Giants: Dream/nightmare scenario

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Giants in 2012.

Dream scenario (12-4): The last time the the Giants won the Super Bowl, they followed it up with a 12-4 season and claimed the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. It seems a fair bet that, this time, their top wide receiver won't shoot himself in the leg with an unlicensed firearm in a nightclub and severely damage their playoff chances. The Giants remain extremely strong at quarterback, wide receiver and pass-rusher in a pass-heavy NFL era, and for that reason they have reason to believe they can be a much better regular-season team than the one that went 9-7 and made the playoffs on the final day last season. In the Giants' dream scenario, Hakeem Nicks recovers from his broken foot in time to start the season, second-round pick Rueben Randle wins the No. 3 wide receiver spot and someone -- perhaps first-rounder David Wilson -- steps forward to be the running back who can spell Ahmad Bradshaw when he needs a rest. Terrell Thomas comes back healthy and continues along the career path that, this time last year, had him on track to become one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Keith Rivers solidifies the linebacker corps, and Jason Pierre-Paul and Victor Cruz build on their breakout seasons as the Giants get back into the playoffs and make a real run at defending their title.

Nightmare scenario (6-10): The Nicks injury is a reminder that the Giants did lose some depth this offseason. And although they are (a) very strong if their front-line starters are healthy, (b) very good at filling needs internally and (c) always at least in contention even when they miss the playoffs, the likelihood of the nightmare scenario is unimportant to this exercise. This is about imagining, and in the Giants' nightmare scenario their key starters -- such as Nicks, Cruz, Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Bradshaw -- struggle with injury or ineffectiveness. Eli Manning reverts to his interception-happy ways of 2011. Thomas struggles to get back to where he was, Prince Amukamara fails to take the next step forward, and they still can't find a reliable middle linebacker from among the crew they bring to camp. The nightmare scenario also sees the offensive line struggle, especially at the left tackle spot, where Will Beatty was a work in progress in 2011 before eye problems ended his season. Should these troubles come to pass, the Giants would have to lean heavily on their rookies, and it's unlikely that Wilson, Randle and Jayron Hosley could all emerge as successful starters in their first year in the NFL. Again, the Giants' nightmare scenario seems unlikely, but if it happens, it will have to do with depth issues behind the starters.