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Giants in tough spot to repeat

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The long-time New York Giants fan couldn’t take it any longer, while listening to the pro football panel at last year’s Vegas Insider seminar rip his beloved Giants.

Tom Coughlin is Captain Bligh and it will be Mutiny on the Bounty for the Giants, was one prediction. The Giants can’t do anything on offense without Tiki Barber was another thought. The NFC East Division is too loaded for the Giants to make the playoffs was another sentiment.

The Giants fan thought of the great scene in Godfather II when the Robert Duvall lawyer character of Tom Hagen starts screaming at an investigating committee that they owe an apology to his client, Michael Corleone.

The Giants sure proved a lot of people wrong winning the Super Bowl. Apologies are in order. I’m the one who compared Coughlin to Captain Bligh.

But we’ve now reached the 2008 season. I hate to say it, but don’t expect the Giants to be nearly as good as last season.

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Bookmakers see it that way, too. I’ve seen the Giants’ Super Bowl odds as high as 22-1. One Internet book, Olympic, makes the Giants +4.45 (lay $100 to win $445) to win their own NFC East Division. That’s the highest odds in the division.

Dallas is a strong favorite at -$1.85 followed by Philadelphia at +$3.25 and Washington at +4.25.

Are the Giants really going to have problems reaching nine victories, which is their regular-season ‘over/under’ win total?

It appears that way. When David Tyree spends his off-season writing a book you know there could be motivational issues in 2008.

The Giants took full advantage of their stunning Super Bowl upset of New England enjoying an offseason filled by paid public appearances, going to parties, writing books and having key players square off against management regarding contract issues. All this magnified in the “Big Apple,” the media center of the country.

Plaxico Burress, Osi Umenyiora, the Giants best defensive player, tailback Brandon Jacobs and offensive lineman Chris Snee all raised noise about wanting more money. Giants coach Tom Coughlin already has said he wasn’t happy with his team’s conditioning.

Most defending Super Bowl teams suffer from a hangover the following season because of factors like that.

The Giants are well aware of this history. They didn’t even make the playoffs the following seasons after capturing Super Bowls in 1987 and 1991 and reaching the Super Bowl in 2001. Their combined record in those next seasons was 21-26.

Eli Manning stepped up during the playoffs with his steady play. But Manning isn’t an elite quarterback. He needs weapons and the Giants lost one during the off-season, dealing tight end Jeremy Shockey to New Orleans.

New York has excellent running back depth, but their wide receivers aren’t much when you get past Plaxico Burress. Super Bowl hero Tyree had four catches for 36 yards last season. That’s three more catches than books he’s written.

Michael Strahan retiring certainly doesn’t help New York’s cause. Strahan wasn’t just a great pass rusher, but he also played the run well, too, and was a team leader.

The Giants need a great pass rush to cover up a vulnerable secondary.

Until putting together an improbable four-game road winning streak in the post-season, the Giants’ greatest achievement during 2007 was playing New England tough at home in a 38-35 loss. The Giants were underdogs in each of their four post-season contests.

During the regular season, 10 teams had equal or better records than the Giants. Dallas and Green Bay had defeated the Giants a combined three times in the regular season, winning by a combined 43 points.

It’s hard not to think that perhaps the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots didn’t take the Giants seriously enough in their post-season matchups. Each was favored in their game against the Giants by at least a touchdown. Now no team is going to take the Giants lightly.

  
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