I just love the experts who forecast team's records and performance for the upcoming year. Some of them actually do the work and put some thought and effort into it. They analyze the players, look at the team's schedule, consider the new players they've drafted, incoming FAs, the players they lost, evaluate the injuries they had last year that might have affected performance, etc. You know.... they actually think. Then there are the dopes who take the short cut and simply look at last year's record, maybe look at one or two additions/subtractions of players and predict confidently whether last year's performance will be better or worse on the basis of this limited analysis.
Consider for example two strikingly opposite approaches to this "analysis" from two of the senior columnists on cbs.sportsline.com. In one, Pete Prisco does the heavy lifting. He actually did simulations and forecasts of each game played on the NFL schedule on the basis of strength of teams, home/road, bye schedule and most of all realtive quality of each team. He came out with the somewhat surprising result that the NE Patriots would go undefeated this year, but at least he is judging the talent on the field seriously. He also determined that the Packers would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl with a 14-2 record. He came out also with the prediction that the Giants would be 13-3, a very strong record considering the difficulty of their schedule. He obviously judged that the Giants would be a very strong team, but his analysis was that the Packers were a little better and would carry the day. Prisco likes the Packers to win the NFC, but if you asked him if the Giants had a chance, he would have to say yes. According to his forecast, Giants would be the number 2 seed in the NFC and surely would at least have a punchers chance against a team just one game better than them in the standings.
On the other hand, Clark Judge did not do a team-by-team forecast, he was just asked to answer 10 hot questions going into the NFL season. The first question was "do the Giants have a chance of repeating". He did absolutely no analysis on the quality of the current team and simply said: (I'm summarizing) they have no chance. His analysis was just - they barely snuck into the playoffs last year then got on a roll (a euphemism for saying they were lucky) and won the whole deal. No way those confluence of circumstances repeat this year.
No analysis of how the injuries last year contributed to their mediocre regular season and how the return of some of their key players towards the end contributed to the team's late success. No mention of the fact that the two top draft choices last year contributed virtually nothing and this year their return to health means essentially that the Giants have an infusion of talent with four 1st/2nd rounders joining the team. No mention about how serious injuries on the OL contributed to the Giants being the worst running team in the league last year and improved play in the OL with the upgrade of the RBs with 1st rounder Wilson might make an improvement there. Giants have, arguably three of the top eight DEs in football; they missed cumulatively about 14 games of playing time last year, and were diminished in performance for many of the others. Next year, if they return to health, the defense will be much more powerful just because of their presence. No mention of that from Mr. Judge.
I am not saying that Prisco is absolutely right and Judge is absolutely wrong. I am saying that Judge's opinions are based on loose speculation rather than analysis.
The 30,000 foot view of the Giants 2011 season is that they made it through the regular season and into the playoffs entirely on the right shoulder of their QB. When the rest of the team came back to health and started playing better, Eli had some reinforcements with him and took the Giants to the promised land. Guess what - those reinforcements will be there the entire year and there are some new players arriving to strengthen the team. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, and I know I am a Giants fan, but I see a really good season for the Giants this year.