Justin Tuck #91, Eli Manning #10 of the New York...

Justin Tuck #91, Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants. Credit: Justin Tuck #91, Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants. (Getty)

Make history, or fall short of expectations.

That's the dilemma the Giants face as they report to training camp Thursday. The defending Super Bowl champions are out to do what no team has done since the Patriots in 2004 -- repeat. The Giants know that, as champions, they will be circled on every team's schedule.

But that also gives them something else -- the confidence and the swagger that come with being the team to beat.

"There's no question we were the best team in football last year at the end," Osi Umenyiora said "I need to let my teammates understand that we are the Super Bowl champions. We are the best team in football until someone knocks us off that mantle."

The pieces are in place for a second consecutive title run. Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul return as the NFL's most feared defensive line, while home run threat Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks return as Eli Manning's top targets, although tight end Jake Ballard and Mario Manningham have left.

Those pieces, however, only led Big Blue to a 9-7 regular season mark last season, a record that made them the last team in the playoffs. Of course, that's been forgotten by many because of the team's magical postseason run, but there's no guarantee that 9-7 will even get them back into the playoffs.

"We weren't as consistent as we needed to be last year," Eli Manning said in a radio interview this week, admitting that they had something to prove. "We played unbelievable football those last six weeks of the year ? We have to keep that state of mind, that mentality ... and make sure we're playing to our potential week in and week out."

(with Newsday)

Latest video