New York Giants: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Each Game on 2012 Schedule
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
In just two and a half weeks, the New York Giants will report to the University of Albany for their first taste of training camp. The 2012 season continues to inch closer, and Big Blue nation is already buzzing with anticipation.
The Giants will look to become the eighth NFL franchise to snag consecutive Super Bowl championships, but a serpentine road lies ahead. A bevy of question marks remain along the offensive line, and New York will see a grueling second-half schedule.
Let's take a preliminary crack at the best and worst-case scenarios for all 16 of New York's upcoming games.
Week 1: Vs. Dallas Cowboys (Wednesday Night NFL Season Opener)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Giants kick off the 2012 campaign by hosting their arch-rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
Picking up where they left off last season, the G-Men light up the scoreboard against Big D's new-look secondary, as incoming corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne fail to adjust to Dallas' nuanced system in Week 1. After tallying a 109.7 quarterback rating against Big D in 2011, Eli Manning continues to air it out.
On defense, New York attacks the edge and exploits Doug Free, a potential liability who makes the move to right tackle this summer. The defending champs dispel early notions of illegitimacy, tallying an opening-round knockout on their NFC East foes.
Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas struggles in his first game since 2010, and the Cowboys find their vertical touch with Miles Austin (pictured) and Dez Bryant. New York's running game comes up flat against DeMarcus Ware and Dallas' formidable front line.
It's a long night for Manning, who faces perpetual pressure from Dallas' blitzing 'backers. The Giants struggle to block and defend the pass, en route to a bad loss on national television.
Week 2: Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 PM)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The Giants enjoy their second home game in as many weeks, facing the lowly Bucs on a Sunday afternoon.
Greg Schiano's team can't make the jump early on, and Tampa continues to struggle on both ends of the ball.
The Giants exploit Tampa's league-worst run defense from a year ago, and rookie David Wilson enjoys a breakout day. Eli Manning stays unscathed against the Bucs' paltry front four, who also ranked last in sacks in 2011, and New York proves to be too much to handle on the offensive end of things.
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (pictured) continues to regress behind center, and New York's defense takes full advantage.
Tampa Bay boasts one of the best offensive lines in football, and with time in the pocket, Freeman finds Vincent Jackson all afternoon. New cornerback Eric Wright limits Hakeem Nicks' production.
New York struggled at times against the run during the regular season, and Tampa's tandem of Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount prove to be a mismatch. The Giants fall victims to a trap game in Week 2.
Week 3: At Carolina Panthers (Thursday Night Football)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The G-Men take their show on the road for the first time in 2012, squaring off against quarterback Cam Newton (pictured) and the upstart Panthers under the lights.
The Giants run rampant on Carolina, who allowed 4.6 yards per carry to opposing backs in 2011. Eli, Nicks and receiver Victor Cruz have standout nights against a suspect Panthers secondary, while Carolina's slew of holes on the o-line limit Newton's scramble chances.
New York capitalizes on Carolina's inexperience and takes the W in Week 3.
After limited exposure to Philadelphia dual-threat Michael Vick in 2011, the Giants are caught off guard by Newton, who keeps the Panthers afloat with his explosive playmaking. Carolina's top-tier backfield, comprising of halfbacks DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and combo-back Mike Tolbert, open up the offense even further.
Carolina is bolstered by a rowdy crowd and edges Eli and company in a high-scoring affair. Panthers end Charles Johnson picks up a sack or two.
Week 4: At Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday Night Football)
Al Bello/Getty Images
New York and Philly renew their rivalry in prime-time, as two division contenders go head-to-head in Week 4.
After knocking out Michael Vick in last year's Week 3 contest, the Giants bullrush the Eagles' shaky offensive line. With left tackle Jason Peters sidelined, New York's star ends get to Vick in a hurry.
Victor Cruz wreaks havoc in the slot like last season, and the Giants pull out a win in Sunday Night Football.
LeSean McCoy (pictured) makes Osi Umenyiora eat his words, picking apart New York's defense after averaging over five yards a carry against it in 2011. Philadelphia's cadre of receivers remains healthy and gives hell to last year's 29th ranked pass defense. The Giants' D falls from postseason form.
After notching 50 team sacks in 2011, Philly continues to pressure Manning, who completed under 60 percent of his attempts against the Eagles a year ago. Nnamdi Asomugha and company return to dominance behind Philadelphia's defensive line prowess.
Week 5: Vs. Cleveland Browns (1 PM)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
New York finds themselves in seemingly another trap game, this time a Week 5 bout with Cleveland.
The defending champs take care of business at home, and Eli Manning produces as the Giants take care of the Browns' lackluster front four. Cleveland's woes under center continue, and rookie running back Trent Richardson (pictured) is unable to transition to the pros after four games.
New York's all about defense as they savor an easy win.
In 2008, New York's first post-Super Bowl loss came by way of the Browns. In 2012, Josh Cribbs explodes out the gates, while Dick Jauron's third-ranked scoring defense from last season continues to succeed.
The Giants take a loss on a lazy Sunday afternoon before heading to the Bay in Week 6.
Week 6: At San Francisco 49ers (4:15 PM)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Round two of a thrilling NFC Championship game. Two of the conference's top teams duke it out in Cali.
Like last January's showdown, the Giants are able to play smart football and hold the Niners' offense in check. Wilson and Bradshaw find a little room to run, and New York's aerial firepower proves to be too much for the Niners to handle.
San Francisco signal-caller Alex Smith (pictured) can't duplicate 2011's successes, and new addition Randy Moss loses his vertical touch after leaving the game for a year.
San Francisco is looking like a clear-cut Super Bowl contender, and the Niners roll past the defending champs by getting in Manning's face. Justin and Aldon Smith lead a 49ers front seven that notched 12 QB hits on Eli in the conference final.
Former Giants Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs make significant impacts for their new team, while the Niners' top-five defense makes life tough on Eli, who threw six picks in four games against the NFC West last year.
Week 7: Vs. Washington Redskins (1 PM)
Al Bello/Getty Images
After losing both of their contests with Washington last year, the Giants see the 'Skins for the first time in Week 7.
The Giants take a win over their divison-mates. Washington allowed the third-most quarterback hits in 2011, and ends Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora give a rough welcome to rookie Redskin quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Newcomer Pierre Garcon struggles in a different system, while corners DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson struggle against the Giants' better receivers. The Big Blue defense paves the way for a Sunday afternoon blowout.
Griffin III makes it happen with his legs, and Roy Helu (pictured) and Tim Hightower cruise past an inconsistent Giants' run defense. New York's well-documented struggles with the 'Skins continue.
London Fletcher clogs the middle, and Fred Davis creates mismatches on the Giants safeties. Mike Shanahan's squad steals a game here.
Week 8: At Dallas Cowboys (4:15 PM)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
In 2011, the Giants first played the Cowboys in Week 14. This year, the season series concludes before New York's bye. Tony Romo (pictured) and Eli clash in the Lone Star State on a Sunday afternoon in October.
Cruz continues to dominate in the slot, and Jason Pierre-Paul returns to Cowboys Stadium to inflict more damage against a line that struggles on the outside. Dallas' secondary fails to see midseason progression, and the Giants post a big score once again.
With Eli and the passing game in place, Bradshaw and Wilson find a way to crack Dallas' slew of able linebackers. Big Blue marches into Arlington and controls the game tempo.
Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have things all figured out by Week 8, and the Giants' passing attack slumps. In their home environment, Dallas' blitzing defense causes problems. If Terrell Thomas can't stay healthy after a busy first half, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin create mismatches in the secondary.
The Cowboys win, and Amani Toomer's comments find proving ground.
Week 9: Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (4:15 PM)
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Two of the league's most prolific franchises, the Giants and the Steelers, kick off the second half of the season.
The Steelers' defense continues to show signs of aging, while the offensive line continues to show signs of inexperience. The Giants find a weakness at right corner in Keenan Lewis and go toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh in the trenches.
Discarding the handful of Terrible Towels in attendance, MetLife Stadium propels the home team to victory. Running back Rashard Mendenhall remains on the bench while Isaac Redman fails to make it as a full-time starter.
The Steelers' defense shows signs of experience, instead, while the offensive line looks young and athletic. Pittsburgh finds itself on the winning side of their gridiron crossroads, and end Brett Keisel and 'backers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are problems on the edge.
Receiver Mike Wallace burns Thomas or corner Corey Webster, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (pictured) encapsulates his steely persona with hard-nosed, pocket-expanding play.
Week 10: At Cincinnati Bengals (1 PM)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Two playoff teams from last year face off. Both the Giants and Bengals like to establish the vertical passing game.
Andy Dalton endures a grueling sophomore slump, while the Giants' running game has no problem against the 'Nati's front lines, who allowed four runs of 40-plus yards in 2011.
First-rounder Dre Kirpatrick can't line up against Nicks or Cruz, while Bengals 'back BenJarvus Green-Ellis labors through a new system. Aside from A.J. Green, nobody emerges as a viable receiving option, allowing the G-Men to zone in on the second-year pro.
Dalton's successes continue, and the Bengals attack tackles David Diehl and Will Beatty on the outside. Nobody in the secondary can match Green's agility, and after recording 48 sacks last year, the Bengals continue to go after the quarterback in 2012.
Cincinnati claims a win at the hands of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, while DT Domata Peko (pictured) helps shut down the interior against Bradshaw and Wilson.
Week 12: Vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday Night Football)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Two of the conference's premier teams go at it in a star-studded edition of Sunday Night Football. Aaron Rodgers (pictured) and Eli Manning make for one of the year's best QB battles.
Running back James Starks has trouble adjusting as a full-time starter, while incoming center Jeff Saturday shows every bit of his 37 years of age. The Pack inevitably put up points in bunches, but the Giants' defense trumps Green Bay's, and Eli leads Big Blue past one of the league's most porous secondaries.
Packers corner Charles Woodson clamps down on Nicks, while B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews pace Green Bay at the line of scrimmage. Aaron Rodgers plays at his usual All-Pro level, and tight end Jermichael Finley is a nightmare in the second level.
With a horde of Pro-Bowl caliber wideouts, the Giants have a tough time covering everyone, and the Pack revenge their divisional loss from a year ago.
Week 13: At Washington Redskins (Monday Night Football)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Robert Griffin III's (pictured) Redskins host Big Blue in Monday Night Football as the tail-end of the regular season is set in motion.
Even with a boisterous home environment, the Redskins play their shoddy brand of offense, and Griffin III struggles against New York's aggressive defensive line. The 'Skins lack a true identity with a rookie taking snaps.
Washington pieces things together in pass protection to no avail. The Giants' star power and penchant for big plays allows them to own the spotlight in prime-time.
The Redskins continue to nip at the Giants' heels. Linebacker Brian Orakpo is a problem for New York's shifting line, and subsequently, Manning has an off night. Washington steals another one from Big Blue.
Week 14: Vs. New Orleans Saints (4:15 PM)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Two of the league's best offenses shoot out in December.
In light of austere "Bountygate" punishments, the Saints have an off year. Prolific quarterback Drew Brees, engulfed by contract expectations and the loss of coach Sean Payton, is topped by Manning, while the Saints' defense packs no punch.
After losing Carl Nicks to Tampa Bay, the Saints struggle in pass protection, and the Giants' corners reap the benefits. New York earns a signature win here.
Bearing eerie semblance to 2011's Monday Night beatdown, the Saints' scoring machine is too much for the Giants to keep pace with. Running backs Darren Sproles (pictured), Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram cause trouble, and possession wide receiver Marques Colston comes up with a few clutch catches.
The Saints' defense can only go so far, but Brees and the offense more than carry the load, sending the Giants home with a late-season defeat.
Week 15: At Atlanta Falcons (1 PM)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
In what should be a game of massive playoff implications, the Giants and Falcons hit the Georgia Dome in week 15.
The success from 2011's Wild Card game continues. Matt Ryan (pictured) is stifled by the Giants' front lines, and Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster keep Julio Jones and Roddy White in line, respectively. The Giants' defense turns on the late-season jets and powers their way past Atlanta for a big win.
Eli Manning exploits the Falcons' 20th ranked pass defense from 2011, and Asante Samuel doesn't return to Pro-Bowl performance.
Atlanta shoots for a division title with New Orleans on the downswing and stomps past the G-Men in the process. Atlanta's offensive line takes huge strides after a key offseason, and Matt Ryan barrages the Giants' secondary.
Running back Michael Turner produces as usual, and Atlanta's defense comes up big behind end John Abraham and corner Brent Grimes.
Week 16: At Baltimore Ravens (1 PM)
Al Bello/Getty Images
New York's final road game is slated with the ever-arduous Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore's offensive line shows its age, and Joe Flacco takes a step backwards in 2012. Tuck and Pierre-Paul get to the quarterback, making life easier for Thomas and Webster on Ravens receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.
With a flair for the dramatic, Manning has a huge game, and the Giants take all they can get from the Ravens' D. With Victor Cruz in the slot, the Giants are able to steer around Baltimore's aggressive outside corners. The G-Men play tough and hang on for a notable win.
Ray Rice makes a seamless return to B-More and completely takes over the game. The Ravens' o-line gives Flacco the push he needs, while their defense remains one of the most dominant units in the league.
The Ravens were third in the NFL in sacks last year, and Eli is in for a long afternoon against the likes of linebacker Ray Lewis (pictured) and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata.
Week 17: Vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1 PM)
Al Bello/Getty Images
The 2012 campaign comes to a close as the Giants host the Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Both teams could be vying for a spot in the postseason.
The Giants find a way to contain Vick, and the Eagles' middling offensive depth catches up to them by Week 17. DeSean Jackson (pictured) and Jeremy Maclin are held in check, and Philly's offensive line fails to hold up any longer.
New York takes a year-end win on the strength of their pass rush, and Cruz and Nicks have big days against an inconsistent Eagles secondary.
LeSean McCoy and the Eagles' running game is a big factor in cold weather, and Philadelphia's pass blocking finds a way to hang in there. Nnamdi Asomugha (pictured) caps a big year with a clutch interception.
The Eagles win, and Vick torches the Giants with his arm and with his legs.