The Giants have not been getting any preseason respect, and very few "experts" have chosen them to make the playoffs. I'm always skeptical at the beginning of every season, as my pessimistic nature regrettably has me thinking, "This could be the year the G-Men completely shit the bed." I've been through too many Ray Handleys and Dave Browns to not think it's a possibility. Of course, the Giants exceeded my expectations last year, going 11-5 and winning the division (I thought they'd finish 8-8 at best). Last year had to be the best possible scenario, with the Eagles and Cowboys both missing the playoffs, paving the way for their NFC East division title. I don't think it's going to be quite as smooth this year. Let's break it down, the good and bad signs leading into the 2006 Giants season:
* I have a good feeling about Eli; he seems to be an unflappable, solid player. Don't forget that his first full year QB stats mirrored Peyton's, except that Eli had 9 LESS interceptions. Oh, and more importantly his team had 8 more wins (11 vs. 3).
* Not only are Strahan and Umenyiora focused and healthy, but they have a rookie DE from Boston College who everyone says is the real deal: Mathias Kiwanuka. Get ready to start chanting his name.
* Gibril Wilson is anchoring the secondary.
* Jeff Feagles playing in his 34th season, or something.
* Tiki Barber. He looks great, and his off-season workout regimen is second to none. Hopefully, he'll have another solid but quiet year while everyone drools over the RB of the moment. I might have a man crush on him.
* The 2nd toughest schedule in the league. Before the Week 4 bye, they start off with Indy, @ Philly, and @ Seattle. Why do we have to go to Seattle every year? This time, maybe Feely can kick a game winning FG; if he blows it, we leave him there.
* LaVar Arrington, who won't play all 16 games. On paper and on Madden 07, he looks like a great addition. In reality, he's going to be a "meh".
* Eli can't avoid being a Manning. Not only did he struggle down the stretch when it counted, there's all that family pressure to finally have someone win a Super Bowl. Which makes me wonder: why isn't the oldest Manning brother, Cooper, in the NFL? The NY Post informed me the other day that he was "a social giant" on the Old Miss campus, which also made it tough on Eli. What does that mean? I translated that to mean he was a "big partier", and that his nickname was "Cooper the Stooper" (sort of an old school "Frank the Tank"). Okay, I've officially had it with Manning family trivia.
* I don't get a warm fuzzy feeling with Webster, Madison, McQuarters, and Demps in the secondary.
* The linebacking crew, who used to define the Big Blue D, are less than stellar, and run stopping will be an issue.
* The most alarming sign that the Giants are in trouble this season? Jeremy Shockey has an exclusive weekly column in the New York Post. Being educated at "the University", I didn't know he knew "words" and how to use them to form "sentences". Here's a particularly enlightening passage:
"This week I was handed a report on each Colts defensive player. The report included their head-shot photo, their height, weight, age, hometown, their college, whether they are married and have kids, and their tendencies. I even know if they had offseason trouble with the law or with contract negotiations. I am given all the information I need to anticipate what they are going to do, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to take advantage of them."
He's going to use the info about whether or not they had been arrested in the offseason to help win a football game? What is he, Columbo? "Eh, I don't mean to bother you, but I have just one more question, something's bothering me about your contract situation . . . " How is that going to help? Of course, details of your opponents' family could come in handy for trash-talking purposes ("Hey, you have a 14 year old daughter, eh? I bet she's hot! I hear Mark Chmura is daing her!"), but I would love to find out how he plans on using police blotters to get past the Colts' defensive backs and into the end zone. If only I could get inside Shockey's head . . . and do a few repairs while I'm in there.
My prediction: The Giants will finish 8-8, and out of the playoffs.
That being said, there are only two things I'm watching on Sunday night: 1) as much of the Giants-Colts game I can stand, and 2) The Simpsons season premiere. Note that neither of these programs have "9" or "11" in the title. If I can fight off the urge to watch Monday Night Football (and that shouldn't be hard), I might not turn on the TV at all on Monday. Call me Crazy, but I'm not a fan of celebrating depressing anniversaries. Seriously, call me "Crazy", because I had my name changed and I won't answer to anything else.