It’s hard to find anyone with high expectations for the Giants.
Aside from the Giants themselves, that is.
“We can be one of the best teams in the league,” linebacker and defensive captain Alec Ogletree boasted Monday. “We have a shot at it, just like every other team, of making it to the end of the year and to the Super Bowl . . . Nobody is really giving us a chance, but we have to worry about what our standards are and what we say we want to be. We have to do the things we know we can do.”
Most outside prognosticators and pundits are predicting another putrid season. This is a team that has won eight games in the past two seasons combined, so even getting there in one campaign and claiming a place at .500 seems like an Everest of a quest.
It’s also a team that dumped three Pro Bowlers in the offseason, which would seem to diminish their chances, and is relying on a 38-year-old starting quarterback who hasn’t won a postseason game in seven seasons . . . since before most of his teammates entered the league.
All of which means nothing to the guys who will begin the regular season Sunday against the Cowboys.
“We expect to go and win,” safety Antoine Bethea said matter-of-factly.
If they can do it, it might start to change some of those prophecies of doom, or at least tamp them down a bit. Just as a strong preseason altered the narrative around the selection of sixth overall pick Daniel Jones from foolhardy to potentially prescient, an early victory over what should be a playoff-contending Cowboys team could begin to sway some doubters.
For the Giants, though, it would only prove their point.
The primary reason for the optimism seems to be that the Giants are a “better team” than they were a year ago.
More talented? No. Parting ways with Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins prevents anyone in the building from saying that.
But just . . . better.
“I like the way we have built our team,” Pat Shurmur said. “I like some of the changes we made personnel-wise. I also feel like the second year in our system, we are smoother in how we operate. That’s why, I think, I don’t care what everybody outside thinks . . . I feel like we are a better football team right now, and this is a team sport.”
“I think that’s the thing that we wanted to accomplish over the offseason, is getting guys with great character,” Sterling Shepard said. “You look around the locker room and we’ve just got a group of great guys at the end of the day.”
Winning citizenship awards is much different from winning football games, to be sure.
Can a team do both?
The Giants are going to try.
Their focus seems to not be on showing the world that it is wrong, but on showing the world that they are right.
“We’re not too big on listening to the outside noise,” Shepard said. “We know what we have as a team, and we’re going to put our best foot forward every week. We’re going to prepare the way we’re supposed to prepare, and I’m not listening to the outside noise.”
It is pretty loud and fairly negative as the regular season creeps toward kickoff, though, and it’s hard to ignore. The Giants may be a team that is oblivious to how bad it is, purposely or genuinely. Dutifully or delusionally.
The Giants know what the football universe thinks of them.
And they know there is only one way to change it.