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Sent: 06-30-16

E-GIANTS
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.

PLAYING QUARTERS: AN EARLY REVIEW OF THE 2016 SCHEDULE

By Aaron Klein
Sure, the Giants and everyone else in the NFL just broke for their version of summer vacation, but looming in the distance is this thing called the 2016 regular season.

More specifically, there is this thing called the schedule, which lists, chronologically, the 16 games the Giants must play and the teams they'll face.

Yes, of course you know what a schedule is, but in this lull between seasons - training camp opens July 28 - it seems as good a time as any to review the schedule, looking tough stretches, key games, specific beats and notes that could determine the outcome of the season. There will be no easy weeks, except the bye, and any comparison to the ridiculous Strength of Schedule analytic will be rejected by this writer since so much has changed, both for the Giants and their 16 opponents.

There is a common notion, only sometimes credited to former head coach Tom Coughlin, that the season can evenly be broken into quarters and that the goal of each team should be to win three out of four games in each quarter, which would, in turn, result in a 12-4 record.

Every NFL team has 16 chances to win, that's all. However, a team could go 12-4 and miss the playoffs or, rarely, go 8-8 and make it into the post-season. Still, there are only 16 shots at it in 17 weeks. That means pro football teams have a lot to do in a short time frame.

Time and the perception of it. That's really what we're talking about here. In baseball, for example, the season is made up of 162 games, basically over six months. So, each month means something else - April is when teams see glimmers of good and bad; May might show you what you have; in June you start to tinker and in July you decide if you have a good team, if you need to make moves to compete a playoff spot or if you want to bail out until next year.

Too slow. Every baseball season feels like forever, in my opinion, replete with a sore lack of urgency.

The Giants, like the 31 other NFL teams, have 16 chances in those 17 weeks to get it all done. There is no waiting around to see what the team is going to be like. That's why there's free agency, the Draft, Organized Team Activities, the off-season workout program, the mini-camps, training camp and four preseason games. Once the season begins, everything is at 100 miles an hour with no turning back and re-tooling.

Sure, teams can tinker a bit with the roster, but no one move, save the return of a superstar from injury or suspension, will blast the roster with energy and propel the team to new heights.

With all that said, the Giants open the 2016 season on Sept. 11 in Dallas at 4:25 Eastern in a meeting that, even though it will be Week 1, could carry implications with it all the way into December and impact the postseason While one would like to think that the Giants can win this first one and get a leg up on the East, don't forget that they haven't won the first game of any season since 2010 when they beat the Carolina Panthers, 31-18. That sounds bad, but also note that they lost the season-openers in 2007 and 2011 ... on their way to Super Bowl championships.

Talk about the need for a quick start. And remember, winning a division isn't the only way to make the playoffs as a Wild Card is just as efficient. You have to be in it to win it, as the saying goes.

FIRST QUARTER That season opener in Dallas starts a stretch of the schedule that will see the Giants face seven NFC foes in eight games, including two NFC East rivals. They'll come home on Sept. 18 to host the New Orleans Saints then the division winning Redskins on Sept. 25 before traveling to NFC North champion Minnesota on Oct. 3. Winning three out of those four NFC games to kick off the season would go a long way toward setting the Giants up for the long haul.

SECOND QUARTER Aiming toward the halfway mark, the Giants travel to Green Bay in Week 5 on Oct. 9 to face the Packers, another crucial conference rival - gotta pay attention when it comes to the Wild Card spots - followed by a home game against their first AFC team, Baltimore, on Oct. 16 and a trip to the new/old Los Angeles Rams - in London -- before a well-needed bye comes on Oct. 30. The Giants could win all three of those games and then have a weekend off to regroup before their Nov. 6 clash against Philadelphia, the first time those two will meet this year.

THIRD QUARTER Once the season's halftime passes, the Giants have three out of four non-conference games to play (these can never be overlooked) as they finish out the AFC Central with games at home against Cincinnati on Nov. 14 and then against NFC North hopeful Chicago on Nov. 20 before two road trips to the Rust Belt to play at Cleveland on Nov. 27 and at Pittsburgh on Dec. 4.

FOURTH QUARTER Finally, the Giants finish out the final four weeks of the season against NFC opponents, including all three division rivals, potentially making this quarter of the season the most crucial if all goes well in the first 12 games. Home games against Dallas and Detroit come before road games at Philly on Dec. 22 and at Washington on New Year's Day. Perhaps the Giants will have run away with the division by then, or perhaps they will be lurking in the basement. However, if the Giants remain in the race, and there's no reason to think they won't, these two road games against the Eagles and Redskins could make or break the Giants' season.

Is 3-1 in each quarter possible? Sure it is. So is 4-0... but so is 2-2, 1-3 or 0-4 in any one of them. That's why they play the games, right?

Questions? Comments? Opinions?
Send them over to aklein22@verizon.net
and follow me on Twitter @_AaronKlein_
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @E_Giants
And check us out online at www.e-giants.net

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

NOW - Send a request to davesklein@aol.com for a free week's worth of news!

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