The 2012 New York Giants are the reigning and defending Super Bowl champions, they have a two-time Super Bowl MVP at quarterback, and their first-team offense and first-team defense were both rather solid, minus some expected late-summer hiccups, during August's four NFL preseason contests. While Giants fans have plenty of reasons to believe their favorite team could again finish the regular season atop the NFC East, there's no denying that Big Blue are facing an uphill battle heading into the start of the 2012 campaign, a Wednesday night showdown with hated rivals the Dallas Cowboys. Most 2012 Week 1 NFL power rankings I've seen during the first week of September have the champs at or near the very top; not all, though.
Hank Gola of the NY Daily News seems to have taken a "to be the man, you've got to beat the man" mentality to his Week 1 NFL power rankings, listing the Giants as the number one team in the league. Gola did state that "history is against (the Giants)" in his piece, however, a fact that played a big factor in nearly two dozen NFL analysts claiming back in July that this New York squad won't make the playoffs this season. My "homerism" toward the Giants aside, I also (almost) always list the defending champs atop Week 1 power rankings, and thus I agree with Gola.
ESPN has the Giants listed as the third best team in the NFL in Week 1 power rankings. NFC East blogger Dan Graziano had the following to say on the champs: "Are they the team that went 9-7 in the regular season? Or are they the team that tore through the playoffs and won the Super Bowl? Their QB and pass rush say the latter."
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, as did ESPN, gave the top spot of Week 1 NFL power rankings to the Green Bay Packers. Pompei pointed out the current lack of depth in the New York secondary while also praising the team's pass rush in his piece. While I think the champs are the best of the best until proven otherwise on the football field, I really can't complain about anybody listing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers ahead of New York right now. Doing so is no dig at the Giants, as the Packers are an incredibly talented football team, perhaps the best overall squad in the NFL as of September 4.
Brian Billick, who was head coach of the Baltimore Ravens team that beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV and is now a football analyst for FOX, does not have Big Blue at the top of his Week 1 NFL power rankings. In fact, Billick didn't even list the Giants in the top five, instead placing New York as the eighth-best team in his power rankings. Billick has the Philadelphia Eagles as his best team in all of pro football heading into the opening week of the 2012 campaign.
I'm not going to sit here and try to convince anybody that the 2012 Giants are a flawless team. There are serious concerns about the New York o-line being able to both open up holes for the team's rushing attack and also protect Manning. New York finished the 2011 season dead last in rushing yards per game, and things could get rather ugly in the Big Blue backfield if Ahmad Bradshaw goes down to injury. CB Terrell Thomas may never play another down in a Giants uniform, and Prince Amukamara will miss at least the season opener because of a high ankle sprain. Those two injuries have significantly weakened what was already a depleted secondary.
With all of that said, ranking the Giants as low as eighth in Week 1 NFL power rankings seems awfully harsh. Manning, coming off of his best NFL season, appeared more than ready for meaningful games during the team's four season warmups this past August. The New York pass rush has looked to be in midseason form since August 10. The Giants are also notorious for playing great football during the first halves of seasons under head coach Tom Coughlin.
It wouldn't shock me at all to see the Giants out of the top ten of NFL power rankings for multiple weeks during the upcoming season. I just don't think they're at that point at the start of September. Any and all opinions of this team aside, New York will get to prove themselves starting Wednesday night.
If history has taught us anything, it's that the Super Bowl champs routinely take care of business at the start of a season.