NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell echoed what many New York Giants fans hoped to hear during the 2018 NFL Draft. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was selected No. 2 overall and became the newest member of the Big Blue. With the addition of Barkley, the Giants fill a significant void in their offense that existed since Tiki Barber left over a decade ago. New York had just six rushing touchdowns as a team last season, while Barkley accomplished that in his freshman year. Barkley is just one of many components in a potentially lethal Giants offense in 2018.

Last season, New York finished last in the NFC East. Odell Beckham Jr. fractured his ankle in October and was forced to miss the remainder of the season, while Brandon Marshall also was plagued by injuries. Now, Marshall is gone, Beckham Jr. is healthy, and Sterling Shepard is slotted into the team’s No. 2 role. Not to mention the emergence of tight-end Evan Engram, who had six touchdowns in his rookie season.

The Giants have a handful of primetime games ahead of their bye week, including a visit from the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles. They’ll open their schedule at home against the Detroit Lions, and they cap off their regular season as hosts to Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys on Dec. 30.

New York Giants Game Opponents

New York Giants Schedule 2018

Date Opponent Kickoff time TV network
Sept. 9 vs Jacksonville Jaguars 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sept. 16 at Dallas Cowboys 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sept. 23 at Houston Texans 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sept. 30 vs New Orleans Saints 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Oct. 7 at Carolina Panthers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Oct. 11 vs Philadelphia Eagles 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)
Oct. 22 at Atlanta Falcons 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Oct. 28 vs Washington Redskins 1 p.m. (FOX)
Nov. 4 BYE
Nov. 12 at San Francisco 49ers 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Nov. 18 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Nov. 25 at Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m. (FOX)
Dec. 2 vs Chicago Bears 1 p.m. (FOX)
Dec. 9 at Washington Redskins 1 p.m. (FOX)
Dec. 16 vs Tennessee Titans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Dec. 22 or 23 at Indianapolis Colts TBD (TBD)
Dec. 30 vs Dallas Cowboys 1 p.m. (FOX)

Analysis

There are still plenty of changes to be made before the start of next season, with the upcoming NFL draft likely playing the biggest role. The squad has a chance to land an impact player with the No. 2 overall pick or potentially set the franchise up for the long term.

In the meantime, the Giants have already improved in several key areas.

Perhaps the most notable addition is former Patriots offensive lineman Nate Solder, who will likely slide into the left tackle spot after protecting Tom Brady’s blind side for seven years. By adding Solder and Patrick Omameh while moving Ereck Flowers, the team could upgrade one of the biggest weaknesses from 2017.

There is also plenty of talent defensively, even after trading Jason Pierre-Paul.

Landon Collins, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins are game-changers at their positions and should make the defense better than the 31st-ranked unit we saw last season.

Unfortunately, the schedule won’t do the Giants any favors. According to ESPN, the opponents had a .520 win percentage last season, tied for the eighth toughest in the NFL.

Matchups against the NFC South and AFC South create five extra matchups against playoff teams, not to mention the always difficult battles within the division. New York could be in for a tough test throughout the season.

Pivotal Matchups

The teams in the NFC East might not always have the best records, but the rivalries are as good as anywhere in the NFL. Perhaps the biggest matchup will be against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in a Thursday night game on Oct. 11.

Philadelphia not only won its first Super Bowl in franchise history last season, but the worst part for Giants fans is that it also wasn’t a fluke. The team returns tons of talent on both sides of the ball and added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata to an already stacked defensive line.

The rebuilt Giants offensive line will face a serious test in this game.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys should be back to contention with Ezekiel Elliott hoping to play a full 16 games. The good news is New York has limited the running back to just one touchdown in three games against them over the past two years.

If the Giants can do this again, they will have a chance to earn a key win against a divisional opponent.

However, the schedule could come down the health of opposing quarterbacks, especially with Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson on the schedule.

Toughest tests: Not including the Giants’ NFC East rivals, seven of the 10 non-divisional opponents on their schedule are strong playoff contenders. And the Colts, Bears and Buccaneers are not exactly push-overs. Road games at domes in Atlanta and Houston will be particularly tough.

Biggest breaks: Speaking of games in domes, New York is fortunate it does not have to travel to New Orleans. It also gets to host two tough playoff teams from the AFC South in Jacksonville and Tennessee. Chicago as New York’s intraconference matchup presents a winnable game.

Bottom line: The Giants’ 2018 schedule is tough. But before New York can think about navigating through that slate and competing for a spot in the NFC playoffs, it needs to focus internally. As they transition under their new head coach, the Giants’ new-look defense will be tested often by teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, Saints, Falcons, Texans and 49ers. The presumably still Eli Manning-led offense faces tough tasks against teams like the Bears, Jaguars and Panthers. Unless this team nails the draft and get an immediate spark from its new regime, wins in 2018 are difficult to spot. Record prediction: 6-10