The 2013 New York Giants schedule has just been released. Given that it’s mid-April and that the draft hasn’t even occurred, it’s probably too early to make any meaningful analysis of the schedule. However, it’s always fun to speculate.
Week 1: at Dallas (8:20, NBC)
For the second consecutive year, the Giants will play their first game of the season against the Cowboys, this time in JerryWorld. Unlike last year, this match-up does not have much juice going for it other than the fact that they’re division rivals. Neither team made the playoffs last season and due to cap restraints, both have done little in free agency so far. The Giants two biggest signings were defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and tight end Brandon Myers, whereas the Cowboys biggest move has been the $108 million extension for quarterback Tony Romo.
The Cowboys gave the Giants fits last season, dominating the matchup in Week 1 (24-17 Cowboys) and losing by literally a fingertip in Week 8 (29-24 Giants). Of course, the Cowboys have switched to a 4-3 scheme, something the Giants generally do better against so perhaps they won’t need Dez Bryant’s monster hands to win again.
Week 2: vs Denver (4:25, CBS)
Arguably the toughest game on the schedule, thankfully it’s early and at home. The most hyped part of this game will obviously be “Manning Bowl: Part Three”. However, what shouldn’t get lost in all the hype is the fact that the Broncos are really, really good. They went 13-3 last season, outscoring their opponents by 192 points. While they did lose linebacker Elvis Dumervil this offseason, they have added guard Louis Vasquez, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and most notably, former Patriots receiver Wes Welker.
The Broncos defense was one of the best in the league last season, although losing Dumervil and adding Dominique Rodgers Cromartie might have made it worse. Of course, the bigger concern for the Giants will be Peyton Manning, who destroyed Perry Fewell’s scheme in 2010 as an Indianapolis Colt, going 20/26 for 255 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 win.
Wishful thinking aside, it’s difficult to see the Giants winning this one.
Week 3: at Carolina (1:00, FOX)
The Giants make another trip to Carolina to play Cam Newton and the gang. The Panthers haven’t done much in the offseason, only notably adding former Giants wideout Domenik Hixon. The Giants went into Carolina on a Thursday night last year, and embarrassed the Panthers 36-7, as Newton threw three picks and Ramses Barden had the game of his life.
Newton did play much better down the stretch, throwing 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his final seven games. Given how much trouble the Giants have had overall against mobile quarterbacks, it’s not too difficult to envision this as a tough matchup for them.
Week 4: at Kansas City (1:00, FOX)
The Chiefs underwent a face lift, bringing in new head coach Andy Reid and quarterbacks Alex Smith and Chase Daniel. The team went 2-14 in 2012, so it’s hard to see them instantly becoming a contender in 2012. However, they do have talent with Tamba Hali at LB and an absolute force at running back in Jamaal Charles, who averaged 5.3 YPC and ran for 1,509 yards in 2012. There’s also the Andy Reid factor, in that he can manage to make almost any mediocre quarterback look halfway decent in his season.
The Giants last trip to Kansas City was in 2009, a 27-16, a game most notable for Hakeem Nicks recording his first career touchdown pass and Eli Manning injuring his foot.
Week 5: vs Philadelphia (1:00, FOX)
After a 4-12 season, the Eagles are relegated to an also-ran schedule. They are in a full rebuild, firing Andy Reid and replacing him with Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who will bring the read option to Philadelphia. Michael Vick will also be back as the starter, which depending on how you view him, is either good or bad news for the Giants. Despite their record, the Eagles still have plenty of offensive firepower with DeSean “I Ruin Seasons” Jackson and the two headed monster of LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown at running back.
The Giants destroyed the Eagles, 42-7, in Week 17 last year, marking the first win for the Giants at home over the Eagles since 2007. It remains to be seen if that was a blip or the beginning of success for the Giants in the rivalry.
Week 6: at Chicago (8:30, NFL Network, Thursday Night)
A trip to the Windy City will bring the Giants up against a new, more offensively minded Chicago Bears team. Long-time head coach Lovie Smith was fired after a 10-6 season, replaced by Marc Trestman, hired from the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. After quarterback Jay Cutler was injured again due to horrendous pass protection, the Bears signed LT Jermon Bushrod and TE Martellus Bennet, in a much needed effort to improve it.
Cutler certainly has talent and has shown it when he isn’t getting 30 times a game. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey along with Bennett, he has weapons in the passing game and he has the arm to exploit them. In what will likely be a cold and blustery night on a short week, the Giants will have their hands full.
Week 7: vs Minnesota (8:40, ESPN, Monday Night)
All you really need to know about the Minnesota Vikings is Adrian Peterson. The running back almost single-handedly carried the Vikings to the playoffs last season, he carried the ball 348 times for 2,097 yards, good for six yards per carry and one of the greatest seasons in NFL history.
There might not be a bigger polarization between quarterback and running back. While Peterson is an elite player in a field of his own, starter Christian Ponder is one of the worst quarterbacks in football, as he only averaged 6.08 yards per attempt with an 81.2 QB rating, essentially forcing the Vikings to abandon the passing game most of the time. This was in part due to the Vikings woeful receiving core, which went was as a wash this offseason as the team signed Greg Jennings but traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks.
This game looks good on paper because while Peterson can win a game by himself, the Vikings offense will likely be completely one dimensional.
Week 8: at Philadelphia (1:00, FOX)
Second consecutive year the Giants finish a division rivalry in the first half of a season. On paper, these would be two very important games for the Giants to win given how tough the rest of their schedule shapes up to be.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: vs Oakland (1:00, CBS)
The 2012 Raiders were a horrible, horrible football team and 2013 will likely see the same. In part because of an absurd trade for Carson Palmer, bad signings and years of bad drafting by Al Davis, the Raiders are a team without much talent, much money or many draft picks to help improve the team. They did acquire Matt Flynn from the Seahawks but he can only help so much. Running back Darren McFadden had the worst season of his career, gaining only 707 yards on 216 carries.
Oakland is a team on the right track but on paper (to be clear), they just don’t match up well with the Giants. While a repeat of the 44-7 massacre in their last trip to the Meadowlands might not be reasonable to expect, the game probably won’t be all that close.
Week 11: vs Green Bay (8:20, NBC)
The Packers make a trip to the Meadowlands for a third consecutive year. Last season, the Giants walloped the Packers 38-10, also on Sunday Night Football. Aaron Rodgers did not play well, going 14/25 for 219 yards, a touchdown and a pick, as he was overwhelmed by a pass rush that sacked him five times.
Green Bay lost wideout Greg Jennings this offseason, but still have plenty of weapons in Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley. Odds are good that the Giants won’t hold GB to 10 points again. The odds are also good that the Giants will be able to put up 30 points on the Green Bay defense though.
Week 12: vs Dallas (4:25, FOX)
The second meeting of the season against the Cowboys and the Giants third consecutive home game. While Romo is always scrutinized by Giants fans, he has played very well against the Giants, particularly in the Meadowlands. In his last four games there, he’s thrown 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions, completing over 70 percent of his passes each time.
Week 13: at Washington (8:20, NBC)
The second time in four seasons the Giants will be playing the Redskins twice in the last five weeks of the season. It also marks the first time the Giants will be going up against Robert Griffin III.
Griffin suffered injuries to his LCL and ACL in the Redskins playoff loss against Seattle back in January. Barring something catastrophic, he should play in this game which is very bad news for the Giants. In their first meeting last season, Griffin savaged the Giants, going for 20/28 for 258 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT while running for 89 yards, with the Giants only being saved by a miracle Victor Cruz 80 yard touchdown in a 27-23 win. The next meeting didn’t go so well for the Giants, a 17-16 loss in which Griffin didn’t do much in the air but he and running back Alfred Morris ran over the Giants.
One of the biggest keys for the Giants this season will be how they handle the option read. The Giants didn’t handle it well at all in 2012 and if they don’t make serious adjustments, they’re going to have problems.
Week 14: at San Diego (4:25, FOX)
The last memory the Giants have of Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers is Rivers throwing a perfect strike to Vincent Jackson over the head of Corey Webster for a touchdown with 30 seconds to go in a gut-wrenching 21-20 loss back in 2009.
Things have changed greatly for the Chargers since then. Norv Turner is gone, replaced by Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Jackson is a Buccaneer and Rivers has gone from one of the best quarterbacks in football to something less than the best. River put up decent enough numbers in 2012, throwing 26 TDs to 15 INTs for an 88.1 QB rating but the Chargers went 7-9 and Rivers arm strength has almost completely dissipated at age 32.
Rivers has talent and McCoy did well with Peyton Manning’s less than full strength arm last year, but some guys simply lose it at a certain point. Rivers might be one of those guys.
Week 15: vs Seattle (1:00, FOX)
Probably the second best team on the Giants schedule. The Seahawks went 11-5 in 2012 under first year quarterback Russell Wilson and they’ve gotten significantly better. They acquired multi-functional receiver Percy Harvin from Minnesota, who will fit well in Seattle’s unique offense. They’ve added pass rushers Cliff Avril from Detroit and Michael Bennett from Tampa to fix one of their biggest holes in 2012. They also just added slot corner Antoine Winfield, giving Seattle a tremendous secondary with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner at corner and Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at safety.
This is a nightmare matchup for the Giants. Seattle has a loaded defense and a dangerous offense that features a beastly running back in Marshawn Lynch, wideouts in Sidney Rice and Harvin, and Wilson who had a tremendous rookie season (64.1 completion percentage, 26 TDs, 10 INTs, 3118 passing yards, 489 rushing yards).
Needless to say, I don’t see the Giants winning this one.
Week 16: at Detroit (4:05, FOX)
Simply put, the 2012 Lions season did not go well. They went 4-12, losing their final eight games, giving up 437 points. Their lone bright spot was Calvin “Megatron” Johnson who broke Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yards record, putting up 1,964 total.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for almost 5,000 yards but that was largely a function of the Lions facing so many large deficits, leading Stafford to make 727 pass attempts, an NFL record. He threw 20 TDs, but also 17 interceptions and a 79.1 QB rating.
The Lions faced the opposite problem of the Vikings, in that they were totally reliant on the pass. The Lions had a mostly ineffective running game, averaging only 4.1 YPC, 18th in the NFL. The Lions made a huge step to improve that, signing running back Reggie Bush from the Miami Dolphins.
Stafford is only 25 and had a monstrous season back in 2011. If Bush plays like he did in Miami and the Lions can find someone to throw to other than Johnson, the Lions will be tough to stop on offense. Like many of the games on their schedule, this will probably be a game where the Giants have to score 30 to win.
Week 17: vs Washington (1:00, FOX)
The season finale, and the third consecutive year the Giants close with a division rival at home. The NFL schedule makers probably scheduled this game envisioning the Giants and Redskins as the two best teams in the NFC East. The Giants will have to hope this game is as meaningful as their game against Dallas in 2011 and not as mostly meaningless as their game against Philadelphia last year.
The Giants schedule appears to be a bit more balanced than in years past. While the second half schedule features tough matchups with Seattle, Dallas, Washington twice and Green Bay, there are also games against Oakland, San Diego, and Detroit, who combined to go 15-33 in 2012. The Giants bye is also nicely in Week 9, which is better than an early bye not too late.
While the common narrative has been that the Giants choke in the second half, the Giants simply need to play better football in 2013. If Eli Manning doesn’t get his head on straight and the Giants secondary doesn’t improve, the order of schedule will be irrelevant.
My early, early guess? The Giants go 10-6 and win the NFC East on the final day of the season. Of course, things can change and they will.