Last season was a bounce back year for the New York Giants. They showcased an 11-5 record and made the playoffs for the first time since winning Super Bowl XLVI.
In addition to the tremendous 2016, they also swept the season series from their division rival Dallas Cowboys for the first time since 2011. However, they did fall two games short of catching the Cowboys (13-3) for the NFC East title.
Winning the division is the first goal that all 32 teams set out to do at the start of training camp.
Here are five reasons why the Giants will win the NFC East:
1. Best set of pass catchers Eli Manning has ever played with
Eli Manning has won Super Bowls with receiving cores that consisted of Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII, and Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe in the Giants Super Bowl XLVI team.
That group of pass catchers was very talented, but they pale in comparison to the playmakers Eli Manning has to throw to this season.
Whether you like him or not, there’s no denying that Odell Beckham Jr. is a top three wide receiver in this league and is motivated to win and get a new contract. Despite being 33, Brandon Marshall is still a top 20 wide receiver, and with just 59 more receptions will become the 15th man in NFL history with 1,000 receptions. After catching 65 passes as a rookie, Sterling Shepard has a firm grasp of the offense and is ready for another productive season. First round draft pick tight end Evan Engram has dazzled coaches with his athleticism and speed, and he will be a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers.
When you factor that the Giants will also have Shane Vereen catching passes out of the backfield on 3rd downs, defensive coordinators will have many restless nights trying to figure out how to slow down the Giants high-powered passing attack.
2. They have the best defense in the division
As the adage goes defense wins championships, and the Giants clearly have the best defense in the division. Last year the Giants gave up 284 points last year, and everyone else in the division gave up over 300 points.
Their big three free agent acquisitions last offseason (Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins) were a big reason why the Giants went 4-2 in the division last season and were as good as any defense down the stretch of the season.
The biggest strength of the defense is their secondary which is the best in the NFL that features two All-Pro players in Jenkins, and who many felt should have been the NFL Defensive Player Of The Year Landon Collins.
The only starter missing from last year’s team is Johnathan Hankins, who will role is expected to be filled by second-round draft pick Dalvin Tomlinson who is a more versatile player than Hankins. When you factor in that the defense should be on the field less this season with the offense being better, don’t be surprised if the Giants are number one in total defense this season.
3. The Cowboys will take a step back
Last season as a rookie, Dak Prescott played exceptional completing 67.8% of his passes and threw 23 touchdowns to just four interceptions. To think the Prescott can repeat that touchdowns to interception ratio would be unrealistic.
Last season the Cowboys benefitted from playing the last place schedule. This season they’ll play a first place schedule which means they’ll have to play all of the NFC division winners from last year (Packers, Falcons and Seahawks). Of those teams, the Giants only have to play the Seahawks. Plus the Cowboys still do not match up well with the Giants, so another season sweep is possible.
The Cowboys may not finish 8-8 but they certainly won’t go 13-3 again. This year they’ll finish second in the NFC East behind the Giants.
4. The Washington Redskins are in disarray
Over the past two seasons, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins have gone back and forth with one another splitting the four games they’ve played. Three out of the four games have been decided by nine points or less.
This season, however, Washington doesn’t look like they’ll pose much of a threat to Big Blue. They’re without their top two receivers from a season ago in Pierre Garcon, and Giants killer DeSean Jackson. It’s reported that running back Matt Jones wants to be traded, and they still can’t decide if they want Kirk Cousins to be their long-term quarterback.
All of these are signs of a team that is unlikely to be competitive and is expected finish last in the division. Unless the Giant beat themselves with turnovers and penalties, they should sweep Washington.
5. Ben McAdoo will be better in his second season as head coach
It’s not easy being a coach in the NFL, especially when you’re replacing a two-time Super Bowl winning head coach in Tom Coughlin. But for the most part, McAdoo did well in his first year as coach, and his fourth-down gambles helped the Giants win tight games last season.
But at times the play calling became predictable and he and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan were never able to fix the Giants offensive woes as the team failed to score 30 points in any game last season.
But with a year of being a head coach under his belt, McAdoo should be better at making in-game adjustments, and better at making sure his players don’t lose their cool. With McAdoo having a more firm control of the team, will result in him winning his first division title as head coach.