Giants most overlooked NFL champions in years Print
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Wednesday, 03 September 2008 09:56
NFL Headline News

 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -In honor of school opening and the NFL kicking off another season, let's start the year with a one-question pop quiz to be graded in February.
Answer before the New York Giants play the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.
Pencils ready?
Who's going to win the Super Bowl?
Dallas? New England? Indianapolis? San Diego? Philadelphia?
Haven't forgotten about the defending champion Giants, have you?
A lot of people don't like the Giants' chances of repeating after the retirement of seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan; the season-ending knee injury to fellow Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyiora; and the trade of former Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey to New Orleans.
Their current odds of repeating are 25-1, according to John Avello, director of race and sports operations at Wynn Las Vegas.
``There is not a lot of respect for this team out of the box,'' Avello, a New York native, Giants fan and oddsmaker for 21 years said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. ``This is not your normal Super Bowl winner. Normally people are jacked up on the Super Bowl winner, looking at them to make another run, and that's not the feeling I am getting from the team and the customers that bet these games.''
Most bettors wagering on whether the Giants will win more or less than nine games this season are taking the under, Avello said.
In addition to the Giants' personnel losses, many feel that everything aligned right for the team last season and that every club in the NFC East has improved, making their job that much more difficult, Avello said.
The last time a Super Bowl champion was this overlooked was Tampa Bay in 2003, he said. The Bucs went 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
``We love it, we love it,'' middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said with some deep sarcasm. ``We ask for more. Honestly, it's not enough yet. Please add on.''
The positive for the Giants is that they are playing the Redskins, a team bound to get their attention.
Not only does Tom Coughlin's players have to be ready to adjust to the wrinkles of new Washington coach Jim Zorn, but they also have memories of their two meetings last season.
New York had to rally in the second half to win the first game in Washington, and then did little against the Redskins in a 22-10 loss here in December - the third of four straight losses at Giants Stadium to end the regular season.
``It won't be just a regular game because it is our season opener and it means so much more than the preseason,'' said Zorn, a first-time head coach replacing Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs. ``It is kind of the next phase, if you will, for every NFL team. Now you are starting the season, the record counts.''
Coughlin could not be happier to play a real game after an offseason of parades, tributes, a White House visit and a ring ceremony to celebrate the organization's third Super Bowl title.
``I'm excited about that,'' Coughlin said. ``I feel like our team always has something to prove and there is nothing different about it.''
While the Giants will be without Strahan, Umenyiora and Shockey, the team has not changed much otherwise.
Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will lead the same 11 players on offense who took the field against the Patriots in February in the stunning 17-14 win. The one change this season is receiver Plaxico Burress, who had the winning reception in the title game, is healthy and looking to build on a career-best 12 touchdown receptions.
Having Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka at the defensive ends will be the biggest change in Steve Spagnuolo's second season as coordinator. Kiwanuka was moved from linebacker after the injury to Umenyiora and before Strahan opted to stay retired.
Veteran John Carney will replace the injured Lawrence Tynes (knee) as the placekicker for the opener.
Washington returns the vast majority of its starters from a team that went 9-7 and lost in the first round of the playoffs at Seattle.
Quarterback Jason Campbell is mastering Zorn's West Coast offense, while Clinton Portis leads the running game.
Greg Blache has replaced Gregg Williams as the defensive coordinator, but the system is similar and possibly more player friendly.
``They didn't show all their cards in the preseason,'' Pierce said. ``They showed a little bit, but they are working on other things and probably game planning against us a little, just like we've been doing against them.''
``After the first 15 plays we'll know what their game plan is and what their state of mind is,'' he added.
And after the game, we may know more about whether the Giants have a better than 25-1 chance of repeating.
 

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