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Season Preview: New York Giants

Sports Mole examines the New York Giants ahead of the start of the 2013 NFL season.

The New York Giants missed out on a place in last season's playoffs, and the chance to defend their Super Bowl title.

Tom Coughlin's side begin the 2013 NFL season against NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

Sports Mole takes a look at the team's off-season activity and pre-season performances ahead of the start of the new campaign.

Head coach: Tom Coughlin begins his 10th season in charge of the New York Giants. Coughlin's reign is largely considered a successful one, with the team winning two Super Bowls in the last decade. However, the team have made the playoffs just once in the last four seasons. If the Giants are to reach the post-season this year, Coughlin will need to find a way for the team to improve on last year's 9-7 record

Last season: 9-7

Review: The Giants finished with the same record in 2012 that saw them win their division the year before. However, increasing competition from the other teams in the NFC East meant that the Giants missed out on a place in the playoffs. The season started well for the Giants, as they won six of their opening eight fixtures. However, just three wins in the second half of the season allowed the Washington Redskins to claim the division, preventing the Giants from defending their Super Bowl title.

Notable Ins: The Giants signed linebacker Dan Connor just five days after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys. The 27-year-old started eight games for the Giants' NFC East rivals last season, making 56 tackles. Former Oakland Raiders tight end Brandon Myers also comes in, having agreed a one-year contract with the side. Myers recorded 806 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns for the Raiders last season, and proved a popular target for quarterback Eli Manning during the team's pre-season games.

Notable Outs: The Giants cut 2012 rushing leader Ahmad Bradshaw in February. The running back struggled with a foot injury throughout the last season, but still managed to rush 1,015 yards and score six touchdowns. Bradshaw has since joined the Indianapolis Colts, while the Giants have a shortage at the position following Andre Brown's leg fracture. Tight end Martellus Bennett left the team as a free agent during March, joining the Chicago Bears just a week later. Bennett was second only to Victor Cruz in receiving yards for the Giants last season.

Key Player Offense: Victor Cruz: The wide receiver spent the early part of the off-season holding out for a new contract with the team, eventually agreeing a five-year deal in July. The 26-year-old has recorded 2,628 receiving yards and scored 19 touchdowns during his first two years with the Giants, and looked strong during the team's opening pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cruz sustained a heel injury during the team's defeat to the Indianapolis Colts last month, but is expected to play against the Dallas Cowboys this weekend.

Key Player Defense: Jason Pierre-Paul: The defensive end has been a regular starter for the Giants over the last two seasons, making 132 tackles, 27.5, sacks an interception and five forced fumbles since being drafted by the team in 2010. The 24-year-old's production dipped a little last season due to a back injury, but off-season surgery should see him return to full strength in 2013.

Rookie to watch: Damontre Moore: The defensive end, who was a third-round draft pick in April, looked impressive during the team's opening pre-season game, making four tackles. With several of the Giants' key defensive players carrying injuries heading into the 2013, Moore's ability to also play at linebacker could prove crucial for the team.

Pre-season form: The Giants started their August schedule well, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, but then slipped to defeats to the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets and New England Patriots.

2013 prediction: Last year, there was little separating the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys at the end of the regular season, and with the Philadelphia Eagles making changes to their coaching staff during the off-season, the division is likely to be even tighter this year. The Giants may well find themselves losing out to the Redskins again, but they have an outside chance of securing a wildcard spot in the post-season.

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New York Giants' Eli Manning in action against New York Jets on August 24, 2013
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