Ed Mulholland | USA TODAY Sports

The Giants returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 last year. It was truly a shocker for a team that was supposed to finish near the bottom of the league.

Many believe they are headed back in that same direction with a newly-extended quarterback plus new talented faces on the roster. But it’s not going to be that simple for head coach Brian Daboll’s squad. The Giants still have the opportunity to move backward this season, one of our three bold predictions for the 2023 campaign:

Giants finish under .500. The roster looks better than it did last year, sure. Quarterback Daniel Jones played the best football of his life during a contract year and came away with a new four-year, $160 million deal. There’s also depth on the defensive line that didn’t exist last season plus a new starting inside linebacker in Bobby Okereke. Tight end Darren Waller is additionally a Giant now, which is pretty significant.

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But don’t purchase your playoff tickets just yet. Various things need to go the Giants’ way ahead of January. Jones still needs to take that next step as a premier NFL passer, the starting rookie corners must overcome growing pains, and the offensive line needs to develop notable chemistry. While left tackle Andrew Thomas is a star, the two guard spots carry question marks while center John Michael Schmitz is only a rookie. Second-year right tackle Evan Neal also must improve after a so-so rookie campaign.

So the Giants need a ton of breaks, amid a gauntlet of a schedule no less. Big Blue has the Eagles (twice), Cowboys (twice), 49ers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Bills, Jets, and Patriots. Plus the division-rival Commanders are never easy to face, and neither are Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and Rams head coach Sean McVay.

The slate is eye-opening, and it’s tough to locate at least nine victories for the Giants at any point.

Saquon Barkley’s final year. Maybe this isn’t too bold of a prediction, as the star running back is only signed for one more season. But with contract negotiations currently set to resume again next offseason after Saquon Barkley botched them this offseason, let’s give this hypothetical a whirl: Barkley will be exiting East Rutherford.

He’s an absolutely talented player: a top-three running back and one of Daboll’s deadly weapons even with Waller in the mix. And under Daboll’s watch last year, the Giants finally got the version of Barkley they had been waiting for ever since the injury bug started emerging in 2019.

But next offseason, Barkley will be entering his seventh NFL season which is essentially the golden years for any running back. He’ll be coming off another year of wear and tear in which the Giants have used him exponentially, carrying an even lower price tag than he already did this past offseason (general manager Joe Schoen didn’t budge on giving Barkley a multi-year extension).

While it was worth it to retain Barkley this offseason for a little over $10+ million (the modified franchise tag price), the same might not be said when Barkley is 27 next offseason. At that point, it might be fiscally advantageous to roll with 2023 draftee Eric Gray, a cheap veteran pickup, and possibly a late-round rookie.

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Revolving door at CB…initially. We’re not saying this projected rookie cornerback duo — with first-rounder Deonte Banks and sixth-rounder Tre Hawkins on the boundaries — is going to utterly fail. But we’re not saying it’s going to be a massive success either.

There will absolutely be growing pains to start the year. Both Banks and Hawkins have impressed during camp and the preseason, but September/October football won’t be like camp and the preseason. The youngsters will face top-tier receivers like CeeDee Lamb, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Stefon Diggs, and Gabe Davis. And these guys are 22 and 23 years old with zero current regular-season NFL experience.

There will be major growing pains early in the year as opposing offenses will look to attack the youngsters. Which could cause a revolving door at the position, at least initially.

Expect struggles to force coordinator Wink Martindale to bump starting slot corner Adoree’ Jackson to the outside, while Cor’Dale Flott and Darnay Holmes provide crucial depth.

Worst comes to worst: the Giants swing an early-season trade for even more depth.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.