EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Nobody on the outside really likes this Giants team, or thinks it will be any good this season. But on the inside, the feeling is much different.
Everyone in the Giants' building seems to really like what they've done with this team.
"We don't really listen to the talk outside," Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said. "We feel like we are a better team than we were a year ago. … I like the way we have built our team. I like some of the changes we made personnel wise.
"That's why I think," he added. "I don't care what everybody outside thinks."
It's a good thing, because the outside projections and predictions aren't good, not after the Giants traded away Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon and didn't re-sign Landon Collins. Add in a poorly timed suspension for Beckham's replacement, receiver Golden Tate, and it looks to many like an organization due for a big fall.
So who is right: Shurmur or his critics? Will Saquon Barkley and a rebuilt offensive line be enough to rejuvenate 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning and carry a questionable defense? Or is this team headed towards a playoff-less season for the eighth time in nine seasons -- and the quarterback controversy that will surely follow?
Here's a preview of and a prediction for the 2019 Giants:
The Main Theme: How long can Eli Manning hold off Daniel Jones?
That's the dominant storyline of the season because it ties in to everything else. If the Giants are playing well and in the playoff race, Manning will keep his job. If not, they'll switch to their promising rookie QB. How soon that happens, and how patient the Giants are, remains to be seen.
Most Important Player: RB Saquon Barkley
The Giants are running their offense through him, and opposing defenses will know it. There are also huge expectations now because of what he did last season and the way the Giants revamped their offensive line. Barkley is their biggest star and their most explosive weapon. If anything happens to him, just fast forward to 2020.
Biggest addition: S Jabrill Peppers
The Giants have loved him for years and they believe he can be so much better than he was in Cleveland. He'll have to be, since he's replacing Collins, who was a heck of a player for the Giants. Also, the defense is suspect, the pass rush might be non-existent, and beyond Janoris Jenkins the cornerback corps is pretty young. Peppers will have to be the anchor of this defense and a playmaker, too.
Biggest subtraction: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
They gave up one of the most talented offensive players in the NFL as a casualty of GM Dave Gettleman's locker-room "culture" war. The Giants really believe they'll be a stronger team with Beckham gone. They'll surely be more controversy free. But how will they make up for all his catches, yards, and big plays?
Under the Radar Star: TE Evan Engram
With Beckham gone and Tate suspended, there are balls to go around in the passing game. Expect Engram to get many of them. The Giants believe he's been underutilized as a playmaker in their offense in recent years, and as long as he stays healthy that should change in a big way.
Will the Giants make the playoffs?
They have the look of a very mediocre team, which in the NFL means they should be in the playoff chase in December. There are two keys to making that happen, though. The first is the offensive line. It has to hold up and give Manning time to work. He's never been a guy that needed a star receiver like Beckham. He's fine with spreading the ball around, and he'll have the freedom to do that this season (with no one complaining). If he's not on the run or on his back, the Giants should be able to score plenty of points. Which brings up the second key: The defense could stink. But if they can generate any semblance of a pass rush at all, particularly late in games, they'll give Manning a chance to pull out some games.
Unfortunately for the Giants, they need everything to go right just to stay on the fringe of the playoff chase. And if they do, they'll be dealing with the Eagles twice in December, which won't help. More likely they will give their fans hope into mid-December, but then end up falling just short.
Final record? 8-8.