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Fact or Fiction: Toughest stretch on 2021 schedule

FACT-OR-FICTION

The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

The first half of the Giants' schedule is tougher than the second.

John Schmeelk: Fact - With a 17-game season, there is no true halfway point of the schedule anymore, so let's use the bye week after the ninth game as the demarcation. Despite opening the second half of their season on the road facing the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, the first half of the Giants' schedule is more difficult. The Giants have four of their toughest road games of the season in New Orleans, Dallas, Kansas City and Washington. They also have to host two of the best defensive teams in the league in the Rams and Broncos. They will also have to deal with what is sure to be an explosive Falcons offense.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - After the bye week, the Giants play on the road five times in the final eight weeks, including back-to-backs at Miami and Los Angeles Chargers and then at Philadelphia and Chicago. That is a tall task as the grind of the NFL season sets in.

Lance Medow: Fact - In the first half of the season, the Giants play three AFC West teams (Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders), three NFC South teams (Falcons, Saints, Panthers), the Rams and two division rivals (Washington, Dallas). From a familiarity standpoint, you only play the AFC West once every four years and two of those teams have established veteran quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and Derek Carr (Las Vegas). Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina will pose challenges for the Giants' defense given the talent surrounding the quarterbacks, the Rams are one of the most balanced teams in the league and division games are never easy. The second half is no picnic with the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs and a dangerous Chargers team led by last season's offensive rookie of the year (Justin Herbert) but four division games aids the familiarity factor and they will have already played Dallas and Washington earlier.

The toughest road game is at Kansas City in Week 8 on Monday Night Football.

John Schmeelk: Fact - Playing in Kansas City is a nightmare. It is loud and the weather is always a wild card. Oh, and should we mention they have Patrick Mahomes? He's pretty good. They have some fast guys on offense and the most productive tight end in the NFL in Travis Kelce. The Chiefs' defense also improved last season, finishing the year ranked 11th in the NFL in points allowed.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - It doesn't matter who is coaching or playing; the Giants have struggled at Lincoln Financial Field. Big Blue has not won at the home of the Eagles since 2013, a drought of seven consecutive losses, and has lost 10 of the past 12 trips there.

Lance Medow: Fact - The other Monday night game in Week 11 at Tampa Bay is a very close second, but they won't have to worry about unfavorable weather conditions in late November and the Giants have a pretty strong fan base located in Tampa, so those factors slightly lessen the challenge. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL because of the noise factor and you never know how the weather will be in the Midwest in early November. The Chiefs also have showcased one of the best offenses in the league over the last few seasons and appeared in each of two most recent Super Bowls. Whenever you're going up against Patrick Mahomes, regardless of the location, it's never easy.

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The Giants play back-to-back road games on three occasions this season. New Orleans and Dallas will be the toughest of them.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - It is EXTREMELY CLOSE between the Saints-Cowboys road back-to-backs to start October and the Dolphins-Chargers road back-to-backs to start December. Let's lean toward the Dolphins-Chargers because the Chargers could be one of the best teams in the NFL this year. Justin Herbert is entering his second season after an awesome debut, they have rebuilt their offensive line, and have a defensive-minded head coach guiding a talented defensive group. What's not to like? We know the Dolphins defense is very strong, and if Tua Tagovailoa can improve in his second season, they can be a 10-win team. There's a good chance the Cowboys and Saints each win 10 games this season, but there are questions with the Saints at quarterback and with Dallas's defense.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - The travel demand of flying to Miami and Los Angeles in seven days to kick off December will not be easy, regardless of the state of either opponent. The Dolphins and Chargers boast young, dynamic quarterbacks who could be ascending at that point in the season, making for a tough back-to-back.

Lance Medow: Fact - The other pairings are the Dolphins and Chargers in Weeks 13-14 and then Philly and Chicago in Weeks 16-17. When you take into consideration, the caliber of the opponents and distance of the trips, the earliest road trip is the toughest. The Cowboys have several players on offense returning from injuries (led by quarterback Dak Prescott) and they'll have a completely new defensive scheme under coordinator Dan Quinn, which adds a bit of the unknown to the equation. The Giants have also lost seven of the last eight games they've played in Dallas, including four in a row. Although Drew Brees retired, the Saints still have Jameis Winston and dangerous weapons such as Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Sean Payton is also one of the best coaches in the league when it comes to scheme and maximizing the value of his players, plus New Orleans has a bit of an underrated defense with several players (including Cam Jordan) who can get after the quarterback. In addition, New Orleans hasn't been a friendly place as the Giants have lost five of the last six meetings there, including three straight.

The Chargers are the sleeper team to watch on the Giants' 2021 schedule.

John Schmeelk: Fact - The Chargers have a chance to be one of the top eight teams in the NFL if everything comes together. But would add the Broncos could be a close second. Denver went 5-11 last season, but does not have a 5-11 roster. Their defense could be one of the best in the league if Bradley Chubb and Von Miller rush the passer well. They have one of the best young wide receiver groups in the league with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler. Javonte Williams will be an immediate upgrade as a bell-cow running back joining Melvin Gordon. Their offensive line is solid, too. Their only question is quarterback. Drew Lock needs to step up in his third season and a second year under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Otherwise, Teddy Bridgewater is there to step in, if necessary. Unless, of course, the Broncos figure out a way to trade for a certain disgruntled star quarterback? If they do, we are talking about a potential Super Bowl contender.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - The Rams went 10-6 and won a playoff game in Seattle – and people still didn't really pay attention to them last season. Then they added Matthew Stafford. Similarly, the Bears made the postseason for the second time in three years with not much fanfare. Then they drafted Justin Fields. Chicago could make some noise in a NFC North that is in flux.

Lance Medow: Fact - Justin Herbert posted an impressive rookie campaign while being behind an offensive line which had its fair share of struggles - he was sacked 32 times. Now, he'll be protected by two polished veterans (Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley), who Los Angeles signed in free agency, plus versatile rookie Rashawn Slater. New head coach Brandon Staley previously served as the Rams defensive coordinator and although you can argue he benefited from some great talent, he will get to work with the likes of defensive linemen Josey Bosa, Linval Joseph and a stacked secondary showcasing Derwin James, Chris Harris Jr, Michael Davis and rookie Asante Samuel Jr. That's not too shabby. Talent hasn't been an issue with the Chargers over the last few seasons. It's been a matter of closing out games. I think they've done a really good job providing an ideal environment for a young quarterback to flourish and the defense will serve as a nice complementary piece.

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.

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