I thought maybe I had the Giants underrated this year.
Maybe last year was a fluke, and they were back to being playoff-caliber, even though I was picking them to hover around .500.
Then they played two pre-season games, and their starters, against first-string defenses, have not looked good.
In fairness, Eli Manning didn't play the second game against Pittsburgh, but in both games the Giants really didn't get anything going until late in the games.
You can't take very much from preseason games...you can take even less from scores in the fourth quarter.
The schedule-makers did the Giants a huge favor this season. The Giants' 2009 season effectively ended in the second-to-last week of the season when the Carolina Panthers blew them out in their last game at Giants Stadium, 41-9. It was ugly.
The Giants followed that "effort" up with a 44-7 loss in Minnesota. If they're going to show they're a different team than the one that went from 8-6 to 8-8 with those two losses, they get the chance right away in Week 1 against the Panthers. (They also play Minnesota again later in the season.)
Eli Manning, provided there are no ill effects from the blow to the head he took in the preseason game against the Jets, will be fine. He is inconsistent, but he has great receivers and the Giants' offense should be fine. (It can't hurt that he has Jim Sorgi backing him up in camp - his brother's longtime backup in Indianapolis might have some success stories to share.)
There's a lot of negativity surrounding the Giants' defense. The biggest talk in the early days of training camp centered on the presence of new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who instituted new drills and apparently changed the attitude on defense. I'm not buying the negative talk. I think the Giants have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, and I think their defense wil be pretty good.
An inspired effort against the Panthers could set the exact tone the Giants need for the 2010 season. But the Giants will need that same level of intensity late in the season to avoid another collapse the likes of which ruined their 2009 season.
2010 Prediction: 8-8, 3rd Place in NFC East