We know, deep down, that trying to characterize an NFL team’s schedule for the coming season is a mighty risky proposition. The league is almost impossibly difficult to figure out during the season, no less in April. But we decipher the schedules anyway because it’s the NFL and we love the NFL second only to talking about the NFL, even before our lawns have been neatly manicured (at least mine. I don’t know about your lawn, but too many parts of mine resemble a cow pasture), even amid the buzz of baseball’s first month.
So I offer that disclaimer up front: This is all the highest form of speculation.
All that said, I’m going against the grain when it comes to the Giants’ schedule. I don’t think it’s as brutally difficult as most folks believe it to be.
Oh there appear to be a lot of bulldogs on the schedule — notice I use ‘appear’ — make no mistake about it. But there appear — that word again — to be some softies as well, like Cleveland, Cincy, Tampa and Carolina. And I like how the games are positioned for the Giants, usually as important a factor as the overall strength in schedule.
For example, three of the first five games are at home. The Wednesday-night opener is against Dallas, not all that different from the Cowboys team that the Giants beat twice in the final four weeks last season and have swept in two of the past three seasons. The Giants will be favored. They will be fresh off winning the Super Bowl. They will be in prime time. They should win.
Then it’s Tampa Bay, Carolina, Philly and Cleveland. I like the Giants’ chances of winning three or four of those first five games.
Things get considerably more difficult with at San Fran and Pittsburgh among the next five. But there also are games against Washington (You think the Giants might be especially amped to beat a team that knocked off Big Blue twice last season?), Dallas again and Cincy.
The Giants follow with a well-placed bye, giving them an extra week to heal and prepare for Green Bay at MetLife Stadium.
Then we are looking at a final-five of Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philly. New Orleans — something of a wild-card without its head coach — and Philly are home games. The Giants have won their last seven games in Atlanta. The Giants are 5-4 in the regular season at Lincoln Financial Field.
So while it’s a difficult schedule for the Giants, I don’t think it’s quite as scary as many others, and certainly not a bad breakdown for the defending champions. Anyway, we’ve learned that the Giants need only a ticket to the postseason tournament to have a shot at holding the Lombardi Trophy.
Giants 2012 schedule
9/5 (Wed) DALLAS 8:30 pm NBC
9/16 TAMPA BAY 1:00 pm FOX
9/20 (Thurs) at Carolina 8:20 pm NFLN
9/30 at Philadelphia 8:20 pm NBC
10/7 CLEVELAND 1:00 pm CBS
10/14 at San Francisco 4:15 pm FOX
10/21 WASHINGTON 1:00 pm FOX
10/28 at Dallas 4:15 pm FOX
11/4 PITTSBURGH 4:15 pm CBS
11/11 at Cincinnati 1:00 pm FOX
11/25 GREEN BAY 8:20 pm* NBC
12/3 (Mon) at Washington 8:30 pm ESPN
12/9 NEW ORLEANS 4:15 pm* FOX
12/16 at Atlanta 1:00 pm* FOX
12/23 at Baltimore 1:00 pm* FOX
12/30 PHILADELPHIA 1:00 pm* FOX
*Time subject to change