The New York Giants were one of the best turnaround stories of the 2016 season. After consecutive 6-10 campaigns, the Giants reached the playoffs last year following an 11-5 regular season.
Though they lost in the Wild Card Round to the Green Bay Packers, it was nonetheless a successful year for New York. The team's postseason berth was spurred on by an improved defense after the front office splurged in free agency on defensive end Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive tackle Damon Harrison.
Those players, combined with a breakout season from safety Landon Collins and a return to form from Jason Pierre-Paul—who signed a long-term contract extension this offseason—led a Giants defense that gave up just 17.8 points per game last season, second in the NFL. They gave up just 88.6 yards on the ground as well, tied for third in the league.
The return of Pierre-Paul was huge, and the defensive end remains motivated to win a title.
"It means a lot to me because I started here, and obviously I want to finish here," he said in a statement after re-signing with the team, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. "I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go, especially in my [draft] class. I’m the only one left in my class here. It means a lot. We won a Super Bowl here, and I’m looking forward to putting a fifth trophy in the case."
While Eli Manning and the offense were less consistent, the team added Brandon Marshall this offseason to pair with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, giving the team a dynamic trio at wide receiver. Paul Perkins will have to prove he can be the feature back and the offensive line isn't without its question marks, but in general, the Giants should be dangerous offensively in 2017.
And they'll be expected to once again compete for an NFC East title and a playoff berth. Below, we'll break down the schedule they'll face as they attempt a postseason repeat and analyze the key matchups.
|2017 New York Giants Schedule|
|1||Sept. 10||at Cowboys||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|2||Sept. 18||Lions||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|3||Sept. 24||at Eagles||1 p.m.||Fox|
|4||Oct. 1||at Buccaneers||4:05 p.m.||Fox|
|5||Oct. 8||Chargers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 15||at Broncos||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|7||Oct. 22||Seahawks||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 5||Rams||1 p.m.||Fox|
|10||Nov. 12||at 49ers||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|11||Nov. 19||Chiefs||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 23||at Redskins||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|13||Dec. 3||at Raiders||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|14||Dec. 10||Cowboys||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|15||Dec 17||Eagles||1 p.m.||Fox|
|16||Dec. 24||at Cardinals||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|17||Dec. 31||Redskins||1 p.m.||Fox|
Matchups in the NFC East are never easy, and the Dallas Cowboys should remain one of the league's best teams, especially on offense, where Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant lead a compelling offense.
Washington has had a messy offseason, but the team won't be a pushover in 2017. The Philadelphia Eagles should be improved, meanwhile, as Carson Wentz has a season under his belt and now has Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the passing game—much-needed upgrades at wide receiver.
The rest of the schedule isn't a cakewalk either. The Giants will host three playoff teams from a year ago—the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions—while road games against the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals will all be tests.
The Giants won't have many cupcake matchups on the road to the postseason.
The Giants finished with the best divisional record in the NFC East at 4-2. That included two wins over the Dallas Cowboys. The only other teams to beat the Cowboys last year were the Eagles in a meaningless Week 17 contest and the Packers in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
Suffice to say, the Cowboys will have revenge on their minds in 2017.
With the NFC East expected to be decided between the Giants and Cowboys, both games against those opponents will be crucial.
But Washington and Philly will be huge contests as well. Every NFC East matchup the Giants played last year was decided by a touchdown or less. The Eagles, for instance, beat the Giants in Week 16, ruining a chance for the Giants to clinch a playoff berth a week early. Washington kicked a late field goal to beat the Giants in Week 3.
There are no guaranteed wins in the NFC East.
Yes, games against playoff contenders like the Seahawks, Cardinals, Buccaneers and Lions will be important. But if the Giants fare poorly in the division, they likely won't be returning to the postseason.