Toughest Games on the New York Giants' 2nd-Half Schedule
Under head coach Tom Coughlin, the Giants have risen from the dead before, but to bounce all the way back from an 0-6 start would be a first for even the 67-year-old coaching guru with two Super Bowls to his name. However, with the entire NFC East seemingly in shambles, anything is possible—the 2-6 Giants are only two games behind the division-leading Dallas Cowboys.
They have eight games left to make up that difference. The Giants' bye week will occur smack-dab in the middle of their 2013 schedule. This will allow them to regroup at the season's exact midpoint, setting the stage for a second-half surge back into contention.
The Giants need more than pep talks and ice baths during their Week 9 bye, though. A tough road lies ahead, and the New York team that takes the field in the second half of the season must be markedly improved from the one we saw in the first half.
In addition to the three divisional contests remaining on the schedule—which includes a Sunday night bout with the Washington Redskins in Week 13—these matchups could cause Big Blue the most trouble moving forward.
Week 11 vs. Green Bay Packers
The Giants can't overlook the Oakland Raiders, which they will face in Week 10 immediately following the bye. But it's difficult not to have one eye down the road focused on November 17—the date Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are scheduled to visit MetLife Stadium.
Since their 2010 Super Bowl run, the Packers have been one of the NFC's toughest teams to beat. Rodgers is widely regarded as the league's most dangerous quarterback, as he is both a prolific passer as well as a veritable threat to run with the ball. He has quarterbacked the Pack to four consecutive playoff seasons, including an impressive 15-win regular season in 2011.
Rodgers and the 5-2 Packers are well on their way to yet another successful season, and it's doubtful that they will allow the lowly Giants to screw up their stranglehold on NFC North supremacy. Green Bay, however, has had its troubles with New York in recent meetings.
Although the Packers lead the all-time series with the Giants, 31-25-2 (including playoffs), New York has had the upper hand in the rivalry as of late.
First, in Week 13 of the 2011 season, the Giants nearly spoiled the Packers' then-perfect season, falling 38-35, thanks to a Mason Crosby field goal that sailed through the uprights as time wound down. The Giants fell to 6-6 after that game, as the loss marked New York's fourth in a row as the playoffs approached.
They would meet again that season—this time in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs at Lambeau Field. The underdog Giants took the heavily favored Packers by surprise, storming out with a convincing 37-20 victory. The highlight of the game was an Eli Manning-to-Hakeem Nicks Hail Mary just before halftime.
Then, the two teams met again last year. In what may have been the high point of the Giants' 2012 season, New York walloped Green Bay, 38-10, as Manning threw three touchdown strikes—one each to Nicks, Victor Cruz and then-rookie Rueben Randle.
Not many teams get the best of Rodgers multiple times, so you can bet he'll be out to avenge those losses when the Packers come to town in Week 10.
Week 14 at San Diego Chargers
The Giants will enter one of their toughest stretches of the 2013 season in Week 14, when they are scheduled to take their first and only trip to the West Coast.
The San Diego Chargers, New York's Week 14 opponents, have rolled with the punches to a 4-3 start in 2013. The Chargers lost by 10 to the Oakland Raiders in Week 5 but rebounded with a 10-point victory over the Indianapolis Colts a week later. When facing San Diego, teams still aren't exactly sure what they're up against.
They do know, however, that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, whom the Giants traded to acquire Eli Manning way back in 2004, is enjoying a career year. After slumping slightly in each of the past two seasons, he is deadly accurate once again, posting a completion percentage of 73.9 and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 3:1 through seven games.
The cross-country travel could wear on the Giants when they face the Chargers, who currently possess a 2-0 record vs. NFC East opponents. San Diego has the opportunity to be 3-0 vs. the "NFC Least" by the time it hosts New York in Week 14, as the Chargers also face the Washington Redskins in Week 9.
The Giants and Chargers have only met 10 times since 1971, and the series is tied at five wins apiece. New York hasn't topped San Diego since the turn of the century, as the Chargers claimed a 45-23 win in 2005 and a 21-20 win in 2009.
The Chargers are toiling beneath both the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos in the AFC West, and they've yet to face either team this season. Things could change quickly for the Chargers, but for now they remain a rather unfamiliar foe, against whom New York has had limited success.
Are the Chargers contenders or pretenders? Will the Giants travel well to the West Coast?
At this point in time, the San Diego game is one of the toughest on the Giants' remaining schedule simply because of the uncertainty surrounding it.
Week 15 vs. Seattle Seahawks
With but a single loss at the season's midway point, the Seattle Seahawks have established themselves as one of the NFL's top Super Bowl contenders. In that same regard, quarterback Russell Wilson, a third-round selection in 2012, has been excellent as head coach Pete Carroll's offensive signal-caller.
However, it is the defense one must fear when facing the Seahawks. The stingy unit possesses superstar talent at all positions, including monster defensive backs in Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Don't expect a shootout when the league's third-ranked pass defense visits MetLife Stadium in Week 15.
Offensively, the Seahawks possess similar grit. They lean on a strong running game that is spearheaded by one of the toughest runners in the game today, Marshawn Lynch. To complement Lynch, the Seahawks should have wide receiver and utility weapon Percy Harvin fully integrated into the offense by the time Seattle and New York square off.
One could fathom Seattle rolling over the G-Men late in the 2013 season en route to a lengthy playoff run. Right now, the Seahawks have the best record in the NFC, and no team in the conference seems on the verge of unseating them. The Giants are the only NFC East squad with the misfortune of facing the Seahawks this season.
From 1976-2001, the Giants and Seahawks met nine times, with New York claiming victory in six contests. However, since the divisions were re-aligned in 2002, which caused the Seahawks to jump conferences, the two teams have met six times, with each winning three games. The last time they faced each other was in 2011, when backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst relieved Seattle starter Tarvaris Jackson in a 36-25 win for the 'Hawks.
It's amazing how far Seattle has come in just a couple of quick years.
A ray of optimism: New York has scored more than 40 points in each of its last two victories over the Seahawks. Perhaps the offense will prevent Big Blue from becoming Seattle's doormat to the playoffs.
Week 16 at Detroit Lions
Capping off what is likely to be the Giants' toughest three-game stretch of the year, New York will travel to Detroit, where it will face Matthew Stafford's Lions. Detroit currently sports a 5-3 record after its heart-stopping victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the final seconds of last week's tilt.
The Lions are on the verge of separating themselves from the NFC's middle-of-the-pack squads. Under head coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions have been up and down, displaying promise one week only to follow it up with disappointment the next. After qualifying for the postseason with a 10-6 record in 2011, the Lions tanked in 2012, winning just four games.
With the Lions, however, there is always one player whom opponents must be wary of: wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He set the single-season receiving yardage record last year with 1,964 yards. You can see him on countless highlight reels snatching improbable passes out of the air despite double and triple coverage.
Who in the league—let alone on the Giants roster—can match up with the physically imposing wideout?
New York will attempt to answer that question in December, when the Giants enter Ford Field in search of a Week 16 win. The game plan must revolve around slowing down Johnson. That should be a challenging change of pace for the Giants defense, which has effectively pinned down opposing offenses by stifling elite running backs, not receivers.
Unlike the relationship that New York has with the Chargers and Seahawks, the Giants' rivalry with the Lions is rich and storied. The two teams have met 41 times, including seven instances from 1930-1933 when the Lions still went by the Portsmouth Spartans. Detroit leads the all-time series, 19-21-1, which includes the Lions' 26-7 victory over the Giants in the 1935 NFL Championship Game.
Since 1976, however, New York has dropped just four contests against Detroit, tallying 10 wins in the process. The last meeting between them was in 2010, when the Giants pulled out a 28-10 victory over the visiting Lions.
If New York can survive back-to-back-to-back games versus San Diego, Seattle and Detroit late in the season—as well as its three remaining divisional contests and a tough Week 11 matchup with the Packers—the Giants will be back in business.
Let's call it wishful thinking.