Editor's note: This week's The Gameface will run on Saturday. The column will not run on Friday, May 2 and will resume on Friday May 9.
When we last saw the Giants, they were cruising merrily up Broadway, enjoying a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes. Fresh off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, the Giants were the talk of the nation and the toast of the town.
And, in Las Vegas, the vanquished Patriots were already favored to win Super Bowl XLIII.
The 2008 Giants won't have an easy time playing the tried-and-true "No one respects us" card as defending champions, but there is a shred of legitimacy behind that sentiment, at least in comparison to the team they most recently beat.
Even in defeat, the Patriots seem to have retained their sheen of omnipotence. That pesky little three-point setback in the desert last February notwithstanding, there's already talk of the Pats making a run at another perfect regular season, a dream fueled by a schedule that, on paper, ranks as the league's least difficult.
Take a quick poll at your office coffee room, neighborhood sports bar or Internet forum, and chances are the Pats would be the clear-cut choice as the best team in the NFL heading into the '08 season. Here at 32 Questions Headquarters (32QHQ, for the beautiful people), we're not buying it.
The Giants won that Super Bowl for a reason: They were the best team in football. And while some of us were a little tardy in recognizing that – the Giants never did hold the '32 Q' top spot last season – it says here that they're the best team now.
This weekend's draft isn't likely to change that, either. Last April, in his first year as New York's general manager, Jerry Reese totally nailed it, from his first pick (first-round cornerback Aaron Ross) to his last (seventh-round halfback Ahmad Bradshaw).
Expect Reese to find some more ballers in this year's draft – not that Pats counterparts Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli won't do the same. We're far more worried about the teams at the other end of our top-to-bottom rankings (and, not coincidentally, the ones who'll be drafting earlier), the fractured franchises who could get handed their choice of any 12 ex-collegians in the land and still be very far away from a ticker-tape parade.
Which teams have a shot at glory? Four months from now, we'll start to get some answers. In the meantime, here are our questions:
3. San Diego Chargers: How many more studs will A.J. Smith add to his roster?
4. Green Bay Packers: Whomever Ted Thompson picks, can we all agree that the GM has earned the benefit of the doubt?
5. Indianapolis Colts: Is there any debating that, even without a first-round pick, Bill Polian will find another impact player or two somewhere in this draft?
6. Dallas Cowboys: Is DeSean DeGuy, and if so, will he and T.O. have adjoining mirrors at their lockers?
11. Washington Redskins: After a hauntingly cautious approach to free agency, will Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato give us a draft-day blockbuster?
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: How many more quarterbacks and tight ends can Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen stockpile?
13. Cleveland Browns: Yo, Phil and Romeo, how about a 54-hole golf outing on Saturday?
15. New Orleans Saints: If they trade up and snag Glenn Dorsey, will they finally keep somebody from scoring?
16. Houston Texans: If this team were in any other division, would anyone not be predicting a first-ever playoff trip?
17. Buffalo Bills: Since last year's draft seemingly stocked the backfield of the next decade, can this one upgrade Dick Jauron's defense into a dominant unit?
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Will they pull off a trade for a proven wideout – or reach for one in the first round?
21. Denver Broncos: If the Broncos blow this draft, will Mike Shanahan fire himself?
22. Carolina Panthers: If Marty Hurney blows this draft, will he go back to being a sportswriter?
23. Baltimore Ravens: Can the Wizard of Oz work his magic, and will he start with a quarterback?
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Yo, Mike Brown – have you considered the possibility that a legitimate scouting department might help your franchise's draft fortunes?
25. Detroit Lions: What's the point?
26. New York Jets: Will Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini take the highest-rated player on their board – or the guy they suspect is highest on the Patriots' board?
27. San Francisco 49ers: If Mike Nolan makes too much noise in the war room, will GM Scot McCloughan banish him to the broom closet?
29. Atlanta Falcons: Will they take Matt Ryan, if only to convince their fans there's hope at the QB position?
30. St. Louis Rams: Got offensive linemen?
31. Oakland Raiders: Excuse me, Lane, could you bend down and wipe off my shoes while I decide which fast guy to take?