NY Giants: Best case scenario for the 2021 season
By John Makuch
The NY Giants had a rough 0-5 start to the 2020 season, then finished the year out with a 6-10 record. This disappointed many Giants fans who had hoped for the postseason. Being an Eagles win away from the Playoffs did not help either.
New York went 6-10 with the seventh-easiest schedule in the NFL, based on opponent winning percentage the previous season. In 2021, the NY Giants have the fourth-easiest schedule in the NFL, part of this is due to the NFC East having a poor season as a whole in 2020.
All things considered, 6-10 was a realistic expectation for the Giants in 2020 and is a decent improvement from a 4-12 record the year before. It is also worth considering the loss of top-five running back Saquon Barkley in week two against Chicago.
Winning six games with your best player injured, offensive line struggles, and a first-year head coach was not the worst-case scenario for this team, especially considering a few games that came down to one score and were a play away from becoming a Giants win.
If Evan Engram catches the pass against Philadelphia, if the pass interference is called or Jones hits the wide-open man against Tampa Bay, and if a few plays go the Giants way against Dallas we are talking about a 9-7 division-winning Giants team.
Now, this is not to excuse the NY Giants’ shortcomings in offensive production and total play, it just goes to show that this team may be a bit closer than one might think.
Looking at 2021, there is a realistic path to a solid record for the Giants, and the strength of schedule shows that path.
The NY Giants have to take on their six divisional opponents, and one game against each team in the NFC South and AFC West. Both divisions have winnable games, but also teams that may be a bit daunting for this team.
Starting with their own division, the NFC East, at least a 4-2 record is necessary if the Giants want to take the division crown. The most realistic path is sweeping an Eagles team going through a quarterback change and depleting talent. The Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys are two squads the Giants can and must take a game against, last season the Giants swept Washington so a game is winnable.
WFT may also be having their own quarterback issues as it is unclear how good Taylor Heinicke can be, so there could be a weakness or controversy there.
While in Dallas, Dak Prescott is recovering from a horrific knee injury, hopefully, he can return to 100%, but there is a possibility he is not as good as he was at the beginning of 2020. Regardless of Prescott, the defense does not seem to be going through the improvements it needs to yet, so that is still a weakness the Giants can exploit.
Barkley will be going on a revenge tour in the NFC East as he is most likely hungry to help those rivals remember just how good he was before that knee injury.
Barkley also has a revenge opportunity against the Chicago Bears, the team he suffered that ACL tear to. Playing the Bears on the road will make it tougher, but it is more than possible the Giants kick off their season with a win there.
The divisions are where things get a bit more interesting, especially in the NFC South. The Falcons at home is a winnable game as that team continues to get older and has a suspect defense. The Giants will also take on a Carolina Panthers team at home, this is an underrated middle-of-the-pack team that should be a good game and a crucial one for the Giants.
Every game is a must-win, but these two are winnable games that may be necessary considering the other two teams in this division.
The Saints and Buccaneers are both playoff teams and should be playoff teams once again in 2021. Tampa Bay is the defending Super Bowl champions, and with Tom Brady leading the charge, this will be a tough game for the Giants to win and could be a loss there. However, this was a one-score game in 2020 as the NY Giants always seem to keep it close against Brady.
New Orleans is either running it back with a declining Drew Bress or going with a new quarterback in Jameis Winston or even Taysom Hill. The quarterback situation is the least of the Giants’ worries, running back Alvin Kamara is a nearly unstoppable weapon no matter who is throwing the football. Michael Thomas is always a productive receiver as well, and that defense is no joke.
Both of these games are also on the road, making those two that much tougher for the Giants, anything can happen but these most likely will end up as losses for New York.
The AFC West has fewer games for the Giants to feel comfortable winning in, unfortunately. The Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, and Raiders are the opponents in this division and all of these teams are looking to improve in 2021.
Everyone knows how dangerous this Kansas City Chiefs team is, the reigning AFC champions show no signs of slowing down in 2021 and will look to redeem themselves after a disappointing Super Bowl. Most teams in the NFL need a miracle to beat them, and the Giants find themselves in that group, so this is a loss especially on the road.
As for the Las Vegas Raiders, they are a hit or miss team week by week led by Jon Gruden and Derek Carr at the moment. The defense is looking to solidify themselves but the offense has made up for them at times. This being a home game improves the Giants’ chances for them, but this is most likely going to be a coin flip.
The Los Angeles Chargers are in a similar situation, second-year quarterback Justin Herbert has all the hype around him, but only time will tell if he has a sophomore slump. This Chargers squad has a first-year head coach, and time will also tell if he is the guy to put them over the hump. The Giants have a good chance to win this game, however, so this is a chance they have to take.
The Denver Broncos went through a lot of injuries and hardships in 2020, losing Von Miller and playing a game without a quarterback at one point did not show us what this team is when healthy. Many had this team as a dark horse AFC wild card team, and a healthy year with Drew Lock will show if they were right in 2021. This will also be a challenge for the Giants but it is at home, so this is the most winnable game out of these four.
Realistically, the Raiders and Broncos are the most likely wins with the Chargers being a maybe. With two wins against the NFC South and AFC West along with five divisional wins, the Giants would be at nine wins with the chance to win 10 or 11 against a Chargers team or New Orleans squad.
Chicago is also a possible win, but a matchup against the Rams, not so much. Los Angeles has recently acquired Matthew Stafford and still has a top-five defense in the NFL, the Giants have a very low chance of taking this win.
That gives the NY Giants a solid chance to win nine games this season, with 10, 11, or even 12 being a stretch, but possible at the very least. The worst-case scenario would include losses to the Raiders, Panthers, or even the Broncos and Falcons. This leaves the Giants in range to win anywhere from six to 11 games this season, so meeting in the middle at eight or nine seems most likely.
Another factor would be how good are the rest of the teams in the NFC East. Last year, 7-9 won this division but it is unlikely this happens for the second year in a row, but it is not impossible. An 8-8 Giants team could find themselves as division champions if 2021 is anything like last year, but a winning record would ensure the best chance at a division title.
Getting better year after year is going to be the main focus of 2021 for the Giants as well as getting Barkley back into this offense. It will most likely be another year full of ups and downs, but fans should be ready for whatever lies ahead for this squad.