Welcome to the second half of the season for the New York Giants.
The Giants came out of their bye week in second place in the NFC East with a 4-3 record and the only team to beat the Dallas Cowboys. While they’re in the playoffs right now — as the sixth seed — there is still a lot more football to be played.
Nine games of it, to be exact.
The Giants’ second half schedule is an interesting mix of potentially brutal games mixed with games that are decidedly winnable (no game in the NFL is “easy”, just ask the Minnesota Vikings this morning)
It all starts this week.
Week 9 - Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles (11/6/16, 1 p.m., FOX)
There is no such thing as a given in the NFC East. It is one of the few divisions where every team has a historic and very real rivalry with every other team. The Eagles got off to a red-hot start on the back of a stout defense (eighth in total defense, fourth in scoring) and efficient play from rookie Carson Wentz. Wentz’s play has taken a step back of late, completing 50 percent and 57 percent of his passes in two of his last three games, and topping 200 yards (202) once. He has also seen his yards per attempt drop by almost three full yards and has thrown as many touchdowns and interceptions in the last two games.
We will learn a lot about the Giants in their first week back from the bye. Will they attack the Eagles’ defense? Will they change well established offensive tendencies? Will Steve Spagnuolo build upon a great defensive performance in London and take advantage of a recovering secondary to unleash aggressive blitzes on the rookie quarterback?
Week 10 - Giants vs. Cincinnati Bengals (11/14/16, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
The second of three straight home games, the Bengals are a different team than in previous years. In past years they were dangerous on offense and defense with a defense built by Mike Zimmer and an offense schemed by Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson, they were difficult to stop despite their lack of success in the playoffs.
This year, much like the Giants, the Bengals’ offense is moving the ball well, but struggling to score. Averaging in the top 10 in yards, but only 20th in points per game, they seem to miss both receivers lost in free agency and their offensive coordinator. Their defense is mediocre across the board, ranking 24th in yards and 19th in scoring.
Week 11 - Giants vs. Chicago Bears (11/20/16, 1 p.m., FOX)
The Bears suddenly look a lot more formidable after their Monday night victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The rules get tossed out the window in divisional matchups, but the Bears’ win, which saw the last place scoring offense scoring 20 points on one of the top defenses in the league and a rookie running back racking up more than 100 yards, was impressive.
We’ll have to see if the Bears’ win over the Vikings sparks a second half surge, or if they will play to their previous 1-6 form.
Week 12 - Giants at Cleveland Browns (11/27/16, 1 p.m., FOX)
The Giants can’t take their first road game in a month for granted. The Browns might be in a state of flux as their new brain trust tries to bring MLB-style “Moneyball” to the NFL, and they are also dealing with injuries throughout their roster, but the Browns have been playing teams hard.
Hue Jackson’s team might be winless, but that isn’t for lack of trying. Just this past weekend they nearly knocked off the New York Jets, and have made opponents work for their wins all season long.
Week 13 - Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers (12/4/16, 4:25 p.m., FOX)
This might be the most interesting matchup on the Giants’ schedule. The Mara and Rooney families have been linked for decades, and the two franchises are considered to be among the NFL’s “flagship” franchises. Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are both inextricably linked by the 2004 draft class, and had the Chargers not traded Manning to the Giants, they would have drafted Big Ben.
But the media will likely focus on the wide receivers. They won’t be playing each other, but Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. are two of the three best receivers in the NFL, and they’ll be expected to put on a show. The Steelers have a solid offense, which ranks 11th in total yards, eighth in passing, and 12th in scoring. Their defense, much like the Giants, gives up yards, but is stingy in the red zone and keeps scoring down.
Week 14 - Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys (12/11/16, 8:30 p.m., NBC)
The Giants’ second meeting with the Cowboys after opening week. The Cowboys’ defense should be back to full strength — or at least as close as can reasonably be expected for a team in December.
The Giants dominated the Cowboys’ formidable run game in Week 1, holding Ezekiel Elliott to just 51 yards on 20 attempts (2.6 yards per carry). Can they do it again?
The Cowboys will likely come in to the game in control of the NFC East, but if the Giants can come out of their bye week strong, this game very well could have serious playoff implications.
Week 15 - Giants vs. Detroit Lions (12/18/16, 1 p.m., FOX)
The last home game of the regular season (and perhaps the year) for the Giants, the Lions are a difficult team to nail down. Their offense is thoroughly “middle of the pack”, albeit dragged down by the 27th ranked running game. However, they can be explosive at times. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have proven to be a formidable pair, and running back Theo Riddick offers the kind of threat out of the backfield that has haunted the Giants in recent years.
Their defense has taken a step back in the last couple seasons and aren’t anything special this year, ranking 21st in scoring and 23rd in yards (17th in rush defense, 19th in pass defense).
Week 16 - Giants at Eagles (12/22/16, 8:25 p.m., NBC)
The Giants meet the Eagles again, this time on their turf. It’s too early to say what, if anything, this game will mean for either team’s playoff hopes, but it always means something when these two teams square off.
Wins against the Eagles have been few and far between over most of the last decade for the Giants. Perhaps in a battle between rookie head coaches, the Giants’ experienced quarterback will have the edge over the Eagles’ rookie. The Giants will finish the season on the road, against division rivals. As it stands now they’re the NFC’s second wild card; Can they rediscover the “Road Warrior” mentality they’ve had in the past?
Week 17 - Giants at Washington Redskins (1/1/17, 1 p.m., FOX)
While the rest of us are groggily waking up from New Years parties, trying to remember to write “2017” instead of “2016” (I’ll be doing this until at least March), or thanking divine providence that 2016 is finally over (R.I.P. Lemmy, David Bowie, Glen Frey, Alan Rickman, Prince, and Gene Wilder), the Giants will be taking the field to finish off the regular season against the Redskins.
At one point the Giants might have had a strangle-hold on the division if they had followed through on a 21-point lead on an apparently fracturing Washington team. Instead, they let the game slip away and lost three straight. The Redskins have been incredibly hot and cold this year, either playing really good football or not very good at all. Depending how the eight games between then and now shake out, their Week 8 tie against the Cincinnati Bengals could loom large.