Giants games to circle on the schedule, plus possible X-factors
Well, this should be . . . fun. At least we think so.
It’s definitely going to be an adventure.
The Giants kick off their 2023 season with a rare home opener against the Cowboys. The Giants have not opened against Dallas since 2019 but did so six times between 2012 and 2019. The last time they opened a season at MetLife Stadium against Dallas was 2012, as reigning Super Bowl champions.
The Giants will end their season by facing the Eagles in two of the last three weeks, including Christmas Day. By then, perhaps, they will have solved, or partially solved, an Eagles pass rush that returns players accounting for 52 of the 70 sacks they recorded in 2022.
Let us take a look at how some big games this season could play out, with a handful of players in starring roles.
Week 1 vs. Dallas, S Xavier McKinney
One way or another, the opener against the Cowboys will feel like a must-win game. Why? Because it always does.
The Giants won one division game last year. On a recent conference call, McKinney said: “It is what it is. Now it’s time to improve and go from there.”
McKinney, one of the most important Giants, broke multiple fingers in an ATV accident last season but said his hand is fine. He doesn’t necessarily believe he will need to wear a brace.
The safety also predicted that the Giants’ defense, under coordinator Wink Martindale, “will build something special.”
A home win over the Cowboys would qualify as a very good place to start.
Week 6 at Buffalo, TE Darren Waller and friends
There is a formula to winning in today’s NFL. It starts with offense, with great players and with explosive plays (defined as pass plays of at least 20 yards).
Last year’s team ranked last in the league with 28 explosive plays.
All of that has to change for the Giants this season, and it should.
“They’re really stepping into their primes as players,” Waller said of his new teammates. “I’m excited to be with them, to be friends of theirs, to do whatever it takes to go where everybody knows this team can go. These are guys I’m going to enjoy showing up for work with every day.”
New receiver Parris Campbell can fly, and don’t forget about Isaiah Hodgins, whom Pro Football Focus recently described as “a diamond in the rough.” Hodgins finished as the Giants’ third-highest-graded offensive player by PFF in 2022, behind only Andrew Thomas and Saquon Barkley.
With rookie Jalin Hyatt (18.9 yards per catch at Tennessee) joining the mix, the offense should be considerably more explosive.
Week 8 vs Jets, LB Bobby Okereke
Okereke, formerly of the Colts, said upon signing: “I told my agent from Day 1, I want to play in New York City. And this franchise is on the rise.”
Okereke will get the chance to be a difference-maker against the high-powered Jets offense. The Giants have lacked an impact linebacker for too long. They are counting on Okereke to be exactly that.
“I was very fortunate to play behind DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart, very elite defensive tackles,” Okereke said of his time in Indianapolis, “and to be able to replicate that, if not improve on that here, with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, it’s just a very fortunate opportunity for me as a linebacker. I’m excited.”
Week 10 at Dallas, RB Saquon Barkley
Barkley will continue to be a difference-maker for the Giants, and there’s no better place for him to shine than at Dallas. (Provided he doesn’t step on a Cowboys player’s shoe and wreck his ankle again.)
Barkley didn’t play at Penn State with Micah Parsons, but the two are close, and both are fiercely competitive, of course.
Week 15 vs Eagles, QB Daniel Jones
In Jones’ second season under the coaching of Brian Daboll and his staff, there should be great optimism in terms of what the quarterback can do.
Jones generally seems unflappable, so the new contract doesn’t seem as if it will be an impediment. He also has more playmakers around him now than he ever could have dreamed of, say, two or three years ago. (Or even last year.)
The biggest hurdle for these Giants remains an Eagles defense that continues to draft and assemble a defensive juggernaut.
In the games that counted last season, the Giants didn’t play close against the Eagles. A big question that will loom through much of this season: Can Jones and company change that in 2023?