Happy schedule day, Giants Country! For months we've known who the Giants were going to play, and now we have the dates and times and television networks, the biggest sign yet that the new football season is getting closer and closer.
“Once you first see the schedule you get excited,” said Giants head coach Joe Judge, who will be looking to build on last year's 6-10 record.
“It starts to become real in terms of not just knowing the opponents you’re going to play, but when you’re going to play them. You start thinking about the opener, you start looking at your division games, you start mapping out the west coach trip and the longer trips on the road. You start thinking about the best way of setting up the team travel. You start looking at some of the short weeks coming off Monday night games and how you’re going to map out your practice that week.”
Here are some other takeaways...
A Nice Travel Schedule
This brings me to the first point: The Giants have a favorable travel schedule. Yes, they have to quickly turn things around after their regular-season opener at home against Denver, but their Week 2 Thursday night game is at Washington, which is a simple train ride.
Then in Weeks 4 and 5, the Giants are scheduled to play at New Orleans and Dallas. Since New Orleans is a hop, skip, and a jump from Dallas, it will be interesting to see if Judge keeps the team out there for the week or if he brings them back to New Jersey.
Either way doesn't matter as it's not like it's a significant cross-country flight, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still in effect, it could make sense for the Giants to cut down on airline travel by staying out there in the region and maybe setting up shop at a nearby college.
The Giants have another back-to-back travel week later in Weeks 13 and 14 when they visit Miami and then have to fly cross country to Los Angeles to face the Chargers. I would expect that Judge, who last year had the team fly out early on Saturdays for the West coast locations and then fly home Monday by noon local time, would stick to that kind of schedule.
“What it (playing consecutive road games) ends up doing is it gives you a little bit of a flow sometimes to how to get your team prepared,” Judge said. “The team gets a feel for how that week of recovery is a little bit different than it is with back-to-back home games.”
The Early Thursday Game
The Giants will be put to the test early as far as turning things around quickly when they visit Washington in Week 2 for Thursday night Football. While I'm not a fan of Thursday night games (for both my own reasons, plus I think they don't exactly help the players in terms of their safety), the Giants do have at least one advantage given the timing of their TNF appearance in that they should still be fresh enough to handle the quick turnaround.
“It’s all how you manage those weeks,” Judge said. “You can argue sometimes that having (the Thursday night game) later in the season is more of an advantage, because your players are a little more fluid with the systems. Maybe coming off Week 1 to Week 2 that’s a little bit different. I think early in the season gives you more advantages as well. It evens itself out. It’s all based on how the teams handle it as you go into it.”
Judge's comment regarding the players being more fluid with the system might have been more of a concern last year, given everyone was learning the system as they went along (and without the benefit of the preseason). This year I think the Giants will be more prepared and fluid in what they're doing even with the quick turnaround.
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Prime Time Shine
I like that the schedule makers gave the Giants just three prime time games rather than force-feed them into the spotlight.
If the players view primetime games as some sort of a prize, let them work for additional national exposure by playing up to the occasion rather than simply handing them the games on a silver platter just because they happen to be in a large media market.
The Hardest Parts
Two parts of the Giants' schedule are likely going to be the most challenging sections.
The first covers Week 8-11. The Giants will have two Monday night games in that period, both on the road and both against last year's Super Bowl participants (the Chiefs in Week 8 and the Bucs in Week 11).
“It’s a challenge playing Kansas City or Tampa,” Judge said. “They’re two outstanding teams, well-coached, very, very talented. We knew we were going to play those teams on the road.
"In terms of Monday night, I really don’t think that makes the biggest difference--although it will be a great atmosphere playing in both places. But we’re excited to get going and prepare for all those teams.”
Ah, but appearing on Monday Night Football hasn't exactly been kind to the Giants, who are 25-43-1 on Monday night, including 16-30-1 on the road.
The good news is that the Giants, who also have a Week 9 home game against the Raiders, will have a Week 10 bye. Still, if the Giants can somehow come out with a 2-1 record over that stretch, that will be a significant step forward for this team as it looks to build up momentum for a playoff run.
The second challenging part of the schedule comes in Weeks 15-18. The Giants will have three divisional games in that span, against Dallas at home (Week 15), the Eagles on the road (Week 16), and Washington at home (Week 18).
I don't have to tell you that if the Giants aspire to earn a playoff berth, it starts with winning the games against the division opponents. If the Giants can go 2-1 in those last three games, they should be in good shape to close out the season, assuming they have done what they needed to do earlier in the year.
Speaking of the Bye
I think the Giants' bye in Week 10 falls at a good point in the season, and Judge agrees with me.
“The bye is in a good spot if you manage your team in the right way and give them an opportunity to rest up during the bye,” he said.
“Also, work on some self-scout and make sure you take a jump coming out of the bye. Whether it’s an early bye or a late bye, it all comes down to how you manage your team throughout the season.”
As previously noted, the Giants have a more challenging second half of the season, so the bye falling where it falls should allow the Giants to rest up and make any adjustments they need to finish the year strong.
*We all know the NFL has moved to a 17-game regular-season schedule starting this year, but this isn't the first time the Giants are going to play 17 games (not including playoffs). The Giants went 13-4 in 1930, their sixth season of existence.
*The Giants are playing both of last year's Super Bowl teams this year. This is the first time that's happened since 2000 when the Giants, who represented the NFC in Super Bowl XXXV that season, faced the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans in the regular season leading up to that Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
*Speaking of facing Super Bowl teams, the Giants are 7-24 in regular-season games against defending Super Bowl champions (plus 3-0 in the postseason). They have lost their last eight regular-season games vs. defending champions, most recently against New England in 2019.
*The Giants are facing the Bucs for the fifth season in a row. They split the last four meetings, which were decided by a total of eight points.
* The Giants are finishing their regular season at home for the fifth straight year and the 10th time in the last 11 years.
*The Giants' three preseason opponents, in order, are the Jets, Browns, and Patriots. They'll be home for the Jets and Patriots games and on the road against the Browns.