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Breaking down the Giants

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Michael Strahan is back on the field. We have already discussed the latest Tiki Blabber nonsense. Forget about Bill Parcells for now. Let's talk some football.

The Giants open their season Sunday night in Dallas. What kind of season will it be? Nobody knows for sure, of course, but let's break this team down the best we can.

Strengths

1. Receiving Corps -- With Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss on the outside and Jeremy Shockey on the inside, Eli Manning will have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. If he can stay healthy this might be Shockey's best season since he caught 74 passes as a rookie.

2. Defensive Front 7 -- With Osi Umenyiora, Strahan and Justin Tuck the Giants have three quality defensive ends. Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins are solid tackles. The linebackers are much improved with the addition of Kawika Mitchell and the move of Mathias Kiwanuka from defensive end. If the core of this group stays healthy it will be an effective group.

3. Eli Manning -- Some of you might cringe to see me put him here, but if you're a Giants fan you have to hope I'm right. Eli had a great exhibition season both on the field and off -- playing smart on the field and taking on Tiki Blabber off of it. If he carries that into the regular season he will go to his first Pro Bowl.

Weaknesses

1. The Secondary -- At corner, the Giants have Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters (too old), Corey Webster and Kevin Dockery (too bad) and Aaron Ross (talented, but still too green). At safety, they have the under-achieving Gibril Wilson, the unproven James Butler and a cast of untested backups. They had better put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks.

2. Special Teams -- Outside of punter Jeff Feagles, just about every aspect of the Giants kicking and coverage game can be questioned. Can Lawrence Tynes handle the placekicking? Can they snap the ball so he has a chance? Can they cover kickoffs and punts, which they were terrible at last season, with David Tyree hurt? Can anybody on this team return a punt or a kickoff? This may all work out fine, but it's a weakness until proven otherwise.

3. Depth -- Other than wide receiver, I can't think of another position where I am comfortable with the backup players at any position. That is the way it is with many NFL teams, but it's still not a good feeling.

Overview

This could be a terrific Giants season, and it could just as easily be a horrific one. There are so many questions as Big Blue heads into Sunday's season opener at Dallas. Depending on how you answer those questions you can make an argument that the Giants will go 11-5, and you can just as easily argue that they will implode and go 5-11.

We have discussed many of those questions for months now here at Big Blue View Nation, but let's take one last look before the season begins.

1. Can they replace Tiki Blabber?
That, of course, is the first question everyone has about the Giants -- and the first reason used when downgrading expectations for this season.

My belief? Yes, they can. Brandon Jacobs isn't the breakaway back Blabber was, but he can move the chains and wear down defenses. Ahmad Bradshaw might eventually become a Dave Meggett-type playmaker.

2. Will Eli ever grow up?
As I said above, I think Eli will answer the critics this season by posting the best year of his career. He will have to for the Giants to get to the playoffs for a third straight season.

3. Can Mathias Kiwanuka play linebacker?
This is the question that could make or break this defense. If Kiwanuka can successfully move from defensive end to outside linebacker the Giants front seven goes from good to outstanding, and their pass rush potential is scary. He seems to have progressed throughout the pre-season, and I think he'll be fine.

4. Can David Diehl play left tackle?
He won't be an All-Pro, and the Giants had better get him some help against the best defensive ends, but he won't embarrass himself. He had better do the job, because there is nobody else who can.

5. Can Tom Coughlin save his job?
Coughlin is trying to loosen up, trying to reach his players. He's been somewhat successful so far. Will it help? Who knows? During the pre-season the Giants have still looked sloppy too often, taken too many penalties and blown too many assignments. It comes down to this, in my view. A third straight playoff appearance, he stays. If the Giants miss the playoffs, he goes.

Prediction: 9-7. Too many questions to be better than that, too much talent to completely implode. Will that be enough to get to the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell.