By Brad Carroll
Even though the New York Giants are a perfect 4-0 in the preseason with one game left on the docket, these are still troubling times for Big Blue. Despite going through an overhaul on offense, one designed to make everyone forget about last year's disaster, which had quarterback Eli Manning throwing 27 interceptions, the results haven't changed at all this summer.
Last Friday against the Jets, the most important preseason game since it's the one where starters play the longest, the Giants were beaten handily when the first-teamers were in the game. Even worse, Manning was outplayed by second-year quarterback Geno Smith.
But while hope seemed to be completely lost with an offense incapable of putting the ball in the end zone, the Giants starters went on an 11-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a Manning to Rueben Randle 15-yard touchdown hookup with five seconds left before halftime.
While not much stock can be put into preseason results, both good and bad, the team and fanbase have to be feeling a little bit better about the upcoming season after that one impressive drive.
Last year the Giants finished 7-9 and the oddsmakers haven't given them much of a chance to improve on that mark this year. But what do they know? Here's our game-by-game preview of the Giants schedule with predicted winners of each.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions, 7:10 p.m., Monday
The Giants offense is still a huge question mark, even with a change in leadership at the coordinator spot. Kevin Gilbride is gone, Ben McAdoo is in, but neither last year's or this year's preseason offenses look good. Going into Detroit on Monday Night Football is not a good way to debut a new offense, and the Giants find that out the hard way with a loss.
Week 2: vs. Cardinals, 1 p.m., Sunday
The Cardinals were a huge surprise last year, winning 10 games but missing the playoffs. Arizona has the talent to challenge the Seahawks and 49ers for supremacy in the NFC West. The Giants, however, will have the advantage of playing Arizona at home, meaning a cross-country flight with an early start time for the Cards. This is a barometer game for the Giants, as we will learn a lot about them with this game. The Giants pass the test.
Week 3: vs. Texans, 1 p.m., Sunday
The Texans were terrible last season and it doesn't appear things will change this year either. Sure, Houston has JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney to lead a talented defense, but the offense will struggle to score points, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback. Seriously, Ryan Fitzpatrick? Yes, that's all you need to know about the Houston offense. Giants win and move to 2-1.
Week 4: at Redskins, 8:30 p.m., Thursday night
While there will be a lot hype leading into the game about the Redskins nickname and who will or won't use it, that means little to the importance of the actual game. The Giants could grab a firm grasp on the NFC East lead with a victory over a division foe on the road. But with the short-week to prepare and facing Robert Griffin III early in the year is a recipe for a loss.
Week 5: vs. Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday
Atlanta took a huge step back last year from a team that was supposed to be ascending, not descending. But the offense should be better with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steven Jackson healthy. This will be as close to a must-win game for the Giants as there is in Week 5, as the next six games are going to be extremely difficult. If the Giants lose this game, it will be the beginning of the end. The Giants pull it out, however.
Week 6: at Eagles, 8:30 p.m., Sunday
The Giants play their third primetime game in six weeks, and it will be the toughest test of the season. The Eagles are the favorites to win the NFC East, have a ton of playmakers on offense. and a defense that's solid as well. With Philadelphia playing at home, the Giants would need a giant upset to win this game. It won't happen, and the Giants fall to 3-3.
Week 7: at Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., Sunday
Not much is expected of the Cowboys, but that could be the one time they surprise in the opposite direction and actually become a contender. They have the offense to do it. As much as people love to bash Tony Romo, there's a ton of NFL teams who would add him to their roster right now and start him. The Giants have had a ton of success in Cowboys Stadium, but unless they find an offense, they won't be able to keep up. Giants drop to 3-4.
Week 8: Bye Week
Week 9: vs. Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m., Monday night
Another primetime game for the Giants, and it's against a team that won 11 games last year. The Giants got their much-needed win against the Falcons at home earlier, but this latest, near must-win will be a lot harder. The Giants are coming off a bye, but under Tom Coughlin, they are just 5-6 in those games. Andrew Luck won't let this game get away and the Giants fall.
Week 10: at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., Sunday
Last year, the Giants lost a 23-0 decision to the eventual-Super Bowl champion Seahawks at home. This year, the game is in Seattle, which has one of the best home field advantages in the league. It may not be as bad as the shutout last year, but unless the Seahawks fall completely apart, this will be another big loss for Big Blue.
Week 11: vs. 49ers, 1 p.m., Sunday
The schedule stretch of death continues with a home game against the 49ers, a team that won 12 games last year and could be the biggest challenger to the Seahawks at representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Giants catch a break with the Niners having to travel cross-country for an early game, but San Francisco has too much talent not to come out on top in this game.
Week 12: vs. Cowboys, 8:30 p.m., Sunday
The Giants were swept last year by the Cowboys, but this year won't go the same, as they find a way to win a game at home and end what will be a five-game losing streak. There's no doubt this will be a must-win game, and the Giants will remain, barely, in the hunt for a wild card spot with a 4-7 record. The six-game stretch of death ends with a 1-5 record for the Giants.
Week 13: at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday
The Giants finally get a break, facing a weak Jacksonville team. By this time, the Jaguars might be starting Blake Bortles at quarterback. If that's the case, it's good news for the Giants, as the Jags should be going through the growing pains that come with playing a rookie quarterback. The Giants win their second game in a row and stay in the hunt at 5-7.
Week 14: at Tennessee, 1 p.m., Sunday
This could turn out to be the make-or-break game for the Giants, as they will need to beat a team on the road that has made a habit recently of destroying teams' playoff chances late (just ask the Jets). The Titans are mediocre at best, but playing at home gives them the advantage. Still, the Giants, motivated by a outside chance at the playoffs, pulls off a slight upset.
Week 15: vs. Redskins, 1 p.m., Sunday
If the Redskins follow their script of season's past, RGIII will be injured by now and the team will be trying to salvage another disappointing season. That would be the preferred result for the Giants, who need a victory in the worst way against Washington. The past repeats, and the Giants win again, their fourth in a row.
Week 16: at Rams, 4:05 p.m., Sunday
The Rams will have found a quarterback by now, but as we head into Week 1, it won't be Sam Bradford, who tore his ACL and will miss yet another season. That's horrible news for Bradford, but could be good news for the Giants, as who knows who will be the quarterback by the time Week 16 rolls around. The Giants win again and get to 8-7 with a possible chance to win the division in the final week of the season.
Week 17: vs. Eagles, 1 p.m., Sunday
If the Giants are lucky, a possible 9-7 record could be good enough to make the playoffs, either as a wild card or NFC East champ. History tells us the easiest way might be the division, and it couldn't get any better for the Giants to play the Eagles. Playing at home and owning a five-game winning streak should be enough motivation for the Giants to win the game. They just have to hope the Eagles haven't sewn up the title already.
So, the Giants end the season with a six-game win streak and a 9-7 record, two games better than last year. In the past, that might have been good enough to win the NFC East or grab one of the wild card spots available. But this year could be different. Just ask the Cardinals, who won 10 games last year and missed the playoffs. With all the talk about how bad this season has the potential for becoming, the Giants just might sign up for nine wins right now.