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NFL Network predicts NFC East title for Giants


NFL Network analysts predict big things for the Giants in 2017:

The NFC East has not produced a repeat champion since the Philadelphia Eagles won four in a row from 2001-2004.

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The New York Giants will try to extend the drought this season, and some pundits think they have the weapons to dethrone the Dallas Cowboys, who boasted the best record in the NFC last year at 13-3. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks is in that camp.

"You can print the shirts in New York," said Brooks, a former NFL player and scout. "I think this is the team that's going to win the NFC East."

Brooks called the Giants "loaded" after the team brought in free agent Brandon Marshall, the No. 2 active leading receiver in the league, and used their first-round draft pick on Evan Engram, the all-time Ole Miss leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns by a tight end.

"Evan Engram coming in gives them a dynamic playmaker, the most dynamic tight end they've had since Jeremy Shockey (a first-round draft choice in 2002)," Brooks said. "When you look at the other weapons – Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Odell Beckham Jr. – Eli Manning has everything he needs to really bounce back and have an MVP-like season."

The last time the Giants won the division was in 2011, the year they defeated the Cowboys in Week 17 to claim the crown. Big Blue went on to win the Super Bowl XLVI but did not return to the playoffs until earning the first Wild Card spot last season. The Giants finished 11-5 overall and 4-2 in the division in 2016, including a season sweep of the Cowboys that bookended their 11-game winning streak.

What set the Giants apart, though, was their defense.

General manager Jerry Reese and his team last offseason hauled in a trio of elite free agents with defensive tackle Damon Harrison, defensive end Olivier Vernon, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. All three earned postseason honors, including a first-team All-Pro selection for Harrison.

While allowing a league-low 25 offensive touchdowns, the Giants were particularly stingy against the run, allowing 88.6 yards per game. That rate tied the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots for third in the league while it was also the fourth-best performance by a Giants defense in franchise history.

There is no reason to think the Giants can't do the same – if not better – this season on defense as they return 10 of their 11 core starters from a year ago. The only one they lost was defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. The team filled the void in last month's draft by selecting Dalvin Tomlinson, who was a dominant force up front on Alabama's prolific defenses.

"They would be my pick going into the season of the best run defense in the league," NFL Media's Gregg Rosenthal said. "And it got better when they drafted Dalvin Tomlinson in the second round. You think about Damon Harrison and the impact he made as a free-agent pickup last year and then you think of Jason Pierre-Paul on the edge [with] Olivier Vernon. They're all good run defenders. So you combine a great run defense and a very good secondary, and I think this Giants defense is set up to be one of the best in the league."

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