The Giants.com staff debates the the team's 2018 schedule and matchups now that it's been released:
The opener against Jacksonville is the most intriguing game on the schedule.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -I promise I won't spend the first half of this answer defining the word "intriguing" like I did last year. I hear it didn't go over well. The first game of the year is always fun, but it isn't the most intriguing to me. For that, I am heading to Week 4 at Metlife Stadium against the New Orleans Saints. Why, you ask? It is the first game on the schedule against one of the elite passing offenses in the league. The Jaguars and Cowboys both like to run the ball, and there's no telling where the Texans will be with Deshaun Watson coming back from injury. We know what Drew Brees and the Saints are passing the ball: pretty darn terrific. The Saints had the second-most yards per game in the league, and the fifth-most passing yards. Only the Rams, Eagles and Patriots scored more points. The Giants will be adjusting to a creative and multiple defensive scheme that James Bettcher is installing from scratch this offseason, and the matchup against the Saints will determine how far along they have come.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -If this game were later in the season, I would say fact. But teams are still trying to get their footing in the first month or so of the season. So I will go with the first game right out of the bye week – Giants at 49ers on Monday night in Week 10. Outside of the NFC East teams, the 49ers are historically the Giants' biggest rival. And by then, we will know if the Jimmy Garoppolo hoopla has either worn off or is in full force. That will be a good test for the Giants to set the tone for the second half with the bye right in the middle of the schedule.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -Everyone simply points to this game because of Tom Coughlin, but this won't be his first appearance at MetLife Stadium since parting ways with the Giants and he'll have no impact on the game. You can make a case that the Week 5 game at Carolina has more intrigue because it will be Dave Gettleman's first trip to Bank of America Stadium since he parted ways with the Panthers in July 2017, but once again, this doesn't involve any storyline connected to the players or coaching staffs. I actually think the most intriguing game on the schedule is Week 11 at home against the Bucs. This will mark Jason Pierre-Paul's return to MetLife Stadium since he was traded in the offseason and is a rematch from one of the most highly contested games last season when the Giants lost on a Nick Folk field goal as time expired. It will also be the Giants' final game against an NFC South opponent, which I think is the toughest division in the NFL.
The toughest road game is at Philadelphia in Week 12.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -How can I argue with this one? Playing on the road in front of one of the most hostile crowds in the league against a fierce division rival and the defending Super Bowl Champion? That's about as tough as it gets. Throw in the fact that it's almost certain Carson Wentz will be back from his torn ACL by that game, and the Giants will be in for another dogfight (birdfight?) in Philly. I would usually mention a couple other runner-ups, but it is hard to find any other game reasonably close to the Eagles matchup.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl champion and are getting back their MVP candidate in Carson Wentz with a Super Bowl MVP on standby in Nick Foles. The Giants have not won at Lincoln Financial Field since 2013. Last year's trip was the most gut-wrenching of them all, losing on a last-second, 61-yard field goal by a rookie kicker.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -Every divisional road game, by default, is tough, so I'm eliminating all three of those contests. I think the trip to Atlanta in Week 7 on Monday Night Football is the toughest road game. The Giants have never played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in 2017. Then you add the fact that it's a primetime game against what has been one of the best offenses in the NFL over the last few seasons. The noise factor combined with the caliber of the opponent makes Atlanta an extremely challenging environment, plus the game comes in between two home divisional contests.**
Chicago will be the most surprising team on the schedule. **
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -
I'm going to go with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears will still be starting a second-year quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, while the Bucs have a far more experienced quarterback in Jameis Winston, who has a couple of big-time weapons in Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. They have the seventh pick in the draft to add a premium player (Will Quenton Nelson drop that far?) and the 38th, where a starting caliber running back could be sitting there for them to select (Nick Chubb? Rashaad Penny?). They added Jason Pierre-Paul on defense to help with the pass rush. The Bucs could be a sneaky playoff contender. Look out.DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -
I do think Chicago is on the right track, but if I said fact here, it wouldn't be all that surprising, would it? Instead, I'll say the Cowboys. After three straight 8-8 seasons under Jason Garrett, they've been on kind of a weird trajectory, going 12-4, 4-12, 13-3 and 9-7 this past season. If this every-other season pattern continues, Dallas could be back on top in 2018 with Ezekiel Elliott playing a full season.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The Bears have added some nice pieces around their second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the acquisition of wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, along with tight end Trey Burton. But I don't know if that's going to be enough for Chicago to turn heads in the NFC North, where Minnesota added Kirk Cousins and still has a stellar defense, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers always remain a threat, and you can't overlook the Lions, who are now be led by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Instead of the Bears, I'd go with the Niners. Although San Francisco won its last five games of 2017 once Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the starting quarterback, the team still finished with one of the worst defenses in the league. With Garoppolo running the show for an entire season and the additions of versatile running back Jerick McKinnon from the Vikings, former Giants center Weston Richburg and veteran corner Richard Sherman from the Seahawks, I think the Niners will surprise a lot of people and be in the mix for a wild card spot.
Giants.com looks at the opposing stadiums that the team will travel to during the 2018 season.
Drew Brees is the best player the Giants face this year – offensively or defensively.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -If you take the intrinsic value of the quarterback position into account, this comes down to Matt Ryan or Drew Brees. Most people would scoff and nod to Brees, but I'm not going to do that. Ryan has taken great strides and I have seen signs of slippage in Brees' play, especially when it comes to turnover worthy passes. I think Ryan is at least on the same level as Brees at this point, and there's a chance Brees takes another small step backwards this year. There's a chance nobody notices because of guys like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, but it still might happen. The sleeper here is J.J. Watt, but since he is coming off an injury, I decided not to go in that direction. That matchup, however, against whomever the Giants right tackle will be in Week 3 will be something to watch.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -Have you seen this guy play? He is 1,496 yards away from breaking Peyton Manning's all-time passing record (71,940). If he absolutely goes off early in the season, he could be flirting with it during his visit to MetLife Stadium in Week 4.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -I'm going with the fiction sweep this week. Drew Brees is one of the best players in NFL history, but the Giants are going up against so many solid quarterbacks this season that I wouldn't necessarily put Brees in a category all by himself. You can't dismiss Cam Newton, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jameis Winston, who the Giants face in that order following Brees. The Giants will also have to deal Deshaun Watson, so you can make a case for just about every single one of those signal callers. That's why I'm going on the defensive side of the ball and singling out Texans pass rusher J.J. Watt, who when healthy is arguably the best defensive player in the league. Yes, he was limited to just eight games in the last two seasons combined, but from 2012 to 2015 he recorded at least 10.5 sacks each of those four seasons, including two campaigns with exactly 20.5 sacks. You'd be hard pressed to find a defensive player that can single-handedly wreck a game like Watt.
Giants.com looks at the quarterbacks expected to face the Giants in 2018.