5 NFC Teams Bound to Give the New York Giants Headaches in 2013
The National Football Conference is an assembly of some of the NFL's best teams. Each year presents an impossible task of handicapping which teams will emerge from the parity as contenders. 2013 will be no different, as the New York Giants will look to re-establish their footing in the NFC playoff picture.
In recent years, a number of teams in the wild NFC have shown they can be the class of the conference.
If the Giants want to bounce back from a disappointing 9-7 season in 2012 and make a deep run into the playoffs, they will need to play their very best football against these franchises.
Glaring mismatches and a poor run of form in recent seasons are two of the most pertinent factors when determining which teams could potentially give the Giants fits in 2013. Not all of these clubs are slated to play New York this season, but there is a distinct possibility a meeting will take place during the playoffs.
Here are the five teams most likely to pose a threat to the Giants in their quest to contend for Super Bowl XLVIII.
5. Detroit Lions
Yes, they lost eight straight to end 2012 en route to a dismal 4-12 record. And yes, their defense has been consistently bad for quite some time. But what the Detroit Lions lack on defense, they make up for by employing one Megatron.
The mismatches created by having Calvin Johnson on the field are game-changing.
Not by any stretch of the imagination is this an X's and O's wizard going out on a limb. The connection between quarterback Matthew Stafford and Johnson is the most dangerous battery running today.
Johnson's NFL-record 1,964 receiving yards in 2012 aren't the only bright spot for this team moving forward.
Eight of Detroit's 12 losses last season were by a touchdown or less. This team admittedly punched well below their weight in 2012.
It's almost impossible to think the Lions will continue to have that type of hard luck again this fall.
The Giants will likely be a slight underdog when they head to the Motor City for a Week 16 clash. Barring any health issues on the Lions end, this should be a tremendous game with playoff implications.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Spoiler alert: The defending NFC East champion Washington Redskins are not on this list. Despite the fact that Washington has gone 3-1 in the past two seasons against New York, there are question marks surrounding Robert Griffin III that are too big to ignore.
Perhaps this is more of an indictment of the Cowboys than the Redskins, since the case will be made for Jerry Jones' bunch by predicting a downward spiral for D.C.
Any way you look at it, Washington's offense will not be as dynamic as it was in 2012. There are conflicting reports regarding RG3's ability to suit up for a game this preseason. Count me in as one of the dissenting opinions who believe that will not happen.
The Redskins' decision to continually reap the full reward of Griffin's ability by running the read-option attack will be pivotal.
New York's lack of speed at linebacker was very apparent in both games against Washington last year. However, for obvious reasons, RG3 will be susceptible to further injury by continuing to run this aggressive style. If Griffin is no longer exposed to getting hit consistently, that likely means he has been handcuffed by a different style of offense designed to protect him more.
A severe decline in dynamism on offense will be D.C.'s downfall, thus the hated Dallas Cowboys will be the team New York should worry about when vying for the NFC East crown.
3. New Orleans Saints
Losing your highly-respected head coach for an entire season cannot be taken lightly. New Orleans went 7-9 last season in the wake of Sean Payton's suspension. With their coach back in the fold, expect the Saints to revert back to their winning ways.
Although the Giants do not play New Orleans this season, there is a distinct possibility these two high-powered offenses could meet in the postseason.
Home-field advantage is a widely accepted element to the tilt of a football game. The home team in this particular matchup has absolutely dominated the opponent of late.
New Orleans outscored the Giants 97-51 in their past two games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New York returned the favor by walloping Drew Brees and Co. 52-27 last season.
It's become quite apparent that the Giants are out of their element down in Louisiana. The combination of a raucous crowd, an explosive offense and indoor turf have proven impossible to deal with. If these two franchises meet in the 2013 postseason, expect the home team to advance running away.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Thirty-four-to-nothing. That's the drubbing New York took at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons late in 2012. It was the sort of performance you'd like to forget if you support the Giants. Unfortunately, some of the memories from that game are tough to erase.
Atlanta took a few steps forward last season in showing it is capable of competing for a Super Bowl.
Despite advancing in the playoffs, plenty of doubts surround this club. A year before demolishing the Giants on their home turf, the Falcons only managed two points in a wild-card tilt in New York. A mere safety was their scoreboard output. You try to figure this team out.
The Falcons' 13-3 record in 2012 was an indicator of their ability to win close games when they had to. Will they be as good this year? No. But there is little doubt this team will be back in the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
1. San Francisco 49ers
With the top two NFC West teams not mentioned and only one spot remaining, somebody had to be unceremoniously left off this list. That team, of course, is the Seattle Seahawks.
A defense sharing, ahem, "Adderall" like it's Skittles is never a good look. This team may be able to cover up a PED epidemic, but they likely won't avoid being 2013's biggest disappointment.
San Francisco tops this list because it does two very important things exceptionally well. Jim Harbaugh's team ranked fourth in rushing offense and third in total defense last season. A steady dose of these two elements can make a team unbeatable at times.
The highly-touted Colin Kaepernick may ultimately be San Francisco's lone weakness this fall.
Kaepernick is a solid dual-threat quarterback but is overrated in terms of his passing ability. A long delivery on short passes is something the Niners will need to work around.
The Giants have had strong performances against San Francisco in recent years. In each of their past two meetings, New York left the West Coast a very happy bunch. Oddly enough, this factor somehow contributes to San Francisco's ability to cause the Giants problems.
The 49ers have been eerily close to winning it all the past two seasons. If you believe motivation to be a factor in football games (and you should), then the Giants should do everything in their power to avoid San Francisco. This is a hungry team on a mission.