The 2020 NFL schedule has finally been released, and now we not only know who the New York Giants are playing but when.
There will be plenty of time in the coming days and weeks to break down the Giants’ 2020 schedule, analyze match-ups, and make predictions. For now, we’ll just start with some immediate reactions to the schedule.
And like the rest of the NFL, we’ll start by looking at the preseason.
Is the Snoopy Bowl gone for good?
For the second year in a row, the Giants will be opening their preseason against the New York Jets. These two teams are always going to play each other in the preseason — teams always want to limit travel when the games don’t count. But for a good stretch, the Giants and Jets vied for in-stadium bragging rights in the third preseason game. That was perfect for an informal rivalry game as it is the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. Starters play most of the game and coaches are scheming more than in any other game in the preseason.
Instead, the two teams are opening against each other again. While that’s fine, it just doesn’t have the same impact when starters are only playing a series or two, and coaches are calling only their most vanilla plays.
While the notion of “bragging rights” was more for the fans than the teams, it was nice to see the intra-stadium rivals play each other in a game that was as close to a regular-season atmosphere as possible. Hopefully, we’ll get that back next year.
But in what has become a tradition, the Giants and Patriots will be closing out the preseason together. It’ll still be weird to know that, for the first time in 16 years, neither Eli Manning nor Tom Brady will be on the field — and not because they’re being rested for week one.
No Cowboys until October
If there is one thing that immediately jumps out about the Giants’ schedule, it’s that for the first time in a long, long time, the Giants won’t be opening against the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants won’t be facing the Cowboys at all in September, which is an even rarer occurrence — It’s only happened twice in the last decade.
Frankly, it’s a good change. Starting the season against division rivals might be a good way to build anticipation and raise the stakes early, but we have seen the Giants open at the Cowboys so many times in the last decade that it’s just a tired cliche.
Of course, the schedule makers make up for passing on Giants at Cowboys to open the season by having the bitter rivals end the season in the bitter cold of New Jersey in January.
And while the Giants might not be starting their season against division rivals, they don’t exactly get off easy, either. Their opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers is going to be a hard-fought game against one of the most disruptive defenses in the league in 2019.
No chance to catch their breath
The Giants finished the 2019 season having played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. Their 0.473 strength of schedule was tied for the second-easiest among all NFL teams, but they face a beast of a schedule in 2020.
Going by the forecasted win totals by the Las Vegas oddsmakers, the Giants face the second-hardest schedule of any team in the league this year. The Giants will face six of the top ten offenses in yards per game, four of the top ten offenses in points per game (as well as the 11th and 12th scoring offenses).
They face some of the best defenses in the NFL from a year ago as well. They will face six of the top 10 defenses in yards per game and four of the top 10 scoring defenses. They’ll also face five of the top 10 teams in sacks per game as well as six of the top 10 teams in takeaways per game.
If the Giants are going to improve on their 4-12 record from 2019, they are going to have earned that improvement. Every year we look to see where a stretch of “easy” games lies in the schedule, and this year there just isn’t one. The closest we can come is a homestand against the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns, but while those teams are young, they are also talented and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Only three primetime games
For the second year in a row, the Giants are only scheduled for three night games. That isn’t surprising considering the Giants’ performances over the last couple of seasons. But even so, it’s still something of a fall for a team that has consistently been looked at as a flagship franchise.
They start the season on Monday Night Football, then play at Philadelphia on Thursday Night Football, and then Monday Night football the next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Those games aren’t surprising either. The Giants are a huge market, and the league loves to get them in prime time to start the season whenever possible, and a game against the Steelers is a big draw for Week 1. Likewise, it’s always a highlight when the Giants play the Eagles — granted bad and weird things always seem to happen when these two teams meet (Does anyone know about the cat population in the Lincoln Financial Center?)
And finally, there’s the Tampa Bay game. Of course, the NFL is going to want Tom Brady against the Giants in Prime Time. There have always been fireworks when the Giants play Brady, and his decision to sign with Tampa gives them another opportunity. The sheer weight of history makes this an obvious candidate for Monday Night Football.
In one last note, this is the second year the Giants weren’t scheduled for Sunday Night Football. So when they get a night game, theirs will be the only game on the slate.
At Giants’ fans will be able to stay caught up on their sleep.
Rest for the weary?
One of the first things players do when schedules are released is look for their bye week. And since the advent of Thursday Night Football, that “mini-bye” gets circled as well. While coaches and players hate the short week of preparation that playing on Thursday Night entails, the added rest is always welcome.
To circle back to the question regarding an “easy” stretch in the schedule, the Giants only have three games between their mini-bye week between Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football, and their actual bye week in Week 11. In that span, they play the Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles, with the Cincinnati Bengals immediately after their bye.
The timing of the Giants’ games between weeks 7 and 11 could help them for the end of the season. It might not be “easy”, per se, but getting 11 days between games followed shortly by 14 days between games might let the team get relatively rested.