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Preseason power rankings: No. 4

Remember, these rankings aren’t a prediction as to where a team will finish. Instead, they represent only an opinion about where they currently are.

Entering the season, the New York Giants are at No. 4. By the end of the season, their status could be far different.

They occupy a lofty perch because of the fumes of that unlikely Super Bowl XLII championship, and they had the best record in the NFC last season.

But they’ve yet to find a way to overcome the loss of Plaxico Burress. Until they do, it’ll be difficult to climb the ladder again.

And that huge contract paid to quarterback Eli Manning could look like a huge mistake.

The defense will continue to be stout, especially with defensive end Osi Umenyiora back and linebacker Antonio Pierce not headed for the same fate as Burress.

Still, the passing game is a major concern. Absent a huge rookie year from Hakeem Nicks, the Giants will be very hard pressed to return to the Super Bowl. Or to the playoffs.

Key player: Manning. The true measure of a franchise quarterback is whether he can put up franchise quarterback numbers without top-shelf pass-catchers. The problem for Manning is that, even when he had Burress, the numbers didn’t cry out “franchise quarterback.”

Rookies to watch: Nicks and Ramses Barden. The tall and lean Barden could replace Plaxio’s presence in the red zone. Nicks could partially fill Plaxico’s shoes elsewhere on the field.

Best veteran acquisition: Chris Canty. He has been dogged by injuries, but he’s finally healthy and could help boost a defensive line that already wreaks havoc on opposing offenses.

Key game: Week Two, at Dallas. Spoiling the opening of the new football cathedral in North Texas could propel the Giants on a six-game winning streak that would be in doubt only when heading to Philly on November 1.

PFT’s Power Rankings:

PFT’s Power Rankings:

4. New York Giants
5. Tennessee Titans
6. Indianapolis Colts
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Dallas Cowboys
12. New Orleans Saints
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. Chicago Bears
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Arizona Cardinals
17. Miami Dolphins
18. Houston Texans
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
20. Cincinnati Bengals
21. Buffalo Bills
22. Washington Redskins
23. New York Jets
24. Seattle Seahawks
25. San Francisco 49ers
26. Denver Broncos
27. Kansas City Chiefs
28. Cleveland Browns
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
30. Oakland Raiders
31. St. Louis Rams
32. Detroit Lions