NEW YORK GIANTS
Excuse me if I’m not totally sold on the Giants being the best team in the NFC, which is basically what everyone wants you to believe. Sure they play smash-mouth football and they may have the best offensive line in football and their defense causes havoc, but trust me they will miss Plaxico Burress this season. After the enigmatic WR shot himself, the Giants lost three of their final four games and then were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs with ease by Philly. The points to a problem: New York’s offense gets awfully formulaic and predictable without a big-play threat. The Giants can run the ball behind their road-graders, but if they can’t stretch the field there are going to be a lot of stalled drives with this team this year. On the defensive side, the architect of one of the best defenses in football history two years ago, Steve Spagnuolo is gone. That usually doesn’t portend good things. Just remember this: Three years ago Giants fans were about to run Tom Coughlin out on a rail. Don’t think that ol’ Tom is completely changed. Expect about 8-9 wins and a bunch of disappointed fans in the Meadowlands.
QB: Eli Manning may be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL but he won’t win you any fantasy leagues. He’s going to hand the ball off a lot this season and he’s going to throw a lot of 7-yard out patterns. He tossed for 3,238 yards, 21 TDs and just 10 INTs a year ago and those numbers were with Burress. Look for him to go for about 3,000/18/15 this season, which means if you have him on your team for anything but a nice bye replacement than you will likely not be making the fantasy playoffs.
RB: Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will be splitting a lot of carries this season and one of these guys could emerge as this year’s DeAngelo Williams, a guy who can put up gigantic numbers in a two-back system. Having said that, I’m not touching Brandon Jacobs with a ten-foot pole. The guy is constantly hurt (missed nine games in two seasons) and he’s completely unused in the passing game. Throw in where you’d have to pick him to get him and he’s a stay-away for me. The guy here is Bradshaw. You can get him in the middle rounds and he could put up good numbers even if Jacobs doesn’t get hurt. Bradshaw will take all of Derrick Ward’s touches, which totaled 1,400 yards and a pair of scores last season. Pencil in Bradshaw for similar numbers and maybe more of Jacobs goes down for an extended period of time.
WR: There are a lot of receivers who could lead this team in receptions and yards … and it likely won’t be the same player. Besides Burress, Amani Toomer is also gone so Manning is dealing with a lot of unproven names here. Steve Smith had a nice season last year, but the guy is a possession receiver who will likely top out at 70/800/3, which won’t win you many games. Domenik Hixon stepped into Burress’ role last year but he was mediocre at best. There are a couple of rookie options in first-round Hakeem Nicks and third-rounder Ramses Barden. Word out of camp is that Barden is running circles around Nicks so far so keep an ear out and an eye on their depth chart. If Barden were to steal a big role in this offense you could be looking at another Marques Colston. Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham are afterthoughts.
TE: Kevin Boss scored five times in his final 10 games of last season and should take on more of a role in the offense this season. Don’t look for huge numbers – maybe 40/450/7 – but in TD-heavy leagues he’s definitely a late-round option.
DEF: With the same scheme and a number of big pass rushers, the Giants will sack the quarterback a lot – probably close to last season’s total of 45. But a weak secondary doesn’t force many turnovers and I envision New York giving up more points per game than they it did last season. However, this is still a good unit and should be among the first six or seven defenses taken.