New York Giants: Big Blue faces difficult road ahead

The New York Giants are 1-2 and face a daunting schedule the next four weeks. Here we take a sneak peek at Big Blue’s upcoming four opponents.

They can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The New York Giants that is. Sunday’s 27-22 triumph over the Houston Texans gave life to the G-Men. If they had lost, an 0-3 record would have been the death knell as far as their playoff aspirations are concerned in the NFC.

Now Big Blue must build on that triumph. Momentum is a very fleeting thing in the NFL. It’s such a week-to-week league anymore. The NFC East is a winnable division this season for New York. Should Giants fans really be scared of the Eagles, Redskins or Cowboys? None of those teams look like juggernauts as presently constituted. The G-Men have the talent to win their division this season.

It won’t be easy though. It never is, is it? Their upcoming schedule is littered with land mines, dangerous foes who can easily derail their post-season dreams.

Let’s take a close look at New York’s next four opponents. This quartet of games could make or break their 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 30 – vs. New Orleans

The Saints (2-1) come marching in to MetLife Stadium fresh off a dramatic 43-37 overtime win over the Falcons. New Orleans has three of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the league – Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, who leads the NFL in receptions (38) and receiving yards (398). Oh, by the way, he has scored three touchdowns as well.

The Giants hope to have cornerback Eli Apple (groin) and edge-rusher Olivier Vernon (ankle) back for what should be a high-scoring affair (quick prediction: Eli Manning will throw a pair of touchdown passes to Odell Beckham, Jr.). Big Blue needs to find a more consistent pass rush because, if you give Brees too much time to throw, he will eat you alive.

Sunday, Oct. 7 – at Carolina

The Panthers (2-1) will be coming off their bye week and should be well-rested. In order to beat Carolina, quarterback Cam Newton must not break containment. The three-time Pro Bowler leads all NFL signal-callers with 136 yards rushing (4.9 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. The Giants need to keep him in the pocket because Newton is just a 58.7 percentage passer for his career.

Once he gets the edge and builds up a head of steam, Newton is very tough to bring down because he’s built like a linebacker with fine speed to boot. The Panthers don’t have any wide receivers that really scare anyone but they must neutralize halfback Christian McCaffrey, who ranks second in the league in yards from scrimmage (428). Only Alvin Kamara (430) has more.

Thursday, Oct. 11 – vs. Philadelphia

Thursday night football comes to the Meadowlands and what an enormous game this will be. Divisional battles are always important and this contest will give the Giants an opportunity to show the defending Super Bowl champions that they are for real. Carson Wentz has returned as the starting quarterback  for the Eagles and the Birds hope to have number one wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey (shoulder) ready to go for this key tilt.

Big Blue will need to contain the three-headed ground attack of Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood while making sure that tight end Zach Ertz doesn’t hurt them down the seam and in the red zone. Ertz tallied a touchdown in both games against the G-Men last season and is regarded as one of the premier tight ends in the NFL.

Monday, Oct. 22 – at Atlanta

Another prime time game for Big Blue. The Falcons are another NFC South contingent with tremendous offensive firepower – Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman and rookie sensation (so far) Calvin Ridley lead the way. Atlanta hopes to have halfback Devonta Freeman (knee) back for this matchup. He’s played in just one game so far this season (50 yards from scrimmage).

This contest features two of the top wide receivers in the league — Jones (20 receptions for 329 yards, one touchdown to date) and Beckham. The Giants will need to provide safety help over the top from Landon Collins and Curtis Riley because Jones can bust open a game at any time, especially on sluggo, go and post routes. This should be another high-scoring contest – look for Saquon Barkley to post over 100 yards rushing against Atlanta’s awful run defense (125.7 YPG).

Next: NFL Week 4: 5 teams on upset alert

Truth be told, the Giants would be happy going 2-2 against this rough schedule. If they manage to do just that or better, the second half of the season shapes up to be easier than the first half. The G-Men have to make sure they keep their heads above water for the next month. That won’t be easy to accomplish.

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