If you believe in foreshadowing, then the Giants' 2013 season was doomed from Week 1. New York lost 36-31 at Dallas despite Eli Manning throwing for 450 yards -- three Giants had 100 yards receiving -- and four touchdowns. He also had three picks and New York turned it over seven times. That started Manning on the way to a very disappointing season, including an NFL- and career-high 27 interception season, and New York to an opening six-game losing streak. The bottom likely hit when the Giants were crushed 38-0 in Carolina -- talk of firing Coach Tom Coughlin began. The Giants admirably then won four straight games but realistically would have had to win out to make the playoffs. That hope died with a Week 12 24-21 home loss to the Cowboys, and they finished 7-9. Manning certainly had to take a lot of the blame with all those turnovers, but the running game was practically non-existent much of the season (83.3 yards per game) and the offensive line one of the worst in the league.
If Coughlin hadn't won two Super Bowls with the Giants, he probably wouldn't be their coach right now considering New York has missed the playoffs four of the past five years. This year was to be the last on Coughlin's contract, but the team gave him a one-year extension so he wasn't a lame-duck coach. Coughlin is the oldest coach in the league at 67 so this might be it, and it almost certainly will be with another below .500 record.
Key Offseason Moves
The Giants were the busiest team in free agency, adding a whopping 16 veterans. To boost that terrible running game, New York signed Oakland's Rashad Jennings (733 yards, six TDs). Other key additions on offense were Redskins center J.D. Walton, Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz, Saints offensive tackle Charles Brown and 49ers receiver Mario Manningham. He was a hero of the team's last Super Bowl win but had two injury-plagued seasons in San Francisco. The team hopes Manningham can help replace the departed Hakeem Nicks. The G-Men took a flier on Josh Freeman to serve as the durable Manning's backup. New York added three expected contributors on defense Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (three interceptions) and end Robert Ayers (5.5 sacks), as well as Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond (33 tackles).
2014 Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sept. 8, at Detroit, 7:10 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, Arizona, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 25, at Washington, 8:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, at Dallas, 4:25 p.m.
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Monday, Nov. 3, Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, San Francisco, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, at St. Louis, 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
New York has a schedule that ranks as tied for the sixth easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .465. It has five games against playoff teams.
The Giants NFL odds opened as 3.5-point underdogs at sportsbooks for their Monday night opener in Detroit. The total is 45.5 on NFL odds. New York played Week 16 last year in Motown and eliminated the Lions from the playoffs with a 23-20 overtime win. Playing with no pressure, New York went for it on fourth-and 7 from the Detroit 42 in OT and it led to Josh Brown's game-winning 45-yard kick. The Giants trailed 20-13 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter but tied it on Will Hill's 38-yard interception return for a score.
Could New York then go on a nice winning streak? Three of the next four are at home and the lone road game is in Washington, a team the Giants swept in 2013. There is just one playoff team for New York to face before the BYE: the Eagles. Philly and the Giants split last year, each winning on the road. The good news is that three of New York's four post-bye games are at home. The bad: a mega-tough three-game stretch against the Colts and arguably the NFL's two best teams, the Seahawks and 49ers.
Playing in Seattle is tough enough, and on a short week for New York makes it all the more daunting. The Giants' final loss of 2013 was 23-0 to Seattle in Week 15. It was utter domination, with the Seahawks holding New York to 181 yards and picking Manning off five times.
The back end of the schedule, after the 49ers, features five straight against non-playoff teams before closing with Philly.
NFL free picks: 'Under' 7.5 wins at -125 on NFL odds. New York is one of those teams where it wouldn't surprise anyone if it won a division title or five games. Has Manning started on the downside of his career at age 33? His numbers have regressed the past two years. The running game is still iffy and the defense lacks playmakers.