Hi.  My name is Joe Bianchino, and I'm a Giants fan. [This is where you all say "Hi Joe"]  Sometimes that's a more painful statement than it is an exciting one.  The Giants have a long, colorful history of both brilliant success and crushing, gut-wrenching defeat.  But you know what?  I'm a Giants fan, and I'm proud.  It is in the spirit of this rather exhilaratingly up and down fandom that I have taken to this fine website to start a long running series chronicling everything Giants.  Today, we start with a season preview.

Admittedly my Big Blue Wrecking Crew compadres, things look rough.  I mean, at first go it's hard to imagine that the Giants' offseason strategy was anything other than "get worse." Well if it was, mission accomplished. Kevin Boss is gone, Steve Smith is gone, two offensive linemen are gone, and Jared Lorenzen is still gone.  You don't think that's relevant?  Lies. All serious football men out there know that a back up quarterback who shares his body type with Meatloaf is crucial in distracting opposing defenses.

The bottom line is the Giants had so many people leave town this offseason it's like they were running from Godzilla.  And not Japanese Godzilla, New York Godzilla.  The one that Matthew Broderick is chasing through Manhattan that lays her eggs in Madison Square Garden.  Do you remember that?  What a...film.  Anyway, all of the above problems happened before Tom Coughlin's team was transformed into some sort of cruel Murphy's Law governed triage unit with Jonathan Goff, Osi Umenyiora, Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas and a slew of others going down with injuries, many for the year.

As a result the team has looked slightly less than thrilling in the preseason.  In four games the offense has yet to look world-beating, except for the Bears game with David Carr at the helm.  The defense, which has always been a strength, looked decent and special teams has looked both brilliant and God awful at the same time.  For the first time in decades the Giants have shown flashes in the return game but have also muffed more kicks than I care to count.

All of this...uncertainty, which is the kindest adjective I can come up with, has occurred at the same time that the rest of the division is improving.  The Redskins have shown their first signs of life since Gus Ferrotte knocked himself unconscious, the Cowboys looked improved at the end of last year with Garrett coaching - and with Romo back things are certainly trending up, and most notably, the Eagles spent the offseason seemingly immune to the salary cap.   I'm not sure what kind of black magic voodoo they pulled, but the Eagles were able to sign anyone they wanted this offseason, including, I think, Jay-Z and Kanye West to a three record deal.  Oh Philadelphia, how do you do the voodoo that you do?

Add to that the Giants schedule, which, while not incredibly tough, has it's challenges.  Games against the Eagles, Saints, Packers, Cowboys, Redskins, Jets and Cowboys to end the year will be one of the toughest stretches that any team will see all season. So what's the sum of those parts?

Bleak.  Bleak my friends.  Awfully, awfully bleak. But without hope?  Certainly not.  Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham are a pretty good combination.  David Baas has looked good at center and if Dominick Hixon and Victor Cruz returning from injuries can show anything, the offense could be decent - despite showing almost nothing in the preseason.  Season ending injuries to Terrell Thomas and Jonathan Goff, a revelation for the 2010 Giants, dealt a real blow to the team's defense.  However, I see this season as an opportunity for Aaron Ross to recapture the great promise he showed in 2007.  If he can get some of his wife's athletic brilliance, this could turn into - well, not a positive, but much less of a negative.  And hey, the Giants have reportedly tried out former Giant, former Bill, former Eddie Guerrero look-a-like Kawika Mitchell, and Chase Blackburn.  So, we got that going for us.

Overall, if there's something I've learned over my years as a Giants fan it's that when all looks lost, they'll surprise you, and when everything is going their way, they'll crush you - and crush you good (see the last six games of the '08, '09 and '10 seasons).  The Giants are under the radar this year, with no one giving them much of a chance.  Do I?

Sure, somewhat.  Do I see this team as a Super Bowl contender?  No. They just don't have enough playmakers.  But I could see them making the playoffs and even making a run. Eli Manning is a solid QB.  Say what you want, haters, but most - MOST - of the interceptions he threw last year were the fault of poor and inexperienced wide receiving.  Don't try and tell me different, I watched every snap people.  EVERY SNAP!  Anyway, when he's on, he can make every throw he needs to.  I think Bradshaw will improve on his fumbling and another year's experience for Nicks and Manningham will make a big difference.  There will still be hiccups, surely Manningham will choose the wrong option route at least once a game, but I think things will certainly be improved.

Defensively, the pass rush will still be there.  The question becomes the linebackers and the secondary.  The linebackers, which have been a position of flux for the Giants since LT retired, looked slowly on the rise, but with the injury to Goff who knows what this corps will look like.  The same goes for the secondary with the injury to Thomas.  I think Ross steps up nicely into the role and the defense will be fine, though woefully exposed in the middle of the secondary.

Ultimately I see the G-Men kind of the same way I see the Matthew Broderick Godzilla. It's not good, but you kind of like it in a strange way that you don't want to admit at parties, and it could always be worse.  I see them as a 9-7 team - possibly 10-6, possibly 8-8.  Even at 10-6, what I believe to be the ceiling for this team, I don't think it's good enough to make the playoffs.  With the Packers, Saints, Cowboys and Eagles all looking good again, and the Falcons, Bucs and Lions improved as well, there's a lot of class in the NFC and I'm just not sure the Giants are there.  But they've surprised me before (2007), maybe they'll do it again.  If they are to do so they'll need to rack up early wins. Like in week one.

When the schedule came out a few months ago I thought this was a sure thing.  The Redskins are a pretty soft divisional opponent.  The Giants defense forced ten turnovers in two games against the 'Skins last year.  Ten. TEN!  It's like they weren't even putting up a fight.  But with the injuries the Giants have been plagued with and the Redskins looking improved, this game is a bit dangerous.  Ultimately, I'm just not sure that Rex Grossman and Tim Hightower really scare me.  Now, you tell me that Hightower from Police Academy is playing running back for the Redskins, then I'm scared.  Put the guy who does the crazy sound effects at wide out and I'll forfeit right now.

The Skins looked improved in the preseason, but I can't look past the fact that there just aren't a lot of playmakers on that team.  I look for the Giants to vehemently abuse Rex Grossman all day.  The game will be closer than it probably should be, because why would a win be easy?  The Giants will get tested, they may even have to survive an onside kick at the end, but I think they get the win 17-13.

Check back here Sunday night for my thoughts on the game.  Go Giants!