Giants season preview and prediction

Eli Manning | New York Giants

The NFL released the Giants' 2014 schedule this week, and we'll get to that. First, though, a disclaimer: This will almost definitely be a premature season preview and prediction with the NFL draft still yet to come on May 8. But with the NFL season on everyone's mind here is what to expect from Big Blue in 2014.

It's nature of the endeavor, really — over the last five seasons, 42 percent of the playoff field has turned over every year, and with so much coaching and roster upheaval in the works (not to mention a draft to conduct) trying to read tea leaves in April isn't always worth all that much. Teams inevitably shock us, both good and bad. But hey, that's boring, and predictions are fun, so let's see what we can do.

At first glance, Big Blue's season seems to hinge on a six-game stretch spanning from mid-October to Thanksgiving. The Giants are at Philly and the Dallas Cowboys in the two weeks leading into their Week 8 bye, and then this happens: home against Indy on Monday night, at Seattle on short rest (!), back home for the 49ers and Cowboys. We'll start with the bad news, which is fairly obvious — six-game stretches don't come much tougher than that. The good news, though? Manage to at least tread water, and things set up relatively well for a shot at the playoffs.

Because outside of that run, the Giants begin and end with a very manageable slate of games. The season kicks off in Detroit against the perennially under-performing Detroit Lions, who enter the year with a new coach, Jim Caldwell, after the Jim Schwartz era went up in smoke. Caldwell should help Matthew Stafford develop as a passer, but that secondary is awfully questionable pending any draft acquisitions — and these are the same Lions who last year couldn't beat a Giants team that had already packed it in by Week 16. After that are home games against Arizona (quite possibly a playoff team, but flying cross-country with human-interception Carson Palmer under center), Houston and Atlanta, with a trip to Washington in between.

New York has a chance to get out of the gates fast, depending on just how quickly those shiny new acquisitions come together. Couple that with a stretch run that includes Jacksonville, Tennessee and a home date with Washington in Weeks 13-15, and there are wins to be had. If Big Blue can go 3-3 over that brutal mid-season gauntlet (winning at home against the Colts with the ‘Hawks and Niners looming will be huge), a showdown against the hated Eagles at the Meadowlands on the season's final day might just decide the East.

Again, this is the NFL, so "manageable" is relative. Everyone needs to be respected, and anything can happen. But the fact remains that things could have broken a lot worse for the Giants. Shore up their offensive line in the draft, add a playmaker or two, and 10-6 certainly seems within reach.

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