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Giants will have to prove that they weren't a fluke

Lack of respect for the DEFENDING SUPER BOWL CHAMPION New York Giants has seemed like a constant theme this off-season.

We discussed it Wednesday in regards to Eli Manning.

We discussed it way back in March when Yahoo! Sports dissed the Giants in a pre-season ranking.

Now, it seems, we have to discuss it again. This time it's ESPN's John Clayton piling on the Giants. Answering a mailbag question, here is what Clayton had to say.

Their Super Bowl run was unpredictable and special, but it will be hard to repeat. They enter camp projected behind a Cowboys team with 13 Pro Bowl starters, while the Eagles and Redskins are dangerous sleepers.

Face it, it's hard playing in a division that doesn't have a losing team and arguably has four playoff contenders. Whether they make the playoffs as a division-winner or a wild card, the Giants proved the team that survives the NFC East the best can go to the Super Bowl.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the Giants don't make the playoffs this year. They took some hits on defense in free agency and lost leadership with Michael Strahan's retirement. The Giants should have traded Jeremy Shockey this offseason. If they had acquired a second- and a fifth-round pick from the Saints, they could have filled in for him by pairing a talented rookie tight end with Kevin Boss. If the Giants don't make the playoffs, a disgruntled Shockey could make life miserable for the Giants' management.

Of course it will be hard to repeat, and we shouldn't expect the Giants to do that. It just seems to me that the Giants are being treated like a fluke, rather than a very good team that played its best football at the perfect time.

You can bet that coach Tom Coughlin has noticed the various put downs, and will use them to help the Giants avoid complacency.

Even with Super Bowl rings on their fingers, it seems Big Blue still has some things to prove.