2.New York Giants- The G-men followed the lead of the team they upset in the divisional round of the playoffs a season ago, the Packers, and rode a late streak of hot play to their second world championship in the past four seasons. Breakout stars such as wide receiver Victor Cruz and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul helped the Giants resurrect what seemed like a dead season when December rolled around, however, this season the Giants obviously won't sneak up on anybody and will have to come to play every Sunday just to claim a spot in the playoffs in one of the most talented divisions in the NFL. Eli Manning has clearly gotten out of the shadow of his future Hall of Fame brother Peyton by winning his second Super Bowl crown, defeating another future Hall of Famer Tom Brady for the second time on the world's biggest stage. The exciting thing for Giants fans, is that it still seems as though the best is yet to come from the youngest member of the Manning clan. Every year it seems that Tom Coughlin may be settling into the hot seat, his team seems to answer the call, with two Super Bowl rings on his resume, it's time Coughlin is mentioned with the very elite in his profession.
Offense: If the Giants are to repeat their success from a season ago, it may very well take an MVP campaign from signal caller Eli Manning. With the parity that exists in the NFC in 2012, the Giants cannot afford another mid-season slump if they hope to play football after week 17. Eli Manning has never missed a start in his NFL career, and the Giants will need that to continue if they have any hope of a repeat of 2011, with another former number one overall pick, the far less successful David Carr as Manning's backup, Eli is truly, on paper, one of the most valuable players in the National Football League and if he can improve on his regualr season completion percentage, and cut down on the INT's he could very well be in line for his first MVP trophy. If Manning achieves that kind of success it will be due in no small part to one of the potentially explosive receiving duo's in Hakeem Nicks and the salsa dancing Victor Cruz. Nicks had his coming out party against the highly favored Green Bay Packers in the division playoffs, catching two touchdown passes including a back breaking Hail Mary grab before halftime that seemed to sap the will out of the defending Super Bowl champs. Victor Cruz went from being a reserve, undrafted afterthought in his s to a Pro Bowl sensation in his second NFL season. Now that he is firmly on the oppositions radar from the get-go in 2012, Cruz will look to prove his over 1500 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns from a season ago wasn't a fluke. With Brandon Jacobs out of the big apple, Ahmad Bradshaw is n ow clearly the number one weapon in the Giants backfield. Foot and ankle injuries have plagued Bradshaw the past couple of season's, so the Giants drafted the gifted David Wilson out of Virginia Tech at the end of the first round of this season's draft to give them another viable weapon out of the backfield and help keep Bradshaw healthy and fresh at season's end. Martellus Bennett was largely a disappointment during his four season's in Dallas, partly due to the presence of Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. Now Bennett has a tight end job all to himself for the Cowboys division rival Giants, and with the amount of talent on either side of him in Nicks and Cruz, as well as a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Manning reaching his prime, all the pieces are in place for Bennett to have the breakout season Cowboy's fans waited four seasons for him to have. If Bennett is a player, he will have every opportunity to prove it in 2012.
Defense: It all starts up front for the Giants on defense. Jason Pierre-Paul emerged as one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL in his second season, and there's no reason to believe that the best is truly yet to come for this freakishly gifted defensive end. Even with his 16.5 sacks, for the majority of last season stopping Pierre-Paul was viewed as secondary to many teams to slowing down his counterpart at defensive end, Justin Tuck. The duo of Pierre-Paul and Tuck, as well as outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka make life miserable for opposing offensive tackles. The ability of defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Chris Canty to clog the run allow the ends to focus on rushing the passer. The Giants added outside linebacker Keith Rivers this off season to play the weakside, adding athleticism to an already gifted front seven. With the talent playing in front of him, Rivers should be able to raom more freely then he did in Cincinnati, and could very well be in line for a bust out season in 2012. The secondary would appear to be the default weakness on this defensive unit. Terrell Thomas will look to come back from a season ending knee injury a season ago, though it may be a lot to ask for him to immediately revert back to pre-injury form. The Giants hope their first round pick from a season ago Prince Amukamura can come back from a very slow healing foot injury and add athleticism and cover skills to their secondary. Assuming Thomas returns to form and can handle the slot in the nickle defense, Antrel Rolle will return to his role as a playmaker roaming the middle of the secondary.
Special Teams: The return game for the Giants is very ordinary. The hope is that Jerrel Jernigan can emerge as a threat in the punt return game. The kicking and punting games are in reliable hands with Lawrence Tynes (K) and Steve Weatherford (P).
Breakout Star: Martellus Bennett TE- Finally out of the shadow of Jason Witten in Dallas, the tight end job would appear to be all his. With Manning at quarterback and the talent surrounding the 6'6 265 tight end, Bennett should be low on the oppositions list of priorities in stopping. Basically, all the stars are aligned for Bennett to finally fulfill his massive potential.
Bold Prediction: Jason Pierre-Paul will threaten another former Giant, Michael Strahan's single season sack record and win the NFL's defensive player of the year award.
Season Finish: Second in the NFC East at 10-6 wild card birth