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Giants will be different, maybe better

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No big Sunday column today. I'm up in the mountains at our summer camp, and I can't seem to find the mojo to put one together. Something about being lake side, I guess.

Anyway, quick post on something I read from The Fifth Down the other day. This should leave you feeling optimistic as training camp approaches.

Worried about how the Giants will move the ball without Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Derrick Ward? Think the team didn’t do enough in free agency to offset the losses on offense? Want Jerry Reese to call Marvin Harrison's agent right this very second?

Remain calm. The Giants did what they had to do in the off-season. In Football Outsiders Almanac, we give them a 73 percent chance of winning at least nine games, and a 42 percent chance of winning 11 or more games and contending for the Super Bowl. ...

The Giants faded last season, losing four of their final five games (including a playoff game) after Plaxico Burress shot himself. It’s easy to blame Burress for the December fade, but the Giants’ offense actually played better without Burress than with him, once you account for the quality of their opponents. The Giants’ real problems were on defense ...

Coach Tom Coughlin and Reese, the general manager, prioritized defensive depth with their free-agent acquisitions. Defensive linemen Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard aren’t marquee names, but they give the Giants the kind of line depth they had two years ago, when their pass rush led them to the Super Bowl. Linebacker Michael Boley is suspended for the season opener, but when he returns he’ll add a playmaking element that the Giants lacked at outside linebacker. ...

Domenik Hixon might have dropped a sure touchdown against the Eagles, but he’s a rising star who dropped only one other pass all season. Our player projection formula puts Hixon on pace for an 80-catch, 1,000-yard season. Steve Smith is a capable possession receiver who ranked well above league average at converting third downs. Nicks and Barden join Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham in the battle for reserve receiver rolls. Factor in Kevin Boss, a better-than-average receiver at tight end, and Eli Manning has plenty of targets.

The N.F.C. East is as tough as ever. The Eagles project to win nine games (9.3, according to our thousands of simulations), the Cowboys and Redskins will hover near .500, and one or two injuries or surprises could drastically change the balance of power. But Giants fans shouldn’t worry about life without Plaxico. They should look forward to seeing Umenyiora, Tuck, Kiwanuka and the new guys chase Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb all season long.

I happen to agree wholeheartedly. Reese has said repeatedly that there is more than one way to win. The Giants will be different in 2009. They will still, however, be very, very good.

Now, back to enjoying the lake.