Could 2017 be Eli Manning's final season with the Giants? [Photo: Getty Images]

A season ago, the New York Giants returned to the playoffs, ending a drought that began following the 2011 season. But the team didn’t spend big and add more veterans this year just to make the playoffs again.

 

They want to put a fifth Lombardi Trophy behind glass. It’s not as far-fetched as some might think.

 

To do so, they’ll need to figure out some things along the offensive line, get some immediate contributions from the last two draft classes and stay incredibly healthy. They are a top team in the NFC but can a team pegged as second-best in their division really make a playoff run?

 

Keep in mind, the Giants' last two Super Bowl titles have come from them playing in the Wild Card Round, so it is certainly possible. In fact, they might just crave the underdog role yet again en route to hoisting the Lombardi trophy.

 

The Giants will win the Super Bowl if:

 

1. The offensive line actually protects

There is no denying that quarterback Eli Manning took some big hits last year, partially due to an offensive line that was among the worst in the league in terms of raw talent. The group did upgrade this year by adding D.J. Fluker, but they have to keep Manning upright.

The line should be better, if only because third-year left tackle Ereck Flowers will be improved. If the Giants do a better job and are a middle-tier offensive line, then the offense as a whole has the playmakers to be explosive. This could be a special unit if Manning isn’t throwing from his back.

 

2. OBJ & Air Marshall duplicate 2015

Two years ago, Odell Beckham Jr. with the Giants and Brandon Marshall with the Jets posted career years. And while Beckham’s production was down ever so slightly last year, it still was elite-level numbers he managed to put up.

With the offseason addition of Marshall as a free agent, the Giants have two legitimate stars as downfield options for Manning and a third in Sterling Shepard, who can be a special talent.

If Beckham and Marshall can each put up 1,000 receiving yards, then the Giants could be an offense headed toward a deep postseason run and possibly the Super Bowl. Those types of numbers would indicate that the offense is clicking and Manning has enough time in the pocket.

It would also likely mean that there is harmony in the locker room, something that might be surprising given just how much each player loves to get the ball thrown in his direction.

 

3. The secondary is tops in the league

If Landon Collins continues his climb toward being one of the game’s top safeties, then the Giants can be in a really good place.

Alongside Andrew Adams, set to enter his second year in the league following a fantastic rookie season, Collins gives the Giants the most exciting safety tandem in the NFL. Sprinkle in ballhawks such as Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple along with the solid Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the Giants have one of the most talent-laden backends in the league. Given their strong pass rush, this is a unit that just might be rolling out some big turnovers. They certainly have a ceiling to grow, as evidenced by their play over the second half of last season.

If they take even another step forward, then the defense might just be the strength of this team, which is saying something given how good the offense can potentially be.