Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin have already established themselves as lifelong Big Apple icons with not one but two Super Bowl championships over the previously unbeatable tandem of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Last season's improbable run to the Super Bowl following a less-than-impressive 9-7 regular-season campaign puts Big Blue in position to capture the organization's first back-to-back NFL titles. Here's a look at how the Giants stack up against the rest of the field in 2012:
Offense - Emboldened by his second Super Bowl MVP award, Manning is threatening to become the league's undisputed top signal-caller. With a strong receiving corps, spearheaded by Victor "Salsa King" Cruz, elite Eli should challenge the 5,000-yard mark again as the Giants bring back the lowest-rating running game in the league from last season, minus Brandon Jacobs, who joined wideout and Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham in defecting to San Francisco via free agency.
Defense - Arguably the best frontline since Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" of the 1970s, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and company should terrorize opposing backfields again in 2012. A once-questionable linebacking corps showed up big in the playoffs last season, but the defensive backfield, once again without injured cornerback Terrell Thomas for the entire season and former first-rounder Prince Amukamara for tonight's season opener against Dallas, will be vulnerable to the long ball.
Wild Cards - Defensive End Adewale Ojomo, a long shot to make the team as a non-drafted free agent, impressed Coughlin enough to break camp with Big Blue, and could be an impactful pass rusher in case one of the Giants' top linemen goes down. Ojomo collected four sacks during the preseason, and the rookie could emerge as the next J.P.P. The special teams unit should get a spark from rookie running back David Wilson, a track star from Virginia Tech who starred out of the backfield and on kick and punt returns in the preseason.
Schedule - Big Blue visits San Francisco for an NFC title game rematch with the Niners on Oct. 14, hosts the Steelers on Nov. 4 and welcomes the Packers on Nov. 25. The final month features a brutal stretch, with visits from New Orleans and Philadelphia as well as trips to Atlanta and Baltimore. Big Blue has the most difficult slate in the league, making the road to a repeat a difficult one, but doable under Coughlin and Manning.