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Giants Now: Kickoff guide to 2021 season

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Well folks, we finally made it.

The 2021 NFL season kicks off this week. The reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open the regular season up with a matchup at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Just a few days later, the Giants will begin their 2021 campaign at MetLife Stadium in a matchup against the Denver Broncos.

Before the regular season gets started, Giants.com is here to fill you in on everything you need to know about the 2021 campaign.

Here is your kickoff guide to the 2021 season.

*This past offseason, NFL clubs approved an enhanced season structure that beginning in 2021 will feature each team playing 17 regular-season games and three preseason games for the first time.

The NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in March of 2020 enabled the league, with the approval of the union and its players, to enhance the regular season with a move to 17 games, providing fans an extra week of regular-season NFL action.

That decision was confirmed in March, marking the first change to the season structure since the 1978 campaign ushered in an era of 16 regular-season and four preseason games.

"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world."

The 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021

The enhanced season will ensure that beginning in 2022, all 32 clubs will play internationally at least once every eight years. The scheduling of up to four neutral-site games per year in a country outside the United States will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. In addition, interested clubs can continue to volunteer to play home games internationally, as is currently the case.

View photos of the New York Giants' active 53-man roster as it currently stands heading into Week 1.

*NFL Kickoff Weekend will begin Thursday night, September 9, and the regular season will end Sunday, January 9, 2022. The 2022 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, February 6 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and the season will conclude with Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13, 2022.

*Introduced last year and continuing in 2021, a total of 14 teams – seven each in the American and National Football Conferences – will make the postseason. Three Wild Card teams from each conference will qualify for the postseason, with the No. 1 seed in each conference receiving a bye in the Wild Card round.

Since 1990 – a streak of 31 consecutive seasons – at least four new teams have qualified for the playoffs that missed the postseason the year before, including seven of the 14 playoff teams in 2020.

*Week 18 consists of all division matchups for the 12th consecutive season. The Giants face the Washington Football Team at MetLife Stadium.

*The Giants have the 8th easiest schedule coming into 2021. They play seven 2020 playoff teams and seven teams that were .500 or better in 2021.

How tough is the Giants' schedule? Click to view each team's strength of schedule for the 2021 season based on the records of their opponents from 2020.

*The 2021 season marks the 65th anniversary of the 1956 Championship Game between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears.

Many, including those who played in it, say it was among the most significant in NFL history – perhaps even more so than the fabled 1958 "sudden-death" NFL title game.

The NFL, 36 years old at the time, was not what it is today. The game was not sold out. Pro football on television was still in its infancy. T-shirts and umbrellas didn't contain NFL team logos. But the 1956 Championship Game – won handily by the Giants, 47-7 in 18-degree weather – seemed to change all that.

The excitement and glamour of professional football, epitomized by the Giants, captivated New York's marketing and advertising community for the first time. The TV networks, still developing, suddenly had a new sports vehicle that could help them grow.

"I'll always believe that that game and how it opened everyone's eyes to the excitement of pro football was the key to the development of the NFL, more so than the 1958 title game that gets more attention," recalled Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford 50 years after the game. Gifford was a halfback for the Giants and thereafter the longtime play-by-play voice of NFL Monday Night Football. "People forget what the NFL was like in those days. It was not America's No. 1 sport. The game wasn't even a sellout. But once we played the game, we became heroes in New York. The thing just grew from there."

The Giants had two assistant coaches named Lombardi and Landry. Vince Lombardi ran the offense and Tom Landry the defense. "All I have to do with these guys around is check curfews and pump up footballs," said head coach Jim Lee Howell. "Vince and Tom take care of the rest."

Several Giants players from this game went on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Gifford, Landry, Lombardi, tackle Roosevelt Brown, linebacker Sam Huff, defensive end Andy Robustelli, and safety Emlen Tunnell.

Other interesting historical Giants facts and stats:

*Former Giants QB Eli Manning has the 5th most passing yards in a single opening game (450 yards) to start a season.

*The Giants have the last 99-yard TD pass in the NFL. The pass was in 2011 vs the Jets when Eli Manning threw to Victor Cruz.

*In their first season under head coach Joe Judge, the New York Giants allowed the fifth fewest points per game in the NFC (22.3) and were one of five teams overall to allow 20-or fewer points in more than half of their games last season.

*In his first season with New York last year, linebacker Blake Martinez ranked third in the NFL with 151 tackles and is the only player in the league with at least 140 tackles in each of the past four seasons. Martinez has the most tackles since 2017 (592).

*In the secondary, defensive back Logan Ryan joined the Giants in 2020 and ranked second on the team with 92 tackles. He is one of three active defensive backs (Malcolm Jenkins and Harrison Smith) with at least 15 career interceptions (18) and 10 career sacks (12).

*Cornerback James Bradberry tied for second in the league with a career-high 18 passes defensed last season and is the only player in the NFL with at least 10 passes defensed in each of the past five seasons. In 2020, safety Jabril Peppers set career highs in tackles (89), passes defensed (11), tackles for loss (eight) and sacks (2.5).

*This offseason, the Giants bolstered their secondary with the acquisition of defensive back Adoree' Jackson, who has 33 passes defensed in 46 career games over four seasons with Tennessee.

*During the offseason, New York bolstered their receiving corps with the additions of wide receiver Kenny Golladay and tight end Kyle Rudolph. The team also used their first-round selection (No. 20 overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft on Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

*Golladay had recorded consecutive 1,000- yard receiving seasons (2018-19) prior to appearing in only five games last season with Detroit. Golladay joins wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who led the team with 66 receptions last season, and wide receiver Darius Slayton, who had a team-high 751 receiving yards in 2020. Shepard is one of seven wide receivers with at least 55 receptions in each of the past five seasons.

*Rudolph comes to the Giants after a 10-year career in Minnesota that saw him record 453 receptions for 4,488 yards and 48 touchdowns. In 2021, he can become the 10th tight end in league annals with at least 500 receptions, 5,000 receiving yards and 50 touchdowns during their career. Rudolph joins tight end Evan Engram, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2020 after totaling 63 receptions for 654 yards and one touchdown.

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