NFC East: philadelphgia eagles
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
The Redskins really aren't even in the discussion, and that shouldn't offend anyone. These other three teams have receiving corps that rank among the best in football, and picking between them is probably nothing more than a matter of taste.
I went with the Giants because I think the three guys we're talking about -- Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham -- fit their roles so perfectly. Nicks is the big, sure-handed downfield and red-zone target, a young but supremely skilled receiver who, I believe, will be talked about a year from now as the best receiver in the division. Smith is the possession man, Eli Manning's super-reliable safety net and short-yardage target. Those 100 catches two years ago were no fluke. That's who a healthy Smith is. (A healthy Smith, I said, yes. We'll get to that in a second.) And Manningham is the home-run threat -- a clear No. 3, but a No. 3 with incredible potential on any given play.
The only thing holding me back on this pick was of course health, as Smith's knee injury makes him a question mark for the upcoming season and Nicks has missed games due to injury in each of his first two seasons. But I decided to take injuries out of the equation for purposes of these rankings and rank them the way I'd rank them if each group were fully healthy. You're welcome to factor health into your rankings. We each apply our own standards.
Matt Williamson, when he did this a while back, took the Cowboys, and he told me this morning he stands by his rankings. Matt just thinks Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are too incredibly gifted to pass up for the top spot, and that Roy Williams as a No. 3 is no slouch. I agree that Bryant has what Williamson calls "jaw-dropping" talent, but he worries me for other reasons. And while I think Austin is the best overall WR in the division right now, he did have a down year and I think Nicks will pass him in 2011 if he stays healthy and they, you know, have a season.
As for the Eagles... hey, I love what DeSean Jackson brings, and I'm a huge fan of Jeremy Maclin's speed. But I can't buy Jackson as a true No. 1 when he only caught 47 passes last year and, as Williamson points out, caught three or fewer in half of his team's games. Could Jackson be an 85-catch guy? Sure. And if he were, and he were producing over those 85 catches at the same rate at which he produces over 45, he'd be a Hall of Famer. But the fact is, he's not catching 85 balls a year. And as brilliant as he is with the ball in his hands, it's just not in his hands enough for me to value him and the rest of this crew over what they have in Dallas and New York. Maclin is coming on strong and could emerge as the No. 1 in Philly before long. Jason Avant, for me, ranks third among the No. 3 WRs in this discussion. So as I said, it's close, but for me the Eagles run third in this race.
So that's my take on it. Hope you guys are enjoying it. Keep at it, keep voting and TRY to play nice.