Breakdown: Hey, when you finish in first place, your schedule the next season is going to feature a lot of teams that also finished in first place. Add in the fact that the NFC East this season is playing the AFC North -- a division that sent three teams to last season's playoffs -- and the New York Giants have a schedule that would have been pretty challenging in 2011. After Week 5, every game the Giants play is against either a division opponent or a 2011 playoff team.
The Giants' bye week is late. It doesn't hit until Week 11 (the Sunday is Nov. 18), and while most players prefer the bye to come as close to the middle of the schedule as possible, a late one is generally preferred to an early one. Yeah, the Giants could be worn down by Week 11, but it will give them a chance to refresh for what could be a very tough closing schedule.
As for travel, there's not much to hate. The Giants leave the Eastern time zone only twice -- for trips to San Francisco and Dallas. Those trips are in Week 6 and Week 8, respectively, but each is positioned between a pair of home games. The Giants get their odd-day games out of the way early with a season-opening Wednesday nighter at home against the Cowboys, and a Week 3 Thursday night matchup against Cam Newton and the Panthers in Carolina. The only "short" weeks are Week 3, when they'll have three days between their Sunday home game and the Thursday nighter in Carolina, and Week 14, when they play the Saints at home following their only "Monday Night Football" game of the season, which is Dec. 3 in Washington.
Complaint department: I maintain that using last season's records to determine strength of schedule is a mistake, since we don't know who the good teams are going to be. But of the Giants' six games after their Week 11 bye, four are against the Packers, Saints, Falcons and Ravens (not just 2011 playoff teams, but perennial playoff teams), and the other two are at Washington and at home against the Eagles. While a division home game is a nice way to finish the season if you expect to be in contention for a division title, note that the Eagles have beaten the Giants in seven of their past eight meetings overall and haven't lost at the Meadowlands since Sept. 30, 2007.
Homecoming: Maybe you have to be a New Jersey guy to appreciate this one, but I am and so I do. Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, now the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, returns to the Garden State in Week 2. This will create several easy column and sidebar angles for my old friends at The Star-Ledger.
Giants Regular-Season Schedule (All times ET)
Week 1: Wednesday, Sept. 5, Dallas, 8:30 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Thursday, Sept. 20, at Carolina, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Philadelphia, 8:20 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at San Francisco, 4:15 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, at Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, Green Bay, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 3, at Washington, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, New Orleans, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM