By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

The easiest way for the Giants to prevent a repeat of last year’s 0-6 start is to win Monday night in Detroit.

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Yep. Just that easy, unless one considers the presence of wide receiver Calvin Johnson and the dual inside terror of Ndamakong Suh and Nick Fairley. They might have a lot to say about whether this group gets off on the right foot or not.

Be that as it may, the Giants really have to worry more about themselves here. A five-game preseason did nothing to assuage fans’ views that the offense and its spanking new West Coast philosophy will be little different from the group that finished 28th in the league last year. Defensively, a lot of it looks good on paper, with Jason Pierre-Paul seemingly ready to resume his destructive ways after two years of back problems, and Antrel Rolle taking again a commanding position in a secondary bolstered in the offseason by the acquisitions of cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond.

Then again, seeing is believing. The preseason showed us nothing offensively — not even that Eli Manning could connect consistently with simple out-patterns; not even that the first team defense could dominate against other basic game plans. So when Pierre-Paul went on the radio the other day and proclaimed his team the front-runner for the NFC East title, his words were greeted with a fair and necessary level of skepticism.

Some immediate goals, the accomplishment of which would ease a lot of minds:

— Take care of the ball. Yes, that means you, Eli Manning. It will be incumbent on the quarterback to lower that career-high 27-interception total from last year. He can start that against Detroit by avoiding the double coverage Victor Cruz will undoubtedly draw and make good use of running back Rashad Jennings on perimeter passes. There will be plenty of opportunities for those in McAdoo’s system. It will also help if the ball comes out quicker, as it did in the passing drills of August. This way, Manning can neutralize the obvious dangers of Suh and Fairley against rookie guard Weston Richburg and new right guard John Jerry and perhaps keep himself in an upright position throughout the game.

— Cut down on penalties. The Giants saw first-hand the emphasis referees have been ordered to make regarding illegal contact and defensive holding. Preseason proved a league-wide flag fest as referees littered virtually every field with yellow. But none saw more than the fields the Giants played on. They drew a league-high 44 flags, including enough of those calls to cause worry.

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Fast-forward that to Monday and Calvin Johnson, and one might anticipate how Megatron can’t wait to go up against a physical cornerback like Thurmond, who made his name as part of Super Bowl champion Seattle’s punishing “Legion of Boom” secondary last year.

— Finally, run the ball. We know McAdoo will finally dip into his West Coast playbook and pull out a selection of goodies he kept hidden until now. But Jennings, Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis also need to do their share on the ground, if only to keep the Detroit pass rush at bay. A 100-yard effort, combined or individual, would be a nice way to start the season.

If it doesn’t happen, hey, it’s one loss. There’s no saying the rest of the season goes down the drain because of an opening misstep. But no one would be faulted if, in the event of a total train wreck at Ford Field, visions of an 0-6 and a repeat of a doomed season doesn’t creep into the old cranium.

So let the Giants season begin.

How it ends, nobody knows.

But starting off with a win would bring a lot of peace to a lot of minds, not the least of which belongs to Tom Coughlin.

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