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Season Preview: Week 5 At Giants


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 culminating in the upset of the previously undefeated New England Patriots 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 where they again defeated 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.

What happened?

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). Nicks and Cruz are also felled by a desire for new contracts. Nicks skipped the voluntary workouts, while Cruz did not sign his one-year tender until the offseason camps were over.

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 signed with the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason.

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. They also used their second-round pick on former Ohio State standout Johnathan Hankins.

Linebacker still needs to be addressed as Dan Connor was signed to compete with Mark Herzlich in the middle. New York still has 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.

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