The Giants had seemed to perfect the formula - open the season hot, play well enough down the stretch to get into the playoffs and make a Super Bowl run.
In 2007, the Giants made the playoffs as a wild card team at 10-6 and marched through the postseason eventually upsetting previously undefeated New England in the Super Bowl. In 2011, New York started 6-2, won the division in the final game of the regular season and went back to the Super Bowl again defeating New England.
Last season, the Giants were once again 6-2 midway through the season. After losing three of four games, the Giants were in position to make another playoff run. However, the Giants were blasted 34-0 in Atlanta and 33-14 the following week in Baltimore.
Start with Eli Manning who was not able to carry the Giants like he did in 2011. Manning had nearly 1,000 fewer passing yards and five fewer 300-yard passing games.
One of the reasons for the decline was the health of his top wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who missed three games due to lower-leg injuries in 2012. In fact, Nicks had a knee scope and plans to be full-go by Training Camp. Victor Cruz was also impacted as he had more receptions in 2012 than 2011 (86 to 82), but almost 500 fewer receiving yards (1,092 vs. 1,536).
What would also help Manning is a more consistent run game. 2012 first-round pick David Wilson had a case of fumbilitis early in the season and didn't make an impact until later in the season. Andre Brown had 113 yards in a Week 3 win, but ended the season on Injured Reserve with a broken leg. The often-injured Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent and has explored signing with other teams.
It's not like the offense was the only side of the ball with issues in 2012. The defense had 15 fewer sacks in 2012 compared to the previous season. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had 16.5 sacks during his All-Pro campaign in 2011, but 6.5 a year ago. The Giants have bolstered their defensive line with two former Eagles in defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson.
Linebacker still needs to be addressed as Dan Connor was signed to man the middle flanked by Keith Rivers on the strong side and Jacquian Williams on the weak side. At cornerback, the Giants reworked Terrell Thomas' deal as he is trying to return from a third ACL tear in his right knee. Antrel Rolle and turnover machine Stevie Brown are in at safety.
The Giants have started 6-2 in each of the past three seasons. However, they've missed the postseason in two of those years and rumors swirled about head coach Tom Coughlin's demise before the rally to the Super Bowl in 2011. The Eagles can help keep the Giants from another red-hot start to the season as this is the first of their two annual regular season matchups and both will take place before the midway point of the season.
The Eagles finish up a three-game road stretch in Week 6 as they travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. The return to Tampa should be a happy one for the Eagles, who scored perhaps their most dramatic victory of the 2012 season when Nick Foles threw a game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as time expired. Foles was at his best that afternoon, completing 32 of his 51 passes for 381 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for a 14-yard score.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers will be looking to avenge the loss that ultimately ended their playoff hopes. To do this, quarterback Josh Freeman will need to establish himself as a quality starting quarterback. After a solid beginning to his 2012 season, Freeman threw nine interceptions against two touchdowns in his final three games. However, Tampa Bay's strength on offense last season was definitely in its running game. Rookie Doug Martin had a sensational year, running for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 1,926 yards from scrimmage were third in the league in 2012.
The Buccaneers' defense was something of a Jekyll and Hyde situation last season. While their run defense was excellent (Tampa was tops in the league in that category, allowing only 82.5 yards on the ground per game), their passing defense left plenty to be desired. The unit finished dead last, giving up 297.4 yards per game through the air. To remedy this, the Bucs signed away 49ers All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, and have been flirting with trading for Jets All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis.
Eagles fans invade Raymond James Stadium when their Birds are in town, and this season figures to be no exception. The team will look to use every advantage, as an underrated Buccaneers team will still likely remember the heartbreaking loss from a season ago.
There's nothing quite like the excitement of Cowboys Week in Philadelphia. These two teams have a history of bad blood, and the Eagles will get their first crack at their rivals in Week 7 when those Cowboys come to town.
It's been an unusual offseason in Dallas. The cash-strapped Cowboys were forced to cut several of their players to create cap space, but did find the funds to extend quarterback Tony Romo, who has thrown nine touchdowns and three interceptions against the Eagles over the past three years.
With new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in tow, the Cowboys will be switching from a 3-4 defense to a Tampa-2 look. It's a matchup head coach Chip Kelly knows well – Kiffin spent the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator at USC, and in those three years, Kelly's Oregon squads averaged an eye-popping 601 yards of total offense against Kiffin's defenses. Last season, Oregon's high-powered offense put up 62 points and 730 yards of total offense.
Last season's meeting in Philadelphia is perhaps best remembered as the game in which quarterback Nick Foles saw his first NFL action. Foles threw his first touchdown in that game, a 44-yard strike to Jeremy Maclin in the end zone. Unfortunately, the Eagles weren't able to come away with a win in that game, but the team knows just how important it is to shut the Cowboys down when they visit Lincoln Financial Field. Look for the home team to come out with energy against their hated division rival.
The Eagles-Cowboys rivalry might be among the most glamorous in the NFC East, but when the Eagles and Giants meet, the only certainty is a gritty, hard-fought game. Over the past several years, the Eagles and Giants have met late in the season in games that often mean the difference between winning the division and staying home in January.
But in an unusual twist, these teams will wrap up their season series in Week 8 in Philadelphia. This Week 8 contest will be the second consecutive division game for the Eagles, who will have welcomed in the Cowboys the previous week.
Both teams know each other extremely well, and that familiarity factor will be kicked up another notch this season. The Giants signed defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins, both of whom spent time with the Eagles, in the offseason. However, the Eagles signed former Giants' first-rounder Kenny Phillips, who will battle for a starting safety job this summer.
Though the Giants failed to make the playoffs last season, they were by no means a team to cast aside. Quarterback Eli Manning and company posted 26.8 points per game, which ranked sixth in the NFL last season. And for the first time since 2008, Manning failed to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, but still tossed a respectable 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Defensively, the Giants had their struggles. They ranked 28th against the pass, surrendering 254.2 yards per game through the air. And their rush defense didn't fare but better, allowing 129.1 yards per game on the ground en route to the 25th-ranked run 'D.'
The Eagles have had the Giants' number in recent years, winning eight of the last 10 meetings. But as any Eagles fan knows, the numbers don't mean much when it comes to these two teams. Expect a tough, physical contest as the Eagles look to end the season series with a win.