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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Giants' five biggest games in 2012

By Ohm Youngmisuk

Each season we try to predict what will be the Giants' five biggest games of the season. Considering the Super Bowl champs have the most difficult schedule in the league, every game will be big.

As always, the divisional games will be big, since the Giants may need to win the NFC East to make the playoffs. The game against the Saints at home is crucial, considering it comes in the middle of a key stretch in December. But we don't know what the Saints will look like at that point without coach Sean Payton. So with all that being said, here are five games to keep an eye on:

Week 6, at 49ers: These two teams needed overtime to decide who would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl last year. Not only is this a rematch of an incredibly hard-fought NFC Championship Game, but the Giants will also be facing Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham for the first time after the two key offensive contributors signed with the Niners in free agency. Their two meetings last year both went down to the wire and could have gone either way. This game also starts a brutal 11-game stretch in which the Giants either face a divisional opponent or a 2011 playoff team.

Week 9, vs. Steelers: Two of the most storied franchises in the NFL meet at MetLife Stadium. It’s a big deal whenever Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger face each other. The Giants' offense will get to see where it stands against one of the best defensive units in the NFL. This game figures to be a slugfest, and it’s the beginning of a difficult November and December for the Giants.

Week 12, vs. Packers: The last two Super Bowl champions square off on a Sunday night at MetLife. The last time the two teams faced each other there in the regular season, the Packers squeezed out a 38-35 win last season. The Giants, though, won the one that mattered most, stunning Green Bay in Lambeau in the playoffs. Slowing down Aaron Rodgers in two straight meetings will be awfully difficult to do.

Week 15, at Atlanta: The Giants crushed the Falcons, 24-2, in their wild card matchup in the last year's postseason, but now have to face them in Atlanta in the always-tough Georgia Dome. With this game taking place in the third-to-last game of the regular season, the Giants could be fighting for a playoff spot or playoff positioning. This also is the first of an arduous back-to-back road set against Atlanta and Baltimore that could break their backs. I've picked this game over the Ravens game since it is a conference game.

Week 17, vs. Eagles: CommissionerRoger Goodell wanted to create interesting and meaningful divisional meetings late in the season. Last year, the Giants and Cowboys faced each other in the season finale with the NFC East on the line. The same could happen again this season when the Giants finish with Philadelphia at home. Considering the Giants have the hardest schedule in the NFL, they may have to win the NFC East to get into the playoffs, and they will probably have to beat Michael Vick and Andy Reid at home to do just that. The Giants haven’t beaten Philadelphia at home since 2007, and we won’t even bring up what happened in 2010 with the NFC East on the line.