The National Football League released the 2014 schedules this evening, here is an in-depth look at the Giants opponents for the upcoming season:
Monday, September 8th, 7:10 PM, at Detroit Lions: Last December, the Giants traveled to Detroit, upset the Lions in overtime, and struck a lethal blow the Detroit’s playoff chances. Head coach Jim Schwartz was fired and Jim Caldwell brought in to replace him. NFL players have long memories and revenge will be on the Lions minds as the Giants return for a rematch in 2014 as part of the NFL’s opening weekend Monday Night double header. The Lions defensive line, featuring Nadamukong Suh, will provide a test for the Giants new offensive line. The Giants have won their last three meetings with Detroit.
Sunday, September 14th, 1:00 PM, vs. Arizona Cardinals: The Giants home opener will be against the Cardinals who, despite winning ten games last season, had to watch the playoffs from home. Carson Palmer, acquired in a trade from the Raiders, stabilized the quarterback position that had been in flux since Kurt Warner retired in 2009 and thrust Arizona into relevance in the highly competitive NFC West. The Giants are 1-1 at home against Arizona in the Tom Coughlin era. They last faced the Cardinals in 2011, beating them 31-27 in Arizona.
Sunday, September 21st, 1:00 PM, vs. Houston Texans: The Texans made the playoffs for the first time in 2011 and were seen as a team ascending until the wheels fell off last season. After winning their first two games, Houston lost fourteen straight and the team cleaned house, firing coach Gary Kubiak, defensive coordinator and interim head coach Wade Wilson, and traded season opening starting quarterback Matt Schaub to Oakland. It’s safe to say that the team has entered a rebuilding phase, but the defense is strong and may get stronger if they draft Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. Their starting quarterback for this game may not even be on the roster as of today. The Giants have faced the Texans twice since Coughlin became head coach in 2004, beating them both times, once at Giants Stadium in 2006 and again at Reliant Stadium in 2010.
Thursday, September 25th, 8:25 PM, at Washington Redskins. This Giants will have a short week to prepare for Robert Griffin III as their turn in the Thursday Night rotation comes up in week four. Redskin fans will tell you that their failings last season were attributable to former head coach Mike Shanahan’s desire to leave and Griffin’s continued recovery from his 2012 playoff knee injury. Jay Gruden replaces Shanahan and Griffin is another year healed, so the Redskins should be back on track. While incorporating some concepts of the read option offense, Gruden is expected to employ a more traditional approach. Having DeSean Jackson paired with Pierre Garcon will draw coverage away from the line and open up running room for Alfred Morris.
Sunday, October 5th, 1:00 PM, vs. Atlanta Falcons. The Giants will have extra time to prepare for the Falcons coming off their Thursday Night affair in Washington. Atlanta is eerily similar to the Giants. A perpetual competitor since the arrival of General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Mike Smith in 2008, the team’s offensive line suffered from injury and age in 2013 and the team suffered through a losing season when they were expected to complete for Super Bowl berth. Don’t expect them to stay down for long. When the Giants last played Atlanta, in 2012 at the Georgia Dome, they were embarrassed 34-0 in a game that crushed their playoff hopes.
Sunday, October 12th, 8:30 PM, at Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are the preseason favorite to repeat as division champion, but the NFC East has not has a repeat winner since 2004 when the Eagles won it for the 4th straight time. The Giants off season moves have been geared to better match up with Chip Kelly’s high octane offense, and this is when everyone gets to see if they will start to pay dividends as the teams face off on the Sunday Night game of the week.
Sunday, October 19th, 4:25 PM, at Dallas Cowboys. The Giants face their third NFC East opponent on the road in four week before heading into their bye. Tony Romo’s back injury is quite serious and there has been some doubt raised about his ability to hold up to the pummeling that NFL quarterbacks regularly absorb. Team physician Jerry Jones has said there is nothing to worry about, but given the enormous $30 million dollar salary cap hit that the team would take if he were forced to retire, team chaplain Jerry Jones prays for him every morning. Without Romo, the Cowboys are a non-contending team. Based on moves the Cowboys have been forced to make this off season, they may be a non-contending team with him. The Giants are 7-3 in the week before their bye under Tom Coughlin.
Sunday, October 26th, Bye Week
Monday, November 3rd, 8:30 PM, vs. Indianapolis Colts. Coming out of their bye week, the Giants meet Andrew Luck and the Colts on Monday Football in the start of a brutal stretch of their schedule. After suffering through a 2-14 season following Peyton Manning’s neck injury, the Colts bounced back and won 11 games in back-to-back season after drafting Luck first overall in 2011. Luck has led the Colts to the playoffs in his first two seasons, and threw for 443 yards and 4 touchdowns in a thrilling 45-44 comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card playoff round. Under Coughlin, the Giants are 6-2 at home in the week following their bye.
Sunday, November 9th, 4:25 PM, at Seattle Seahawks. On a short week, The Giants travel to CenturyLink Field, the most difficult road venue in the NFL for a showdown with the reigning champion Seahawks. No one will forget their visit in 2005, when the crowd noise contributed to Luke Pettitgout’s incredible 5 false start penalties, the team had 11 total, en route to a 24-21 overtime loss. Last season at Metlife Stadium, Seattle beat the Giants soundly, by a score of 23-0, in a game which the Giants truly never competed. Their performance against the Seahawks will provide a quick measuring stick for their improvement in 2014. The Giants are 4-5 under Coughlin on the west coast, including 1-2 against the Seahawks. They have not played in Seattle since the 2010 season when they thrashed the Seahawks 41-7.
Sunday, November 16th, 1:00 PM, vs. San Francisco Forty-Niners. The talented Forty-Niner roster is springing leaks faster than Aldon Smith can shout “Bomb” in a crowded airport. Navarro Bowman will surely start the season on the PUP list recovering from his NFC championship game knee injury, Smith will likely be suspended by the team, the league, or both, and Colin Kaepernick is a suspect in an unusual episode involving a naked woman in his apartment in Florida. With eleven picks in next month’s draft, San Francisco is still an opponent to be reckoned with and will provide the Giants with a formidable challenge at home in their third straight game against a 2013 playoff team. Coughlin enjoys a 4-1 record against the Forty-Niners as Giants head coach.
Sunday, November 23rd, 8:30 PM, vs. Dallas Cowboys. Round two with Dallas is a Sunday Night game following the roughest part of the Giants schedule. The Cowboys swept the Giants last season, winning opening night, 36-31 and again week twelve, 24-21, snapping the Giants four game winning streak and virtually ending their chances of sneaking back into the playoff hunt. Coughlin’s Giants record against Dallas is a mediocre 11-9.
Sunday, November 30th, 1:00 PM, at Jacksonville Jaguars. Coughlin returns to the site of his first head coaching job for a match up with the perpetually rebuilding Jaguars. Expected to draft a new starting quarterback and running back in the 2014 draft, the Jacksonville offense will look considerably different than the one that took the field in December. Coughlin has faced the Jaguars twice before losing in 2006 at Jacksonville, 26-10 and winning the Metlife Stadium 2010 rematch, 24-20
Sunday, December 7th, 1:00 PM, at Tennessee Titans. The Titans will have a brand new look on offense as Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt are gone. Jake Locker returns from hip injury to lead the Titans rebuilt offense under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Locker needs to prove he can stay healthy and play consistently or the team will surely go in a different direction in 2015. Some speculate that they will draft a new quarterback in next month’s draft. The Giants have never beaten the Titans under Coughlin.
Sunday, December 14th, 1:00 PM, vs. Washington Redskins. The Giants will have their first game film from the Redskins to study and see how Jay Gruden deployed Robert Griffin III and his other offensive firepower against them as they prepare for this rematch with Washington. The Giants swept the Redskins last season, and Coughlin has enjoyed a 14-6 record against them during his Giants tenure.
Sunday, December 21st, 4:05 PM, at St. Louis Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford returns from a torn ACL to one of the most complete teams in the NFL thanks to the bounty of draft picks the Rams received in the Robert Griffin III trade in 2011. Robert Quinn has 19 sacks in 2013 and pairs with Chris Long, 8.5 sacks, for one of the league’s most potent pass rushing tandems. This will be true test to see how the Giants rebuilt offensive line has come together. The Giants have not lost to the Rams while Coughlin has been head coach. Their last meeting was in 2011, a 28-16 Giants victory.
Sunday, December 28th 1:00 PM, vs. Philadelphia Eagles. The last day of the 2014 is a rematch with the Eagles. Jeremy Maclin will have had more time in Chip Kelly’s offense as will the new receivers that Philadelphia is expected to draft next month as the Giants face their bitterest NFL East rival for the second time. The teams split the series last season, with the Giants winning the rematch. Coughlin has his only losing record against a NFC East opponent versus Philadelphia with a 9-11 mark as Giants head coach.
The schedule makers were not kind to the Giants this season with two scheduling quirks working against them. They face all three of their NFC East opponents on the road initially, a strong disadvantage in these critical games. The three game stretch coming out of their October 26th bye week, Indianapolis, Seattle, and San Francisco have made the playoffs in the past three seasons, and are expected to be formidable again in 2014. If they are able to go 3-3 combined in these games, the Giants have an excellent opportunity to contend for the NFC East crown in December. The team will need to open quickly and take advantage of the five non-playoff teams they face to open the season. If they repeat last year’s 0-6 start, the season will be lost.