Doubters don't bother champion Giants
If you're prognosticating next season's Super Bowl winner and you're not inclined to pick the Giants to repeat, go right ahead. It's fine with them.
The more the Giants are ignored in the discussion, the better they like it.
"Always a plus when people don't pick us," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Besides, most people who write those predictions don't know a damn thing about football."
Repeating as Super Bowl champions is one of the most difficult feats in sports, and the Giants realize a lot has to go their way to become the first repeaters since the 2003-04 Patriots. That said, it would be a mistake to eliminate the Giants from contention simply because history is against them.
When Eli Manning is your quarterback, and your defense includes Tuck and fellow star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and most of your offensive and defensive starters are back, you have a legitimate chance.
"We've got so much talent on this team and another year under our belt," Tuck said. "It's going to bode well for us. The biggest thing is staying healthy, but we can't control that. The things we can control, we feel very good about."
And why shouldn't they? Sure, the Giants were in danger of not even making the playoffs last season before a late surge carried them into the tournament. Once they got there, they performed almost flawlessly against the Falcons, Packers, 49ers and Patriots.
The Giants scattered Thursday after a three-day minicamp, their last time together on the field before embarking on their Super Bowl defense in earnest at training camp late next month in Albany.
They left with a mix of continued good feelings from their unexpected Super Bowl run and a determination about getting back to The Big Show in New Orleans. Their confidence level was high, their sense of purpose unmistakable, regardless of the low expectations from their skeptics.
"I have absolutely not one care in the world about whether anybody is picking us to win," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "As long as they're still talking about us at the end of the season, that's our goal. We're underdogs, and that's fine."
There isn't a shred of doubt that the Giants have a roster easily capable of making another title run.
"We're deeper than we've ever been at a majority of positions," Kiwanuka said. "There are some roles that we have to fill -- you can't lose a guy like [cornerback] Aaron Ross or [safety] Deon Grant and not feel it a little bit. But we have young guys who are stepping up, and we have a good core group."
It includes Pierre-Paul, who emerged last year as one of the league's top pass rushers. It also includes wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, who is recovering from foot surgery, and Victor Cruz, who had a breakout season in 2011. The offensive line is intact, and rookie running back David Wilson has replaced the departed Brandon Jacobs.
About the only major question mark is at tight end. The Giants have lost the injured Jake Ballard, who was claimed Tuesday by the Patriots, and Travis Beckum, who also was hurt in the Super Bowl. Other than that, this team is loaded.
Still ready to ignore the Giants? Please do. Really. Tuck insists.
"No one picked us to win it last year, and no one picked us to win it in '07," he said. "I hope they continue to diss us."