As the New York Giants prepare to defend their Super Bowl triumph, there are many questions that need to be answered. On both offense and defense, there are potential focal points which will either make or break Big Blue’s chances. Let’s take a look at the best and worst case scenario for different aspects of the Giants in the upcoming season.

Eli Manning

Best Case-Eli Manning continues to become a more confident, assured QB who keeps the touchdowns up and the interceptions down. His connection with receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz remains as strong as ever and he begins to build a rapport with rookie WR Rueben Randle and TE Martellus Bennett. Manning will also hope that the Giants develop a better running game so he doesn’t have to throw as much and avoid risky plays.

Worst Case-Eli Manning regresses into the QB that once looked timid and unsure of himself in the pocket. The Giants running game continues to be non-existent at times which forces him into taking more risks with reckless passes. The interceptions rise as Nicks struggles with injury ad Cruz doesn’t adapt well to being an outside receiver.    

Hakeem Nicks

Best Case-Hakeem Nicks’ foot won’t bother him throughout the season as he’s had time to recover from the broken bone in his foot this summer. Nicks will continue to be a consistent force in the middle of the field and especially in the red zone since Mario Manningham has now departed. With the amount of attention the Giants’ other receivers gather, Nicks will have plenty of opportunities to dominate on the field.

Worst Case-The star receiver’s season is derailed by the foot injury which won’t go away. Seriously, there must be some concern over whether Nicks’ foot will remain okay throughout the season if he broke it while just running simple routes in minicamp. Even though he’s an RB, Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot should be a warning to the Giants that injuries with the feet are persistent and can grow more severe over time. If Nicks re-injures his foot or rushes his recovery process this summer, it could set him back further and force him to miss games in the season. If nothing else, a foot injury may deter his speed and abilities when playing.

Victor Cruz  

Best Case-Victor Cruz went from an undrafted squad player to being one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL with 82 catches, 1536 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. Even though he’ll have to move from the slot to the outside, Cruz is an exceptional talent with a bright future ahead due to breakaway speed and great hands. When the Giants are in need for a big play, Cruz will be ready as Manning flings it deep.

Worst Case-Cruz only caught 16 catches last year when he lined up as an outside receiver. The old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” makes a lot of sense with Cruz who truly found his comfort zone lining up from the slot. However, unless Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden, or Jerrel Jernigan emerges as an outside threat, Cruz will be forced to make a transition which may throw his game off. Also, Cruz isn’t much of a red zone threat as five of his touchdowns came from 68 or more yards. While big plays are something to marvel at, teams really can’t gamble on that happening every week which is something Cruz may have to contend with as opponents will be more prepared for him this year. Cruz is a gifted receiver but if Nicks goes down with injury and Randle or one of the younger players doesn’t step up, Cruz is going to have a difficult time getting open consistently.

Rueben Randle

Best Case-He becomes the third best receiver on the team and allows Victor Cruz to line up more from the slot. Randle shows his breakout promise immediately and justifies claims that he looks like a combination of A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

Worst Case-Randle struggles as any rookie could in his first season in the NFL which is never an easy transition from college. He doesn’t emerge as an outside threat which forces Cruz to have to play more often in a position he may be more uncomfortable with. The Giants also would struggle more in the red zone because Randle is believed to be a replacement for Manningham who was crucial inside the opponent’s 20 yard line last season.

Ahmad Bradshaw

Best Case-The stress fracture in his foot isn’t too much of an issue for Bradshaw who won’t miss as many games as he’s had over the last couple of seasons. Bradshaw continues to amass plenty of yards and is able to score even more touchdowns this year now that Brandon Jacobs is gone. With improved performances from the Giants offensive line, Bradshaw will allow the running game for the Giants to become effective more often again.

Worst Case-The foot injury continues to hamper Bradshaw who is forced out of games like the four he missed last season. Age will begin to catch up with Bradshaw whose foot won’t allow him to make as many cuts and be as explosive as he once was. Bradshaw will also struggle at being able to gain hard fought yards on third down or in the red zone because he isn’t built to pound into defenders who will stuff up the middle like Jacobs could. As the Giants offensive line struggles again in run blocking (especially now that Kareem McKenzie is gone), Bradshaw will regress more this season.   

David Wilson

Best Case-Meet the new Ahmad Bradshaw! David Wilson is fast, small and gets a lot of yards after contact which makes him resemble the Giants current starting RB. Wilson’s agility makes him a big play threat and he’ll be able to securely hold a place as the backup. With Bradshaw’s foot not being an issue and Wilson meeting his potential, the Giants running game will become vastly improved.

Worst Case-Wilson fails to get better at aspects of the game he needs to improve on like blocking, catching and running directly. Wilson’s ball security will also hamper his abilities as he gives away the ball too often and eventually becomes benched by Coughlin.

Martellus Bennett

Best Case-The former Cowboys player becomes the best tight end Eli Manning ever had as he has ideal strength, physicality, speed. Bennett will no longer be a tease like he was in Dallas as he has the starter’s role and he’ll be able to catch deep passes from Manning. With Manning’s success with tight ends like Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard, Bennett could become a star in New York.

Worst Case-Bennett fails to meet his promise as the drops and mistakes he made in Dallas continue to haunt him in New York. Bennett has the abilities to be elite but he has never been able to put it all together which will hurt the Giants this season.

Defensive Line

Best Case-The Giants were able to win when it mattered most in the playoffs partially because their pass rush became as strong as it was when they won a few years before. With Osi Umenyiora happy that his contract issues are done, he’ll be ready to form a fearsome line with the likes of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Chris Canty who’ll continue to harass quarterbacks and relieve pressure for the much-maligned secondary.

Worst Case-While the line has always been formidable, it hasn’t always been the most consistent during the regular season due to injuries. Umenyiora is injury prone and the line will struggle at times to pressure quarterbacks which will expose weaknesses in the secondary.

Secondary

Best Case-The secondary for the Giants was one of their major weaknesses last season. However, it will improve this year because Terrell Thomas, a promising cornerback who was sidelined last year after tearing his ACL in a preseason game vs. the Chicago Bears, will return to effectively replace Aaron Ross. Prince Amukamara is completely healthy and ready to become a valuable starting cornerback and the Giants also have high hopes with third round draft pick Jayron Hosley.

Worst Case-Terrell Thomas isn’t fully healthy and the Giants secondary which consists of the inexperienced Amukamara and Hosley continues to get exposed by some of the best offenses in the NFL.

Overall Projection

Best Case: In order for the New York Giants to succeed, they have to get over the Super Bowl hangover and show the same amount of hunger that we all saw in the playoffs last season. The Giants can’t rest on their laurels as they know teams will be even more motivated to beat the defending Super Bowl champions.

In the year following the Giants’ first win over the New England Patriots in 2007, they won the NFC East with a 12-4 record before losing in the first round to the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite losing, many should expect a Giants team under Coughlin to never be content about past success. The Giants will know that it’s Super Bowl or bust which is always the case in New York.

Worst Case: The Giants start off bad because they don’t possess the same drive to win after last year’s success. They continue the trend of teams that have struggled in the year after making it to the Super Bowl by being beaten by more determined rivals like the Cowboys and the Eagles. The luck that went in favor of the Giants at the end of last season goes the opposite way as the team fails to catch a break due to injury or incompetency.

Ultimately, the Giants fail to even make the playoffs which opens debate over whether the Giants are legitimate or fluky from one year to another.