Giants GM Dave Gettleman believes his culture overhaul of the Giants' locker room will result in more wins. Coach Pat Shurmur believes Eli Manning has just enough left in his right arm to make his team a contender. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher believes he can piece together enough of a pass rush to help the Giants make a run, too.
They are, if nothing else, dreamers. They believe in the potential of their team. But are they realistic or are they delusional about the roster they've created?
Here's a way-too-early look at how the Giants' 2019 season just might go …
For all the angst about an offseason filled with losses of star players like Odell Beckham Jr., Landon Collins and Olivier Vernon, the Giants really feel they're going to be better. And I think they're right.
First of all, it's not like those departed players helped them do a lot of winning. And second, sometimes there's really something to addition by subtraction.
That's what the Giants are counting on. They got rid of some star power for what they hope will be a better team because they know that's worked in the NFL many times in the past. As Tom Coughlin used to constantly say, everything has to be about "team" in the NFL. The best teams win, not the best players.
Of course, Coughlin had a quarterback in his prime, a great offensive line, and a fierce pass rush to work with. Those things help, too.
The current Giants have none of those, but they do have the 38-year-old Manning, who is far from "done" despite the nonsense being spewed by his critics. He may be fading and showing his age, but he completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes last year for 4,299 yards while playing behind a generally terrible offensive line. Sorry, that's not "done".
Now he's got a much-improved line, which will help. And while Beckham is gone, Golden Tate is a pretty good replacement. Also, for those old enough to remember what happened after Jeremy Shockey suffered a season-ending injury in 2007, it's not unprecedented for Manning to begin to thrive after the loss of a high-profile, high-maintenance star. He likes calm and quiet and being able to take a thoughtful approach to football.
He doesn't like receivers making a public show of how unhappy they are with the offense or how badly they want the ball.
So Manning, with some peace and quiet, some protection for a change, and a foursome of fantastic weapons in the passing game - Tate, Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram - is going to thrive. And Barkley is going to be even more dangerous behind that new-look offensive line, too. Add in a renewed energy and a schedule that isn't tough at all in the first half of the season, there's no reason the Giants can't get off to a fast, 5-3-like start.
Their two biggest Achilles heels, though, could catch up to them in the second half. First, the Giants are razor thin at almost every position. They are a couple of key injuries away from being a disaster again. Really, there's not a single position where they wouldn't be hurt by the loss of a starter. If multiple starters go down for multiple games, start planning for next year.
And second, the defense just does not look good. It's not as if Collins or Vernon were irreplaceable. Vernon was good, but let's be realistic: He's a 7-sack guy, not a 15-sack guy. And Jabrill Peppers is actually a pretty good replacement for Collins. The problem is that teams win in the second half of the season with a pass rush, when they can harass opposing quarterbacks. The Giants' pass rush was horrendous last season, and it's really hard to see how it's any better now.
So you can expect the defense to wear down later in the season, even if the team stays relatively healthy. Their November-December schedule looks particularly daunting because of that. The offense is good enough to keep them afloat, but a late-season fade could have them just barely clinging to the playoff chase as they slide through December.
My prediction: The Giants will hang on just enough to be 8-7 heading into their season finale, at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. They will need to win that game and get some help to get into the playoffs. It's hard to say what the Eagles' situation will be then, and how seriously they'll take that game. But my best guess is that one of two things will happen in that finale:
1.The Giants will win, but not get the help they need, and finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs.
2. They'll lose and finish 8-8.
Then the real drama will begin. Manning's contract will be up. The Giants will not have gotten a good look at rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in a game. And they'll need to make one of the biggest decisions in franchise history: Buy into the fact that they were so close and bring a 39-year-old Manning back for one more possible run, or turn the page and start over with a 22-year-old Jones.
Another way, way, way too early prediction: Barring a 10-win season and a couple of wins in the playoffs, the Giants will be Jones' team in 2020, and Manning will be playing somewhere else.