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Defending Champion Giants Getting No Respect

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Jordan Raanan, Xfinity Sports, NFL Columnist
Tue Sep 4, 8:59 PM UTC

"Build the Bridge."

It's the New York Giants' 2012 maxim du jour. It's Tom Coughlin's attempt to forge a tangible connection between their Super Bowl XLVI triumph and this upcoming season, which begins Wednesday night against the Dallas Cowboys.

Only problem is no one outside the Giants facility seems to believe construction of the bridge can be completed by the end of the year.

Not one of the seven ESPN "experts" picked the Giants to reach this season's Super Bowl. Not one. The Falcons and 49ers were among the teams to get a nod. No Giants.

Not one of NFL.com's "experts" have the defending Super Bowl champs reaching the NFC title game. It was all Green Bay, San Francisco and Philadelphia. No Giants.

Not one of FoxSports.com's seven NFL "experts" have the Giants reaching the Super Bowl. The Fox contingent took fliers on the Bears and Cowboys. No Giants.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King and ESPN The Magazine have the Giants missing the playoffs altogether. A complete whiff. Again, the Bears and Cowboys were among the teams to get a nod. No Giants.

It's clear: The Giants can't get no respect. Rodney Dangerfield must be Triple Lindying in his grave.

Even the players themselves slapped the Giants with a stern stiff arm, voting them the fourth-most likely team to win the Super Bowl in the Sporting News 2012 NFL Players Poll behind the Packers, Patriots and 49ers—three teams New York beat in last season's playoffs.

Amazingly, the Giants don't seem to care. They don't talk about it much publicly, rarely mentioning any slight, perceived or real. They just confidently go about their business, just as you'd expect from a group of champions.

"We have the mentality that we can't be defeated," All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said.

Clearly they seem to be all alone in that assessment. Vegas has the Eagles, who won their final four games last season to finish 8-8, as the NFC East favorites.

Seriously? This makes zero sense. Where's the love for the G-Men? Did I miss Aaron Rodgers throwing for 500 yards against them in last year's playoffs? Or Tom Brady leading a comeback in last season's Super Bowl? Does anyone besides the Giants themselves have confidence in the defending Super Bowl champions?

The defending champs are this year's Terrell Owens—nobody wants to associate with them. The Giants aren't a popular pick. They aren't a trendy pick. In fact, they don't seem to be anyone's pick.

For them, that has to be hard to digest. This is a franchise that has won two of the last five Super Bowls, beating the powerhouse Patriots in both. New England, the Super Bowl favorite for many, hasn't won one of those Vince Lombardi trophies in eight years.

The Giants, meanwhile, have some pieces to ensure long-term success. They have a quarterback (Eli Manning) among the NFL's elite. They have a pass rush that is perpetually bloodcurdling for opposing coaches. They have a head coach who is the consummate winner. And it's not like they slacked in their last title defense. The Giants started 11-1 that year before Plaxico Burress derailed their season by shooting himself. Yet, the outside world doesn't seem to believe the Giants can "Build the Bridge" in 2012.

"'Build the Bridge' means to carry over all the good things that happened at the end of the season last year over into the new season," Coughlin said. "The qualities that allowed allowed [sic] us to go forward and win the world championship and some of those would be: During the course of the last six games, we gave up 14 points; we only had one turnover; our special teams made a strong contribution; we rushed the ball better. Those type of things."

I understand some of the doubt. The Giants finished 9-7 last season. They needed a strong finish—and a barely-missed pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin—just to reach the postseason. They needed some unbelievable bounces and breaks to beat the 49ers in the NFC championship game. They have been decimated this preseason at cornerback and their offensive line has more holes than a Paul Ryan marathon story.

"You feel it, you sense it, you hear it," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "People talk about it when they’re out there on the field.  We’ve been in this situation before, you want to measure yourself up against the best, and it doesn’t matter where you’re at in terms of wins-losses in the season. If you get a chance at the defending champs, you’re going to give it your best shot."

The target on the Giants is immense, but the reality is they won the Super Bowl last season and enter Wednesday night's opener with the same strong core in place.

In fact, the Giants are built very much like the always hyped division-favorite Eagles, only with a better quarterback and better pass rushers. I'd take Eli Manning over Michael Vick any day of the week. Ditto Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora over Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin. Entering the season, there really is no rhyme or reason for the Eagles to be favored.

But that's where we stand on the precipice of the 2012 season. The Eagles are the NFC East favorites. The Cowboys are the NFC East's trendy pick. Tim Tebow is the toast of New York. The Giants, well, all they are for now are the defending Super Bowl champions.

While others may be, I'm not foolish enough to overlook the team that won two of the last five championships. The Giants are still a very good team. They are still a threat to win it all. And, in my mind, they are still the favorite to win the division, and possibly the Super Bowl too.

Jordan Raanan has covered the NFL since 2005. Follow him on Twitter @JordanRaanan or email him at jraanan@hotmail.com.



The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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