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Fact or Fiction: Early outlook on NFC East race


The Ravens are the toughest matchup on the Giants' 2024 schedule.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Ravens made it all the way to the AFC Championship game last season, while no one else on the schedule, spare the Buccaneers, made it to the divisional round. The Giants do get to host the Ravens at MetLife Stadium, which made me think twice for a moment, but the Ravens are still the most talented team on the schedule. The entire AFC North portion of the schedule will be a challenge, especially games in Pittsburgh and Cleveland against two very physical teams. The other two games in the running here are games at Dallas and Philadelphia, which are always tough matchups against talented teams.

Matt Citak: Fact – The Ravens were the best team in the NFL during the 2023 regular season. Their 13-4 record led the league, and that was after resting their starters in the regular-season finale loss against the Steelers. They finished with a top five offense, the league's No. 1 defense, and the league's Most Valuable Player in quarterback Lamar Jackson. After having the league's No. 1 rushing attack last season, Baltimore went out and signed Derrick Henry to replace Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. Even after losing a couple of key contributors during free agency, the Ravens still are the toughest matchup on the Giants' 2024 schedule.

The NFC East is the most open division in the NFL.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Until proven otherwise, I will maintain there is a gap after the Cowboys and Eagles. I do think both those teams are more vulnerable, with Dallas losing talent in free agency, and the Philadelphia finishing last season as poorly as they did. At the same time, the Giants are improved and should be far closer to those two teams, while Washington has a new head coach, general manager, and quarterback. I wouldn't consider that a "wide open" division. The AFC North? Would it surprise anyone if any of the four teams win that division? The NFC South is similarly wide open. I think both those divisions are more open than the NFC East.

Matt Citak: Fiction – This has less to do with the NFC East and more to do with the competitiveness I expect to see out of the AFC North this season. The Ravens were the best team in the league during last year's regular season and added Henry, as I noted in my first answer. The Bengals will have a healthy Joe Burrow leading the offense, while the Steelers should have a lot more stability at quarterback with Russell Wilson as the new starter. Meanwhile, the Browns should have Deshaun Watson healthy and ready to go for the start of the season to combine with their stout defensive unit. I expect the NFC East to be a lot closer in 2024 than it was last year, especially with the Giants and Commanders both improving over the last few months. But the competition for the AFC North crown, which last year saw all four teams finish the season above .500, should be the most exciting division race in the NFL.

To commemorate their 100th season, the New York Giants today unveiled a "Century Red" uniform, which the team will wear for up to two games in 2024.

The Vikings are the sleeper team to watch among the Giants' opponents this season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I think it is the Colts, who could be a team that competes with the Texans to win the AFC South. Anthony Richardson looked good in limited early season play last year, and the Colts have put weapons around him to help him succeed coming off a shoulder injury. Jonathan Taylor is a top running back, and Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, and rookie Adonai Mitchell are all dynamic weapons for Richardson to throw the ball to. Shane Steichen is an excellent offensive head coach. There are more questions on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts, but their offense could be excellent.

Matt Citak: Fiction – I'm going with the Indianapolis Colts for this one. The Colts drafted Anthony Richardson with the fourth overall pick in last year's draft, and despite the young quarterback only playing two full games all season, the team still finished the year 9-8. Richardson will now enter his second season healthy with a nice array of weapons around him. Throw in Laiatu Latu, the first defensive player selected in this year's draft, to a defensive unit that also brought back linebacker Zaire Franklin, cornerback Kenny Moore II, safety Julian Blackmon and defensive tackle Grover Stewart (while adding defensive tackle Raekwon Davis), and it's easy to see the Indianapolis defense also taking a big step in 2024. The Colts could push the Houston Texans for the AFC South title this year.

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett is the best non-quarterback the Giants will face in 2024.

John Schmeelk: Fact – Myles Garrett is a monster. He is a complete defensive end that does everything well and is as dominant physically as any player in the NFL. He has had 12 or more sacks in every year but one (when he was suspended six games in 2019, he still had 10 sacks in 10 games) since his rookie year in 2017. He's been an All-NFL player five times and rightfully won the defensive player of the year award last year. He also plays in a scheme that lets him line up wide and rush the quarterback. Watching him do battle with Andrew Thomas will be a lot of fun. Runners-up here are TJ Watt, CeeDee Lamb, AJ Brown, Micah Parsons, and Roquan Smith.

Matt Citak: Fiction – As last year's Defensive Player of the Year winner, it would be easy to name Garrett as the best non-quarterback the Giants will face this season. However, I'm giving that honor to a different edge rusher from the AFC North – Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt. While Garrett took home DPOY honors last year, Watt finished right behind him in the voting. The Steelers pass rusher has led the NFL in sacks in three of the last four seasons and has been named first-team All-Pro in four of the last five. Garrett and Watt were both taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and both have enjoyed plenty of success over the last seven seasons. While I'm giving Watt the slight edge, I can't knock anyone for picking Garrett here.

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