Opening week is still a long way away, but that doesn't mean we can't have a look at some of the potential narratives that may emerge for the New York Giants throughout 2016. Whether it's some predictable timing against a division rival or a ghost of seasons past, this year's schedule looks to be one for the ages.
Week 1: at Dallas Cowboys, Sept. 11
Well, the story here is obvious. For the fourth time in a row the Giants open the season on the road, and for the fourth time in five years, it's the Cowboys. This was about as predictable for Week 1 scheduling as having the Super Bowl champs play on Thursday. Not much to see here, too early to judge competition levels, let's move on.
Week 2: vs. New Orleans Saints, Sept. 18
The Giants have been pretty terrible as of late against the Saints. A notable and particularly heartbreaking 52-49 loss last year comes to mind, as does a handful of other crushing blows. It's unlucky that this is so early in the schedule, but I guess it's better to get these games done as quickly as possible.
Week 3: vs. Washington, Sept. 25
The first game against the reigning divisional champions is always an important one. It gives you an immediate benchmark for your rivals and sets the tone for the rest of your season. Washington came out with an unlikely but deserved NFC East crown last year. This will be an interesting litmus test for if either team is a contender or pretender going forward.
Week 4: at Minnesota Vikings, Oct. 3 (Monday Night Football)
Odell Beckham Jr. missed this game last year due to his suspension for hot-headed behavior. Subsequently, the Giants' offense was lifeless to the extent where we saw Ryan Nassib replace Eli Manning in the fourth quarter. Never had a shot. Hopefully Beckham can make up for his absence last year with a stellar outing in 2016.
Week 5: at Green Bay Packers, Oct. 9 (Sunday Night Football)
Ben McAdoo returns to Lambeau field. Elevated from a quarterbacks coach in Green Bay to an offensive coordinator turned head-coach in New York, he'll be eager to show his former team that he's no longer a lowly assistant and capable of bringing down the big dogs of the league. Tom Coughlin's Giants won three out of their last four meetings, with just three points separating the teams in the Giants' lone loss. Can McAdoo keep the run of good performances alive?
Week 6: vs. Baltimore Ravens, Oct. 16
Any time you get a Super Bowl rematch on the schedule, it's a good thing. The Giants-Ravens Super Bowl is not fondly remembered by New York's fans, but recency bias is a very real force. If Big Blue can pull one out of the bag here, visions of a blowout on the big stage will be forgotten, at least for this week.
Week 7: vs. L.A. Rams (London), Oct. 23
It's London, baby! The Giants make their second trip across the pond and look to take on a team that should be showing new signs of life with a new home, new quarterback, and likely new lease of life for a perennial 7-9 outfit. With up and coming superstars like Todd Gurley and a stout defense, this should be a tough week for a potentially jet-lagged Giants team.
Week 8: BYE WEEK
Week 9: vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Nov. 6
The latest chapter in the long-standing local rivalry involves two new head-coaches, each in their first year with the team. Both will want to get the upper-hand on the other early and prove that they're the one likely to stick around for the long-haul. Former offensive coordinators, with former head-coaches calling their defenses. This is one to circle in your diaries right away.
Week 10: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Nov. 14 (Monday Night Football)
Neither team has a winning record for Monday night games. Neither team is particularly good in prime-time as of late. Both have quarterbacks so vanilla that it wouldn't be able to insult even the most hardened of liberals. However, for all their similarities, the Bengals are the anti-Giants. Think about it. Always get into the playoffs, never do anything with the chance, compared to three playoff appearances in the last nine years but two Lombardi trophies to show. Hmm.
Week 11: vs. Chicago Bears, Nov. 20
John Fox was a former Giants coordinator. He left when the team passed him over for the head-coach job and took his talents elsewhere. A pair of Super Bowl appearances later, his success may have been a factor in promoting McAdoo to head-coach and cutting Coughlin loose. They've seen what happens when you don't keep talent inside the building. They don't want it to happen again.
Week 12: at Cleveland Browns, Nov. 27
Look, right now, nobody knows what the Browns are going to look like in 2016. Will it be Robert Griffin III at quarterback? Will they use the No. 2 overall draft pick on a potential star? This is one of those total question-mark games that you may not even get a read on until kickoff. I wouldn't pencil in a possible win or loss either way. It's a total mystery right now.
Week 13: at Pittsburgh Steelers, Dec. 4
McAdoo grew up in Homer City, PA. It's just outside of Pittsburgh. For all intents and purposes, this is his homecoming game. Of course, the TV coverage will roll out the usual battle of the 2004 QBs story, but this year there's the added dimension of possible relatives and old friends sitting in the stands, maybe even supporting the opposing team.
Week 14: vs. Dallas Cowboys, Dec. 11 (Sunday Night Football)
They gave this game to NBC? Shocker. When I think of Giants-Cowboys, my memories are narrated by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. It's a staple on the SNF calendar, and it wouldn't feel right playing it at any other time. The only question is, over or under, how many times do you think they show a replay of Beckham's famous catch? Is a thousand too many? Probably not.
Week 15: vs. Detroit Lions, Dec. 18
Last time these two played, Calvin Johnson Jr. ran rampant all over the Giants defense. They won't have the luxury of a Hall of Fame receiver on-field for them this time, and Matt Stafford will be forced to make use of guys like Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Marvin Jones -- all players that Giants fans called for their team to acquire in the past few years.
Week 16: at Philadelphia Eagles, Dec. 22 (Thursday Night Football)
This is a Thursday night game, and it could also be the NFL's designated "Color Rush" game for both teams. If the Giants go with full red, and the Eagles go kelly-green, it'll fit right into its Christmas week time slot with appropriately festive color blocks. It'll be ugly, but at least it'll be seasonal!
Week 17: at Washington, Jan. 1
I really like that the schedule-makers have allotted the final week of the year for divisional games. It adds a little bit of spice to an already potent slate of football. Will this game be for the NFC East championship? Or will it be for bottom of the table? Way too far away for me to make a prediction, but I bet you it has important implications one way or another.