Are the defending Super Bowl champions being underestimated?
I know this much — the Giants are not being overrated.
As always, I look to the oddsmakers for clues. They’re charged with meeting bettors’ demand — their zest for teams, if you will. And as always, the numbers tell a story.
As of Thursday morning, the Giants were 20-1 shots to repeat as Super Bowl champions at Sportsbook.ag. Nine teams had lower odds, including the Giants’ NFC East rivals, the Eagles, a mere 8-1 on the board. At Bovada.lv, the Giants were 18-1, with the Eagles, at 14-1, among eight teams with lower odds.
The Giants, as of late last week, were 12-1 at the MGM Resorts International sportsbooks in Nevada. Five NFC teams were shorter prices — the 49ers, Packers, Bears, Eagles and Cowboys. The Giants beat the first two teams on that list in the playoffs, and Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas didn’t make the postseason.
Still don’t believe some are lukewarm on the Giants? Cantor Gaming, the first Nevada oddsmaking firm to set regular-season lines beyond Week One, installed the Giants as favorites just six times in Weeks 2-16. What’s more, the Giants are as little as three-point home favorites against the rival Cowboys in Week One.
The Giants aren’t the strongest Super Bowl champion we have ever seen. They were outscored 400-394 in the 2011 regular season; the Eagles and Cowboys, by contrast, finished with positive point differentials. (The Eagles, it should be noted, were installed NFC East favorites at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, which sets division odds; the Giants and Cowboys were co-second choices as of June 14.) The 2012 Giants’ title defense is unlikely to have a happy ending if New York again struggles to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.
Already the Giants, who struggled with injuries a season ago, have endured some offseason adversity. They are hoping that WR Hakeem Nicks’ broken right foot simply is an offseason concern and not an ailment that lingers into the fall. If Nicks is materially compromised, the Giants’ title hopes will dim.
So yes, there’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest skepticism of the Giants’ chances of repeating is healthy. But dismissing New York outright is dangerous.
Once again, the numbers tell the tale.
The Giants have been strong underdogs throughout Tom Coughlin’s tenure as head coach. Since 2004, the Giants are 35-21-1 against the pointspread as underdogs, including an 8-2 mark a season ago. You do not have to gamble to appreciate that the Giants have fared better than their public perception at 62.5 percent clip in the last eight seasons. For the record, the Giants have 27 outright wins as underdogs since '04, including seven wins in '11 and both Super Bowl triumphs against New England.
When I consider the 2012 Giants, I remember the ’08 club, which generated little buzz even as defending champions but rolled to the NFC East title. Those Giants were, as NFC East maven Eric Edholm wrote in PFW’s 2012 NFL Preview magazine, “stronger and more consistent following the 2007 championship.”
The ’08 Giants won 12 games — and they covered in 12-of-16 regular-season meetings, too.
Of course, they were knocked off in the divisional round by Philadelphia. So it goes for so many defending champions.
You may not believe the Giants can repeat. You may even believe they are ripe to be knocked off their perch in the NFC East. That doesn’t mean, however, that they aren’t to be respected.
Especially when you suspect they aren’t getting the respect they deserve.