Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 04-24-15

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.


By Aaron Klein
You may have noticed that the 2015 NFL schedule came out this week. The announcement of said slate has become an almost ridiculous spectacle, broadcast on not one but two networks (ESPN and NFL Network), while social media was able to flush out a few key games during the afternoon before the official release. And now? The show is over and the schedule will not change. Instead, it will sit there, grabbing constant attention and becoming the tool with which many will attempt to predict every team's final record, using such buzzy phrases as "strength of schedule" and "trap games" and "easy stretch."

Look, the Giants were 6-10 last season and it doesn't matter if they draft this guy or signed that guy, there are no easy games in the NFL for 6-10 teams, though a close look at the 2015 schedule reveals somewhat of a rollercoaster ride on the path to the playoffs. Their record helped the Giants draw what has been perceived as an easier schedule, but let's not forget that those weaker teams, like the Giants, have also been trying to improve while some of the better teams of 2014 lost some key players in free agency.

Right off the bat, the Giants will earn their keep with three NFC games, including the opener at NFC East winner Dallas and a Week 3 home game against division rival Washington with retooling Atlanta right in the middle in Week 2.

The old mantra that says the NFL, like life, is a marathon and not a sprint may be true. We must look at the potential impact not only of each game individually but also in terms of meaningful factors that are easy to overlook, like conference record, division record and common opponents, each one of those carrying quite an effect on a team's post-season chances.

Three conference games in a row, followed by a trip to the suddenly respectable Buffalo Bills ... respectable on paper and in the ether since few teams are anything but equal until the cleats hit the turf.

Most coaches like to look at the season in quarters, generally figuring that a 3-1 record in each quarter will result in a 12-4 record and (most likely), a division title.

What might be the Giants' toughest quarter comes early this season, but we'll only know for sure once the season is in full swing. Still, it's hard to imagine that the four-game stretch that includes a home game against San Francisco, a trip to Philadelphia, a home game against Dallas in Week 7 and a trip to New Orleans for Halloween in Week 8 will be anything but easy, despite what you may think you know.

Notice anything in particular about that second quarter? Right, another set of four conference games, making it seven NFC games out of the first eight. The Giants have the AFC East this year, and three out of four of those games are bunched up late in the third quarter of the schedule.

What does that all mean, if anything? It's that the Giants can gain an upper hand in the conference early ... assuming they can win most of those early NFC games. The third quarter only appears to be a chance to breathe, with a trip to Tampa Bay in Week 9 (the Giants' second straight trip to an NFC South team), New England at home in Week 10, the bye in Week 11, a visit to Washington in Week 12, and a true home game against the cross-state rival Jets.

Time to breathe? If anything, the Giants must press the pedal against seemingly weaker teams like the Bucs, Washington and the Jets. Undoubtedly, the Giants have already circled Nov. 15 on the calendar, zeroing in on the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the Evil Empire, the Arch Enemies.

After that stretch, there's still a quarter to go, kicking off with a trip to the potentially upstart Miami Dolphins in Week 14, and wrapping up the slate with three straight conference games against Carolina, at Minnesota and, finally, at home to wrap up the regular season against the Chip Kelly Eagles.

Let's take a microscope to some key games, shall we?

Dallas, in the opener, will be without DeMarco Murray in the backfield, but instead will run Darren McFadden. Can you say drop off? We'll see, but don't be surprised if the Cowboys use their first-round pick on the best running back on the board. We'll also have to see if middle linebacker Sean Lee can return from a devastating knee injury and, in general, if last year was a fluke or not.

Speaking of Murray, he's now in Philadelphia, where he joined new quarterback (for now?) Sam Bradford, who came over from St. Louis in a trade of quarterback Nick Foles.

Washington, the third NFC East roommate, has been struggling with the realization that quarterback Robert Griffin III may not be the answer after all. Don't be surprised if the team drafts another quarterback, maybe even in the first round, or at least opens up the competition at that position. See, head coach Jay Gruden doesn't seem convinced that RG-3 is the right guy but owner Daniel Snyder doesn't want to give up. Who could blame him since the team sold the farm to get the former Baylor star who has struggled with injuries and performance?

The Giants swept Washington last year but were swept by both Dallas and Philadelphia. You want to make the playoffs? You have to get out of the division first, and going 2-4 in the East isn't going to cut it.

Are you excited about the chances to beat San Francisco since they lost head coach Jim Harbaugh and starters Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Patrick Willis and Chris Borland? Sure, but do you really think San Francisco hasn't been working on filling those voids?

We could go on, but we'll know plenty about the Giants by the time they go to New Orleans. What the Giants can't afford is a slow start, yet that's exactly what they've delivered in each of the last three seasons. This year's schedule seems to favor a strong start, but there's no way of telling if they can escape that first quarter at 3-1, or the first half at 6-2.

But there's always hope.

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- Team Giants

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