There are 256 games on the NFL schedule. This handful will be the most important on the 2018 New York Giants, Jets football horizon.
The football-loving public has entered a state of purgatory. Training camp is in full swing and games will soon be played, albeit in exhibition form, with star players seeing little, if any, playing time. The start of the season so close, yet the proximity and preseason tease make Week 1 seem so far away.
Nonetheless, the extra time and anticipation can be spent in the form of analyzing the schedule. Sixteen games, 16 tailgates, 16 chances to play for a championship. Which games, however, will mean the most, especially on the extremely crowded New York football landscape?
(All time EST, subject to change.)
Week 1: Giants vs. Jaguars (9/9)
(1:00 p.m. ET, FOX)
As the offseason passed, more and more prognosticators have started to label the New York Giants as the traditional last place team that shocks the NFL masses and unexpectedly returns to the playoffs. If they’re going to live up to that hype, they’ll have an instant chance to prove they belong back among football’s elite, going up against last season’s worst-to-first darlings, the AFC finalist Jacksonville Jaguars.
This will also mark Tom Coughlin’s return to East Rutherford, as the current Jaguars executive vice president of football operations returns to MetLife Stadium as an active member of an NFL team since Week 17 of the 2016 season, his final stand as head coach of the Giants.
The Giants lost Coughlin’s final game in a 35-30 slugfest against the Philadelphia Eagles, the last time the Giants broke 30 points. The Eagles’ head coach in that game? Current Big Blue boss Pat Shurmur.
Week 3: Jets @ Browns (9/20)
(8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network)
Two of the New York Jets‘ first three games will take place on the national stage as the opener is a Monday nighter in Detroit and this Thursday night matchup sandwich a tradition 1:00 start in East Rutherford. Who knows what three games in 11 days will do to the Jets down the line, but that’s another story.
This prime-time showdown features two football punchlines, staples of eternal blooper reels. Yet, each franchise has been bestowed a rare glimmer of hope in the form of the top two quarterbacks from a very polarizing draft class. Baker Mayfield went to the Browns with the first overall pick, while the Jets kept the quarterback train going with Sam Darnold after a Saquon Barkley interlude. Which one, if not both, will have taken the starting job from a veteran placeholder by this point?
Week 6: Giants vs. Eagles (10/11)
(8:20 p.m. ET, FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
In the midst of the worst season in Giants history, they saved their best for the Super Bowl champion Eagles. The two matchups last season were decided by a combined eight points, three of which came from a 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, giving the Eagles a 27-24 win in the September meeting at Lincoln Financial Field.
This year’s opening matchup will go down at MetLife Stadium, set to go down in prime time on Thursday night. The last time Pat Shurmur was a head coach at MetLife Stadium, he partook in the Giants-Eagles rivalry, sending the Tom Coughlin era out in style as Philadelphia’s interim boss to the tune of a 35-30 win. That game, the last of the 2015-16 season, was also the last time the Giants reached 30 points in a game.
Week 8: Bills vs. Patriots (10/29)
(8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Hey, the Bills are a New York (state) team too, and, remember, they were the only one representing the team in the playoffs last season, ending a decade-plus drought.
This will be the first matchup against the vaunted New England Patriots since that trip, and it will kick off a stretch of five home games over the ensuing eight weeks (one of which is their bye). If Buffalo can pull off a rare upset win in their lone nationally televised game, it can potentially shift the entire AFC East outlook.
Week 10: Jets vs. Bills (11/11)
(1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
This could be another rookie-on-rookie battle for the Jets, as Darnold could square off with Buffalo’s Josh Allen at the Meadowlands. It’s also the Jets’ final game before their bye week, and this could be huge for them in the long run.
The Jets face Buffalo twice over a five-week span, and that pair sandwiches a four-game stretch of facing 2017 playoff competition. Also on that list are the Patriots and Titans. If the Jets get through a very manageable first half of the season, that quartet could come up huge.
Week 10: Giants @ 49ers (11/12)
(8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
When the Giants and Niners met last November at Levi’s Stadium, the teams were a combined 1-16. This season, many view the squads as potential dark horses in their respective divisions. Each has likewise added a dazzling offensive talent to break out of their respective ruts. San Francisco saw a preview of its potential franchise quarterback last season when Jimmy Garoppolo guided the team to an undefeated December, while the Giants added Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in April.
However, both teams are in a situation where a nearby rival might take precedence in the division race (The Eagles in the East, Rams in the West), thus making this nationally televised inter-division game huge in terms of the wild-card picture. The Giants and 49ers have played several classics in prime time, most recently a Sunday night thriller in 2015 that was capped off with an Eli Manning touchdown throw in the final minute. Does another await us as the months grow colder?
Week 12: Jets vs. Patriots (11/25)
(1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
A surprisingly promising season started to take a turn for the typical Jets worse when a controversial review swung a New York upset bid to New England. This year’s Jets are blessed in the sense that this post-Thanksgiving meeting is the first time they’ll run into the Patriots. However, it’s up to them to make it mean something.
The first 10 games, including a three-game homestand, feature just three games against defending playoff teams, so they’re presented with a golden opportunity to place themselves in the late season playoff discussion and make two games against the hated Patriots relevant as the season winds down.
Week 17: Giants vs. Cowboys (12/30)
(1:00 p.m. ET, FOX)
Last December’s late-season showdown between the Giants and Cowboys at MetLife Stadium felt like a complete anomaly in the New York-Dallas rivalry, as the Giants were long eliminated from playoff consideration, and the Cowboys were on the fringe. Late season matchups between the Giants and Cowboys constantly see both teams battling for playoff position.
The last time the two teams met in East Rutherford in Week 17 turned out to be one of the biggest regular season games in recent franchise history. As both teams were ensnared in a “win-or-go-home” situation, the Giants picked up a 31-14 victory that earned them the NFC East title. That victory also served as the prologue to an improbable Super Bowl victory. Can Week 17 provide a similar stepping stone?