From injuries to missed opportunities, there were plenty of good reasons for the New York Giants missing the playoffs this past season -- I wrote about five of them. However, I'm confident that Big Blue will return to the postseason next season partly for these three reasons. Check back with me in late April after the National Football League Draft and I may have more arguments for optimism.
A Healthy Hakeem Nicks -- Hakeem Nicks embodied the Giants' 2012 season. After breaking his foot during the preseason and injuring his knee in week two, he played much of the year in pain and never hit his stride. Nicks finished the season with career lows in receiving yards and touchdowns with 692 and three, respectively. As a result, Big Blue's offense wasn't as potent or explosive as the previous season when New York finished with the fifth-ranked passing game in the league. A full offseason of rest should restore Nicks and the Giants' passing game to full strength.
A Dose of David Wilson -- Alfred Morris (1,613 rushing yards) had an outstanding rookie campaign for the Washington Redskins. It made me wonder, if given the same workload as Washington's sixth-round selection, could Wilson have been as good? The Giants' first-round pick landed in coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse after fumbling in the first game of the season, but he redeemed himself on special teams. Wilson flashed his potential against the New Orleans Saints in week 14 with a team-record 327 all-purpose yards, including 100 yards and two TDs on the ground. The Giants are almost forced to feature the shifty running back in the offense next season. I'm predicting a big year for him.
A Softer Schedule -- As defending Super Bowl champions, the Giants had the toughest strength of schedule in the 2012 -- that's not an excuse, just a fact. Well, the degree of difficulty is going to be dialed down significantly in 2013. New York will have only five playoff teams on its docket next season (Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver, Seattle and Washington). They also face Oakland, Kansas City, Carolina and Detroit. Those teams had a combined record of 17-47 in 2012. Furthermore, if Washington's Robert Griffin III is set back from knee surgery, the Giants arguably are the best team in the NFC East and have an easier path to the division title and postseason.
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Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer who grew up in Queens, N.Y. rooting for the Giants despite being surrounded by Jets fans. He proudly wears his Rodney Hampton jersey on Sundays during the football season. Adam follows back Giants fans on Twitter @Pegcitysports.