The New York Giants may be reigning Super Bowl champions but they are hardly favourites to repeat.
The Giants will be one of over 30 National Football League teams in action next week when the 2012-2013 season begins. New York kick it all off on Wednesday, 5 September, against National Football Conference East rivals the Dallas Cowboys.
New York have question marks on both sides of the ball with the departure of running back Brandon Jacobs, wide receiver Mario Manningham and cornerback Aaron Ross. However, the Giants have an elite quarterback in Eli Manning, an exciting receiver in Victor Cruz and a vaunted pass rush behind Jason Pierre-Paul. All of those positives should make New York a division winner and a playoff contender with 10 wins.
The rest of the NFC East, as always, is a crapshoot with Tony Romo’s Cowboys, Michael Vick’s Philadelphia Eagles and Robert Griffin III’s Washington Redskins all capable of winning six games or more.
On paper, the team most primed to take the Giants’ place in the Super Bowl and win it all is the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay boast star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and can consistently score enough points to nab another NFC North title with 14 or more wins.
The rest of the division has two legitimate playoff teams, in Jay Cutler’s Chicago Bears and Matthew Stafford’s Detroit Lions, capable of nine or 10 wins. The Minnesota Vikings, even with a healthy Adrian Peterson, would be lucky to get four wins.
This season’s Super Bowl may be held in the Big Easy, but the New Orleans Saints are far from favourites to make it there. Thanks to the bounty scandal, Drew Brees and the Saints would do well to get eight wins in the NFC South. Matt Ryan’s 10-6 Atlanta Falcons look to be the division winners ahead of Cam Newton’s 6-10 Carolina Panthers and Josh Freeman’s 5-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A legitimate Super Bowl contender resides in the NFC West in the San Francisco 49ers. San Fran have the personnel, on both sides of the ball, to excel under Alex Smith with a 12-win campaign and a division title. Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn can propel the Seattle Seahawks to nine wins while Kevin Kolb’s 6-10 Arizona Cardinals and Sam Bradford’s 2-14 St. Louis Rams fight for respect.
In order for the Giants to hoist the Lombardi trophy, they had to defeat the New England Patriots last season. With Tom Brady looking healthy and the vaunted double tight-end offence in place, odds are the Patriots will be the team to beat in the American Football Conference once again with 13 wins and the AFC East crown.
Tim Tebow’s 8-8 New York Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 7-9 Buffalo Bills and Reggie Bush’s 5-11 Miami Dolphins figure to be mildly competitive throughout.
Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens nearly took New England’s place in the Super Bowl last year. Though Lewis and company are getting older, there is enough offensive capability with Ray Rice to squeeze 10 wins and a playoff berth. However, the AFC North title looks ready to return to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 11-5 mark.
Andy Dalton could take the Cincinnati Bengals back to the postseason with nine wins while Colt McCoy’s Cleveland Browns figure to be a two-win doormat.
Matt Schaub has enough support with the Houston Texans to produce another AFC South crown with 10 wins. Jake Locker’s 9-7 Tennessee Titans, Andrew Luck’s 5-11 Indianapolis Colts and Maurice Jones-Drew’s 3-13 Jacksonville Jaguars will keep it intriguing.
Peyton Manning has been heralded as one of the greatest free agent signings in pro football history. The Denver Broncos should prove that theory true with 11 wins and the AFC West title. Philip Rivers’ 9-7 San Diego Chargers, Carson Palmer’s 6-10 Oakland Raiders and Matt Cassel’s 5-11 Kansas City Chiefs will be playing catch-up.