The underdog card is one that is constantly over-played in sports. A team can dominate all season and still find a reason to declare themselves the "underdog", even if it's unwarranted. Every year it seems the New York Giants find themselves the as one, even coming off a Super Bowl Championship season. It may sound like overkill, but despite all the success last season, NFL "analysts" and talking heads, like every year, continue to give the G-Men no respect.
This offseason, it all began with the release of the Las Vegas odds for teams to reach the Super Bowl. Vegas clearly believes the Giants' odds to repeat as champs are unlikely, giving them the tenth best odds in the NFL and fifth best in the NFC at 18-1. Their division rival Philadelphia Eagles rank ahead of the Giants with the fourth best odds at 12-1, and the Dallas Cowboys are tied with the Giants at 18-1.
Even the experts at ESPN are riding the Eagles' and Cowboys' band wagons. On NFL Live, Damien Woody and Marcellus Wiley both predicted that the Eagles would win the NFC East, with the Cowboys coming in second, and the Super Bowl Champion Giants in third, missing the playoffs. Their reason was that the Giants had only a 9-7 regular season, ignoring the fact that the Eagles or self-declared "dream team," finished 8-8 and the Cowboys also finishing 8-8. When asked who the MVP of the NFC East would be, both Damien and Marcellus replied that Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo would be the division's most valuable player. Two time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning was left completely out of the conversation.
On ESPN's Sports Center, former player and now NFL analyst Mark Schlereth was asked what order the teams in the NFC East would finish. His order was exactly the same as Damien Woody's and Marcellus Wiley's with the Eagles finishing first, the Cowboys second, and the Giants third. The host even acknowledged the fact that the Giants are being given no love and they now have plenty of motivation to prove everyone wrong.
Adam Rank of NFL.com is another Giants doubter. In his "Pick 6" he makes six predictions regarding the upcoming season. His number two prediction states that the Giants will improve their record but will not make the playoffs.
"The New York Giants finished with a 9-7 mark in 2011 but reached the playoffs after winning the NFC East. It was a fitting development, because Giants fans moaned after their 10-6 club missed the playoffs in favor of the 7-9
SaintsSeahawks in 2010. Look for history to repeat itself this year as the Giants improve their win total but just miss the playoffs."
"The Dallas Cowboys would have won the NFC East last season if Miles Austin and Tony Romo could have connected on a critical third-down play late in the fourth quarter of a Week 14 home loss to the Giants. That game was part of a 1-5 fade down the stretch. This year, though, the team will close with five home games out of the final seven, a favorable set-up that should help propel the Cowboys to the postseason. No wild card for the Giants, though, as three teams from the NFC North will make it."
Michael Stewart of Football Nation gives the Giants slightly more credit, predicting they will finish second in the division behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
"The New York Giants will be defending champions entering the 2012 season and for that achievement, the schedule makers have given the Giants the toughest schedule within their division (119-89). Many NFL experts suggest that the Giants did not improve enough from last season to make a difference in 2012. I have to disagree a notch as players such as Terrell Thomas, Marvin Austin, Justin Tuck, Ahmad Bradshaw and Osi Umenyoira were either missing for the entire season, missed major playing time or played hurt throughout the season."
"My final prediction for the Giants is a 9-7 record, which could perhaps be 10-6, if everything goes their way. However; they will still most likely fall short and not make the playoffs."
"Prior to the 2011 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles' "Dream Team" was considered by most to be the NFC East favorite. This summer, the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champion, and as such are probably considered by most to be the division favorite. But the truth of the matter is the Eagles should be favored to win the division."
The players are well aware of what the pundits are saying and are fully prepared to shut them up. Justin Tuck already guarantees a playoff appearance.
"Tell your colleagues," Tuck said, "we ARE going to make the playoffs."
Captain Eli Manning also chimed in.
"(We are) taking kind of the attitude that we still have something to prove," Manning said. "They called it a fluke and we got hot at the right time, but we were still not a great team. That should be the mindset (now). We have to be more consistent. We have to be better throughout the whole season and not have these streaks of good play and bad play."
The Giants have been in this position before and actually prefer to play as the underdog. The team feels that playing with a chip on their shoulder helps them perform better, which has proven true in the past.
The NFC "Beast" is always a very difficult division, maybe the toughest in the NFL, and every team faces a very grueling schedule. It is certainly feasible to see either the Giants, Cowboys, or Eagles coming away with the division. However, it seems among the so called experts, there are many more Giants doubters than there are believers. The bulletin board material keeps adding up as the offseason progresses, providing the Giants' coaches and team leaders with plenty to motivate their teammates. The Giants are faced with yet another season trying to prove the "haters" wrong. Perhaps Justin Tuck put it best.
"When you get to the top of the mountain you don't want to go back down it, you want to stay there."
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