2012 Record: 9-7
Manning's Cold Snap
Coming off his second Super Bowl championship, a game in which he won his second MVP award, Eli Manning looked poised to defend this gold.
How could he not be? The Giants were off to a 6-2 start, though statistically, he had just 12 touchdowns and eight picks.
The next two games would be losses; a close defeat to Pittsburgh (Manning completed just 41.6 percent of his passes) and a rout against the Bengals. He threw no touchdowns and three interceptions across those games as the team sunk to 6-4.
A comeback performance vs. the Packers came at the best time (3 TD, 0 INT), but the Giants would lose three of their next four. With the season in the balance, Manning had a 38.9 rating against the very Falcons that New York humbled in the 2011 playoffs, followed by a loss to Baltimore, where Manning completed only half of his passes.
Run Defense Crumbles
For as great as Manning has proven to be, he goes through muddled funks at odd times. The second-half troubles he'd had last year could have been undone by a defense playing at its highest level. But despite injuries in the secondary, it wasn't just the pass defense that looked bad.
Seeing New York as expert poachers (21 INT, third best in the NFL), teams would find success on the ground as the year went on. The Giants were fifth worst against the run, allowing 4.6 YPA, and it seemed that even teams who couldn't run found the G-Men's weak spot.
The Redskins dropped 248 yards on them in an October loss, but the Giants rebounded by holding Dallas to only 19 on the ground. After that, the run-challenged Steelers and Falcons posted 158 and 129 respectively, the Redskins topped 200 again (207), and Baltimore hammered em with 224.
2013 Projected Wins: 9
Top 3 Rookies
-Justin Pugh, T (1/19): Versatile lineman can be solid anywhere help is most needed, but short arms could make playing tackle at a high level difficult.
-Johnathan Hankins, DT (2/49): Wide-bodied run-stopper has enough movement to work his way around the line post-snap and prevent running plays from developing.
-Damontre Moore, DE (3/81): Surprisingly still available this late in the game, is the protoypical undersized edge-rusher that the Giants generally covet.
The retooling of the defense began en masse, so much so that you could possibly slap the 'Dream Team' label on them. Sure enough, Eagles castaways Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson signed on with Big Blue, along with former Giants corner Aaron Ross, safety Ryan Mundy, and linebacker Dan Connor.
The Giants could also lay claim to the title of "Raiders East", acquiring three ex-silver-and-blackers: WR Louis Murphy (who played for Carolina in 2012), TE Brandon Myers, and to-date underachieving LB Aaron Curry.
After the Giants didn't re-sign kicker Lawrence Tynes, they opened up a new kicking competition. The participants are 11-year veteran Josh Brown, fresh off a year with the Bengals, and David Buehler, who was out of the league a year ago.
Potential Starting Lineup
QB - Eli Manning
RB - David Wilson
FB - Henry Hynoski
WR - Victor Cruz
WR - Hakeem Nicks
TE - Brandon Myers
LT - Will Beatty
LG - Kevin Boothe
C - David Baas
RG - Chris Snee
RT - Justin Pugh
DE - Justin Tuck
DT - Linval Joseph
DT - Cullen Jenkins
DE - Jason Pierre-Paul
OLB - Keith Rivers
MLB - Dan Connor
OLB - Jacquian Williams
CB - Corey Webster
CB - Prince Amukamara
FS - Antrel Rolle
SS - Stevie Brown
K - Josh Brown
P - Steve Weatherford
LS - Zak DeOssie
2013 at a Glance
As it stands today, Tom Coughlin is the last remaining head coach born in the 1940s. He turns 67 just before the start of the season, and he's more than five years older than the next oldest coach (Pete Carroll).
Given Coughlin's offensive-mindedness, it's little surprise that the Giants continue to be ranked in the top ten in points scored.
However, 2012 was the first time New York fell out of the top ten in yards gained since 2007.
Thus far, his offense headed into 2013 isn't exactly a picture of tranquility. Manning's surroundings include wide receiver controversy, a new tight end, and the hope that the talented backfield can stay healthy.
Cruz is still waiting on a new contract, with talks moving at a molasses pace. His current tender is worth a little under $3M, which he signed June 14. But given his breakout 2011 season, he understandably wants more.
Meanwhile, Nicks has been a no-show to the voluntary camp. Coughlin, however, claims Nicks promised he would attend, and then reneged on his word. Nicks is in the final year of his contract.
New York allowed Martellus Bennett (626 yards, four TD) to escape to Chicago, but made sure to offer their next big tight end a longer deal. Myers comes off a breakout year in Oakland, in which he posted 806 yards and and four scores. He cashed in that effort with a four-year deal in North Jersey.
Speaking of the locale, the Giants (much like the Jets) line up with the opportunity to become the first team to play in the Super Bowl at home. If everyone's healthy, their chances are pretty solid.
The running game yielded a 4.55 YPA from Wilson, Andre Brown, and Ahmad Bradshaw, but the latter two were beset with injuries through the season. Bradshaw's gone, so it's up to Wilson (who tested Coughlin's faith last year) and breakout Brown to keep the metric up.
The defense had its own injury issues, as well as apparent issues in execution if you ask defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Fewell made late-season statements to the effect that he'd prepared his players, and they just simply hadn't executed.
The turnover rate remained excellent (21 INTs, 14 fumble recoveries), but the sacks dipped from 48 to 33 in a year. Suddenly, the pass rush looked mightily mortal.
The run defense issues have been highlighted, but New York also had the fifth highest amount of passing yards given up (4068). If not for those turnovers, the Giants may not have even finished with a winning record. And with Pierre-Paul missing upwards of three months after early-June back surgery, team health is once again an issue.
2012 proved to be a colossal letdown for the defending champions, as they didn't even get to defend said title. The offseason so far has been a weird blend of player disgruntlements and a high number of player signings, odd for a Giants team, or even a Coughlin team.
Other than 2004, the Giants haven't had a losing season under Coughlin, and you're left wondering, "What trick is he going to pull from his sleeve?" to make 2013 a banner year? It always seems that when the gun's to his head, Coughlin circles the wagons better than all.