According to CBSSports.com, the New York Giants’ 2017-18 schedule is tied for eighth-toughest in the league, along with their co-tenant New York Jets.
That’s a stark contrast to the start of last season when the Giants were tied with the Chicago Bears for having the second-easiest strength of schedule (an opponents’ .461 winning percentage). Big Blue capitalized en route to an 11-5 season in head coach Ben McAdoo’s maiden campaign.
The defense is loaded and the offense has some new toys for quarterback Eli Manning to utilize (veteran wideout Brandon Marshall and rookie first-round tight end Evan Engram), so another double-digit win season is not out of the question. Throw in the fact that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot may miss upwards of six games, depending on today’s suspension appeal hearing, and the National Football Conference East Division is certainly there for the taking for the Giants.
The first month will be a great gauge, as they battle the Cowboys, the Detroit Lions – equipped with Matthew Stafford and his new fat contract, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Only the Lions game is a home date at MetLife Stadium, so the litmus test comes early.
Salute Magazine takes a look at the top-5 Giants’ games to watch, in chronological order, as Big Blue is poised for an even deeper playoff run this season.
#1 at Cowboys, Sept. 10 – This is a primetime game on Sunday night, and while Elliot’s absence takes off some of the luster, this is still a huge test and important game. The Cowboys still have stars at the disposal in quarterback Dak Prescott, wideout Dez Bryant, and future Hall of Fame tight end – and noted Giants killer – Jason Witten. And everyone knows how white-hot the lights are any time the Giants venture into AT&T Stadium, aka Jerry’s World, especially for a primetime affair. These two teams usually put on a spectacle. This game won’t be any different.
#2 at Denver Broncos, Oct. 15 – The Broncos didn’t make the playoffs, last season, and may struggle again to make it, this season – but this game is weighted more – even more than any of the two blood battles with the Philadelphia Eagles – because of the venue. Mile High Stadium is one of the most intimidating places to visit in all of professional sports, and has the record to prove it – they have a near .700 winning percentage at home since current owner Pat Bowlen took over in 1984. By mid-October, Broncos Country is in a full froth, and while Manning has only played there once – Thanksgiving night in 2009 – it was a house of horror for him (26-6 defeat). The last time he played the Broncos, it was at home, Week 2 in 2015, against brother Peyton Manning – and that was a mismatch as well (41-23 loss). Peyton will almost assuredly be there, as well as Marshall, whose Broncos’ tenure ended bitterly, which means that stadium will come to life. This game will also feature top-5 secondaries and top-5 pass rushes in the league, which makes for an enticing matchup.
#3 vs. Seattle Seahawks, October 22 – Yet another great battle featuring top-5 secondaries. Manning hasn’t had much success against Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary, but with the added arsenal, he’ll have a better chance against cornerback Richard Sherman and co. The Seahawks have won three straight in this series, with an average score of 32-14, even shutting out the Giants at MetLife the last they visited (23-0, December 15, 2013). This is a much better Giants roster, though, and it’ll be equipped to take on a Seahawks offense that is devoid of running back Marshawn Lynch and possesses a leaky offensive line – a recipe for disaster going against that vaunted Giants’ defensive line.
#4 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, November 19 – It’s a good thing this isn’t at the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, which is right up there with Mile High Stadium as a nightmare venue for road teams, especially late in the season. But even with the game being in New Jersey, it’ll still be a tough matchup for Big Blue. The Chiefs, like the Broncos and Seahawks, have an impressive secondary and scary pass rush. The Giants’ offensive line has been below average at best this preseason. It’s difficult to believe it’ll start playing much better any time soon. The Chiefs also have speedy playmakers abound on offense, led by weapon Tyreek Hill, who lines up all over the field, and tight end Travis Kelce. The Giants historically have trouble against elite tight ends, so this could be one of the most exciting games of the season at MetLife Stadium.
#5 at Oakland Raiders, December 3 — The Giants’ travel schedule is insane, as they’ll have traveled west of the Mississippi River for the third time this season, and for the third time in its last four away games. The emergence of the Raiders is why this game makes the list, as people forget that if not for a season-ending leg injury to quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders were arguably the best team in the American Football Conference – or at the very least the best foil to eventual champion New England Patriots. Carr, the younger brother of former Giants’ backup David, will be a huge test for Big Blue’s secondary. And the Oakland offensive line may be the best unit, not named the Cowboys. The Raiders’ defense is still a work in progress, although reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack will pose every bit a problem to a leaky Giants’ offensive line. If the Raiders are a contender at this time, the Black Hole will be a huge advantage for the home team.