- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, with almost every key player from last season back in the fold. So there's plenty of reasons to feel confident, Giants fans.
Here are the three biggest reasons why you should like your team's chances heading into the 2012 regular season:
1. The pass rush. The easiest way to stop an opposing offense in today's NFL? Get to the quarterback. And few teams, if any, are better at doing so than the Giants. They were tied for third in the league in sacks last year, with 48. And they should be even better this season.
Why? Well, Jason Pierre-Paul -- fourth in the NFL in sacks in 2011 with 16.5, in just his second season -- is still getting better as he learns the nuances of playing his position. Justin Tuck is healthy, after battling through injuries a year ago. And Osi Umenyiora participated fully in training camp this summer, and is playing for a new contract.
2. The quarterback. Eli Manning now owns two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP trophies. His confidence has to be at an all-time high, and at age 31 he is still smack in the middle of his pro football prime.
Manning threw for a career-high 4,933 yards last season, with almost twice as many touchdown passes (29) as interceptions (16). And he's got plenty of weapons to throw to again this year. Victor Cruz -- who was third in the NFL with 1,536 receiving yards, in his first season as a starter -- should have even better chemistry with Manning in Year 2. And Hakeem Nicks (1,192 yards in 2011) is an elite NFL wideout as well.
3. The coach. A year ago at this time, Tom Coughlin's job was on the line, with the Giants having missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Now he's sitting pretty, with two Super Bowl wins on his résumé and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame likely to follow.
In terms of 2012, the Giants will benefit from the stability of having a head coach entering his ninth season at the helm -- an eternity by NFL standards. The players know what to expect -- and more importantly, they know that the formula can lead to championships. Coughlin's mantra this preseason has been "Build the Bridge" -- hoping to extend what the Giants did in the 2011 postseason into 2012. Last year's mantra was "Finish" -- and we all know how that turned out.