The Giants ranked dead-last in the NFL in rushing last year, on both a per-game and per-carry basis (89.2 YPG, 3.5 YPC), and their defense struggled in the regular season, finishing as a bottom-third unit in points and yards allowed (25.0 PPG, 376.4 YPG).
Back in the day, we didn't expect teams like that to approach .500, let alone win Super Bowls.
But of course we're not back in the day. Arizona nearly claimed a championship a few seasons ago with similar flaws. And prior to 2011, the winning formula for the Colts was essentially "no ground game + meh defense + a Manning at QB = division title." Heck, last year's AFC champion Patriots didn't run the ball particularly well, either (4.0 YPC), and that D ranked 31st in the league (411.1 YPG).
So while New York's Super Bowl victory may have been unexpected, we can't claim the team had such unique characteristics among winning clubs.
What the Giants did have is stellar play from the quarterback position. Eli Manning was ridiculous all year, and he was at his best in the biggest moments. He averaged a career-best 308.3 yards per game and 8.4 per pass attempt during the regular season, posting the sixth-highest yardage total in league history. His phenomenal level of play continued in the postseason, too, as he totaled 1219 passing yards over four games (7.5 Y/A), tossing nine TD passes and only one interception.
Manning's 38-yard Super Bowl completion to Mario Manningham was as perfect a throw as you will ever see.
Not so long ago, Eli was a punchline — remember this game? Or this one? Or this one? — but there's really no mocking him now. He's a terrific fantasy asset, available at a reasonable price (ADP 56.3).
Manningham is no longer in the team picture, but that's likely only a small inconvenience. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are back and coming off huge seasons. Cruz was a revelation, catching 82 balls for 1,536 yards and nine TDs, finishing with five 100-yard efforts over his final seven games. Nicks had an excellent regular season (76-1192-7), then beasted in the playoffs, hauling in 28 catches for 444 yards and four scores. Both players are perfectly acceptable WR1s for fantasy purposes. Nicks had surgery back in May to address a fracture in his right foot, but it sounds like he'll be available for Wednesday's opener against Dallas.
Ahmad Bradshaw looks to bounce back, hold off David Wilson (Getty)New York's No. 3 receiver, at least to begin the season, will reportedly be Domenik Hixon. But he's returning from ACL surgery (not for the first time), and rookie second-rounder Rueben Randle will see the field eventually. (Randle isn't my favorite of the rookie wideouts — I'd prefer Jeffery, Blackmon and Wright, to name three — but he's still a person of interest in dynasty). Ramses Barden is still on this team's depth chart, too. The 6-foot-6 Barden gave Charles Tillman fits in Week 3 of the preseason, catching a TD pass and later drawing a PI flag in the end zone.
Martellus Bennett takes over at tight end for the Giants this season, after a few disappointing years as Jason Witten's understudy in Dallas. If you're in a fantasy league that somehow awards bonuses for delightful quotes, then take a flier on Bennett for sure. In standard formats, however, he doesn't project as a starting-caliber tight end. The position is too deep, and Bennett has put too many ugly moments on tape. He's merely a deep league sleeper.
Ahmad Bradshaw opens the season as the lead runner in the New York backfield, but rookie David Wilson is going to make plenty of noise. We had the Wilson discussion just a few days ago (right here), and I certainly haven't stopped targeting him in drafts. Wilson is a tackle-breaking machine, a guy who starred at the combine (41-inch vertical) and who rushed for over 1,700 yards at Virginia Tech last season (5.9 YPC). Bradshaw is definitely a tough dude, a guy who's played through injuries in the past, but he's lost some tread from the tires. His yards-per-carry average has declined in every season of his career, down to 3.9 in 2011.
It's unlikely that Bradshaw will receive (and it's unlikely he could handle) a full workload. Wilson should have a share of the touches immediately, with a clear chance to play his way into a bigger role. Brandon Jacobs signed with San Francisco in the offseason, as most of you know, and DJ Ware was one of New York's final roster cuts. I like Bradshaw well enough in fantasy this year, but I'd prefer Wilson at his ADP (75.5) than Ahmad at his (38.1).
The Giants' front four is scary-good, even with gigantic tackle Chris Canty (knee) on the PUP list. When a defense can pressure hurt quarterbacks consistently with only four pass-rushers, they simply have a huge advantage — almost unfair. New York's D gave up plenty of yards and points last year, but this group also tied for third in the league in sacks (48.0) and sixth in interceptions (20). They'll assist fantasy owners more often than not. Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck are elite IDPs, no question. Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka, Kenny Phillips, Osi Umenyiora and Antrel Rolle belong on IDP draft boards, too.
2011 team stats: 24.6 PPG (NFL rank 9), 89.2 rush YPG (32), 308.3 pass YPG (5), 32.95 yards/drive (8), 0.120 turnovers/drive (14)
Previous Juggernaut posts: 32. Miami, 31. St. Louis, 30. Indianapolis, 29. Jacksonville, 28. Cleveland, 27. Arizona, 26. Seattle, 25. Minnesota, 24. Tampa Bay, 23. Buffalo, 22. New York Jets, 21. Washington, 20. Oakland, 19. San Francisco, 18. Kansas City, 17. Cincinnati, 16. Denver, 15. Tennessee, 14. San Diego, 13. Pittsburgh, 12. Baltimore, 11. Dallas, 10. Carolina, 9. Chicago, 8. Houston, 7. Detroit, 6. Atlanta