but they
still have record-breaking QB Drew Brees. The bounty scandal made
for a tumultuous offseason, and the Saints are eager to just play
football. Bringing in Steve Spagnuolo to run the defense could
prove to be the biggest move of the offseason.
It’s obvious Matt Ryan and Mike Smith can win in the regular
season. But the quarterback and the coach haven’t shown it in the
playoffs. Ryan needs to ramp up his game. Two new coordinators
could help Smith make all the right moves.
Cam Newton’s sensational rookie season has everyone eager to see
more of Carolina. Newton is a special player who makes the offense
a threat each time it has the ball. If the defense plays better,
the Panthers could be a surprise team.
Greg Schiano makes the transition from college to the pros in
Tampa Bay. He’s got a tough task trying to turn around a 4-12 team.
A difficult early schedule doesn’t help. Finishing .500 would be a
remarkable step forward.
Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh led a team with an often-maligned
quarterback that hadn’t reached the playoffs in eight years to the
doorstep of the Super Bowl. A stout defense returns all its
starters, and Randy Moss is back in the league after a year off to
upgrade an offense that once boasted some of the greatest players
in history. Alex Smith finally has deep threats with the addition
of Moss and Mario Manningham, but the 49ers still rely on Frank
Gore and the run game.
The Cardinals spent much of the preseason trying to figure out
whether Kevin Kolb or John Skelton should be the starting QB. It
doesn’t bode well that neither ran away with the job. Whoever is
under center needs to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, and maybe
CB-KR Patrick Peterson can provide more of his return magic.
Rookie QB Russell Wilson beat out Matt Flynn for the starting
job in Seattle. Neither will be throwing passes to Terrell Owens,
but the new Seahawks QB can only upgrade an offense that ranked
28th despite featuring RB Marshawn Lynch. An already solid defense
could be dominant with the addition of eight skilled rookies, and
might get coach Pete Carroll a winning season.
Jeff Fisher has his work cut out for him in St. Louis. The Rams
cleaned house after a 2-14 season. Fisher was one of the most
successful coaches in the NFL with the Oilers/Titans. Count on the
Rams to be a physical team that beats up some opponents, even if it
doesn’t beat them on the scoreboard.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
1) New York Giants
1) Green Bay
1) New Orleans
4) Tampa Bay
1) San Francisco
4) St. Louis
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and