The Giants have a few more days to enjoy the unbridled optimism that comes before a football season starts, that feeling of invincibility and dominance that can't be argued against when a team has a record of 0-0. Mathias Kiwanuka is taking advantage of this time.
The defensive end and longest-tenured defensive player on the team spoke last week about his belief that the Giants have the ability to win a Super Bowl this season, and he reiterated those thoughts Monday. Kiwanuka said he and the defense -- which he said can be among the best in the league -- are prepared to do so without much help from the offense, if that's what it takes.
"I think we have the ability to do it," he said calmly and convincingly, standing in front of his locker with a towel casually draped over his shoulder. "Obviously on the offensive side, when you have a new coordinator, there are some growing pains and they have to figure it all out. But on the defensive side of the ball, we can stop every single thing that a team can throw at us and we can win a championship that way. We've already proved it. It's possible."
He's talking about the Giants' past two championship seasons in which the club overcame some offensive hardships. In 2011, the Giants had the worst rushing game in the NFL. They won it all. In 2007, they went up against the juggernaut 18-0 Patriots and held a team that had averaged 36.8 points in the regular season and 26.0 points in the playoffs to a season-low 14 points in Super Bowl XLII.
That's not to say that Kiwanuka isn't hoping to rely on a little of that old Eli Manning magic now and again.
"With Eli on our roster, there's always a chance for a comeback," Kiwanuka said of continuing to fight until the end of each game no matter how far behind they may fall. "He doesn't have to be that guy who's going to go out there and do the flashy play or whatever, but he's effective and he gets it done when we need him to. He's done it twice in championship seasons and he's done it other times outside of that, so we always have to believe in him and that offense and know that if we do our job on defense, then we'll get a win. That's what it's all about."
The defense that Kiwanuka is putting all his faith in is largely rebuilt from last year. There will be seven different starters this season. That's quite an overhaul for a team that finished with the eighth-best defense in the NFL.
"Making big changes is tough, but I think across the board, we're better at every position," he said. "We just have to go out there and prove it."
And not just for one week. Prove it all the way to February.
"The most important thing is I want to get a championship out of this year with this group," he said. "I think we have the ability to do that. When you're winning, it's fun. It's fun for everybody. Last year, it wasn't fun going out there and not getting your best on the field and then having the outcomes that we did. That was about as low as it gets in terms of being a professional for me. I want to go back to having fun and winning. The only way you can do that is if you start with the end goal in mind, which is winning a championship and go out there and do it."
At this stage of the season, why not?
"It's complete optimism at this point," Kiwanuka said. "Healthy, we're one of the best defenses in the league on paper. Now we just have to go out there and put it all together and show what we can do."