2009 NFL Preview

Five Things You Should Know About The…New York Giants

Life is good for Eli Manning.

Life is good for Eli Manning.

 Our 2009 season preview continues with the team led by the NFL’s newest mega millionaire…

1. Eli Manning is going to be the NFL’s higest paid player…BUT:

So, Eli Manning’s soon to be  new contract for  six years and  $97.5 million, is going to have a ripple effect throughout the league…and for good reason.

I’m sure a few people on the unhappy list included Donovan McNabb, who was looking for a long term extension in the offseason and Philip Rivers of the Chargers, who just led his team to the playoffs for the second year in a row and is coming off of a career year. There are certainly numerous quarterbacks around the league who probably feel they are more talented and just as deserving for that type of deal. After all, while he did win the Super Bowl XLII MVP (which was a horrible decision), none of that would have been possible without David Tyree’s miracle helmet catch and the Giants morphing into the Fearsome Foursome. 

Nonetheless, he will have to keep proving that he is worth the money, which might be tricky. He’s without Plaxico Burress; has a slew of inexperienced receivers; and has to show that he can actually play in his own building during playoff time. He is 0-2 in a pair of home playoff games and has thrown no touchdown passes to five interceptions in losses to the Panthers and Eagles.

Oh, and one other thing. It’s great that the Giants run the football effectively and are balanced. However, take a look at the most balanced run/pass ratio teams in the league last year:

Atlanta Falcons: 45% pass/55% run – Record: 11-5

Baltimore Ravens: 44% pass/56% run – Record: 11-5

Carolina Panthers: 46% pass/54% run – Record: 12-4

Minnesota Vikings: 51% pass/49% run – Record: 10-6

New York Giants: 51% pass/ 49% run – Record: 12-4

Oakland Raiders: 50% pass/ 50% run – Record: 5-11

Tennessee Titans: 48% pass/ 52% run – Record: 13-3

While all of these teams made the playoffs except for the Raiders, they were all undone by their quarterback’s inability to make plays when it counted. Hence, like he did two seasons ago, Manning will need to earn his keep again.

2. Hakeem Nicks is a rookie, not Plaxico Burress:

While shooting yourself in the leg ranks high on the list of “things not to do”, Burress’ impact on the Giants will be difficult to replace. While he didn’t post numbers even to the level of an Anquan Boldin, he created matchup problems because of his stature. No Giant receiver can do that. Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon combined for 105 catches last season but neither is a guy that will make a defensive coordinator stay up late at night.

In order to at least address the Burress situation, the Giants grabbed Hakeem Nicks from North Carolina in the draft. Nicks had a great senior year at UNC and established himself as one of the greatest receivers in the history of the program. Running a 4.49 helps him but he’ll need to be proficient at run blocking as well for arguably the NFL’s best team on the ground. To fill the void left by Burress though, it will be the job of many receivers, not just Nicks.

3. Osi Umeniyora is back and not a moment too soon.

Despite Justin Tuck making life difficult for offensive linemen around the league with 12 sacks in ’08, the team greatly missed the presence of Umeniyora especially at the end of the year. After dropping opposing quarterbacks 52 in 2007, the Giant productivity fell to 42 sacks in ’08. The depth that eventually gave the Giants a Vince Lombardi trophy in Super Bowl XLII was clearly missing in the playoff loss to the Eagles. They couldn’t pressure Donovan McNabb when they needed to and it cost them dearly. Umeniyora’s return after missing the entire ’08 season will make Big Blue fans happy.

4. The Meadowlands will say goodbye after the ’09 season:

The wind tunnel that is the Meadowlands will host its final year of Giants football in 2009 before they head into new digs next season. Instead of posting the most famous play in the history of the building (Giants and Eagles fans, you know what I’m talking about), I’ll side with being nice and go with two of the other landmark moments in Meadowlands history. Sorry Joe.

5. The Giants are the best team in the NFC:

I despise this expression but on paper, the Giants are the best team in the NFC. Philly has defensive issues and an aging tailback; Dallas hasn’t won a playoff game since the beginning of Bill Clinton’s second term in office as president; and do you really trust anyone else in the NFC? I don’t. The only things that could cripple the Giants are injuries and Eli Manning’s inability to play well during home playoff games. Other than that, they arguably have the fewest questions of any NFC team…at the moment.

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