Why not us?

Perhaps that should be Tom Coughlin's message for this upcoming season – ‘why not us?' Despite coming off a division-wining season, the Giants are hardly the prohibitive favorites to repeat as NFC East champs. When Philly was on its hot run earlier this decade, the Birds winning the East was looked upon as a mere formality, the big question was always whether or not they could go all the way.

Why not so for the Giants? Well, for one, no one seems sold yet on their quarterback, Eli Manning. For another, everyone seems content to just hand the division to Bill Parcells and the Cowboys. While they're the trendy Super Bowl pick, and yours truly fell into that awful trend, a Drew Bledsoe-led offense is no sure thing.

Other ‘experts' view the Seahawks as the team that's ready to not only make it to the Big Dance, but to dance away happily. You'll get no such rhetoric on that topic here. The Hawks might not even repeat as NFC West champs, what with the obvious rising from the ashes of the Phoenix (oops, we mean Arizona) Cardinals.

Oh, and surely you've heard all about that tough schedule by now. Listen, we're not making light of having to travel to Philly, Seattle, Atlanta and Dallas and host the Colts and Redskins in the first six contests, but let's be honest – how often does a schedule actually play out like it's supposed to? The answer is not often at all. Some of these ‘tough' games are going to end up easier than expected, while some of the softies may come up and bite them on the behind. So, let's just pull a Tom Coughlin and play these games one at a time and see what happens before surrendering to a piece of paper that says who plays where and when.

It said right here months ago that Manning was going to, far and away, be the key to this season. After an entire offseason and full training camp, that's even more obvious. And the feeling from where we're sitting is a great one. We know he stumbled some against the Jets compared to his near-perfect performance against Kansas City the previous week, but the bottom line is Manning has shown an awful lot of progress from last year. He has more confidence, accuracy and leadership ability. Those are all things that make a quarterback great. And, as Phil Simms likes to point out, he can throw the ball, the most important trait of all for a QB to possess.

While Manning's 52.8 completion percentage from last season was far from poor, both he and Coughlin would like to see that number soar. If camp was any indication, he'll be well into the 60s by the end of ‘06.

"We've been talking about consistency all camp," Coughlin said. "His completion percentage is up for this camp – much, much higher than his completion percentage for the season last year. That's progress. I really have thought that he's thrown the ball down the field with good arm strength and good accuracy this camp. We keep track of all the quadrants the ball is thrown into, and his percentage is up in those particular areas."

Manning agreed that his accuracy has improved.

"It's a combination of a lot of things," Manning said. "It's knowing where to go. It's working on your footwork and your mechanics … making fast decisions and being confident in your throws."

It's shown, enough so that Plaxico Burress couldn't help but heap praise upon the precocious Manning. During the playoff loss to Carolina Burress likely would have rather strangled his signal-caller than lauded him.

"He can go out and be the best quarterback in this league," Burress said. "I'm with him. I want him to go out and light it up.

"I don't think it's too far away (Manning being the NFL's best quarterback). You have to have guys around him to support him to go out and make that step. He's shown everybody that he's willing to work hard and make the sacrifices and make the plays to let everybody know that he's here to win and he wants to be as good as he wants to be."

Amani Toomer believes that Manning's play is exactly what the Giants need to reach the ultimate prize.

"I thought he was ready for it last year," he said. "We had a great season last year and hopefully we'll build on it. You have to have a feeling that if all else is equal, if he plays a great game, he can put us over the top. Everybody feels that way about (Manning)."

A quick glance around the roster shows the Giants should be every bit as good in all other areas, if not better. The O-line is back intact and, if it can remain on the field, should be even more consistent. The ascension of Tim Carter and hopeful eventual impact of Sinorice Moss can only make the third-highest scoring offense even more dangerous.

Defensively, the new secondary is highlighted by the toughness, smarts and aggression of Will Demps, who's a rising star for sure. The new leader and boost of energy is LaVar Arrington, who's primed for a special year. The red flag on D – William Joseph – should hopefully be snuffed out by the strong play of rookie Barry Cofield.

So it sure looks – just as we predicted in the spring – that this season is going to come down to Eli Manning. If that turns out to be the case, Giants fans all over are going to be pleasantly surprised.

So Giants fans, really the only pertinent question heading into this season is ‘why not us?' The answer? Stay tuned. But I certainly doubt we're the only ones that think this club has a great shot to end up in Miami.

The Giants Beat Top Stories