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Sizing up the New York Giants, the Browns' Week 12 foe


One by one, is breaking down each of the Browns' 2016 regular season opponents as the dog days of the offseason unfold.*

Today's preview features the Browns in just their fifth matchup against this NFC East foe since 2000.

Who: New York Giants

When: Week 12 (Nov. 27, FirstEnergy Stadium)

Series History (last meeting): 26-20 (Giants 41, Browns 27 in 2012 at MetLife Stadium)

The coach: Ben McAdoo— first season

The stakes: In this matchup of first-year coaches, the Giants and Browns both find themselves coming off disappointing seasons that segued into periods of transition for both franchises. And since this game is set for late November, there's a chance the elements could come into play.  

Offseason storyline: Following the resignation of longtime coach Tom Coughlin — who led the Giants to two Super Bowls (2007 and 2012) — New York elevated McAdoo from offensive coordinator to head coach in January. And tith an offense already loaded with the likes of veteran QB Eli Mannning and WR Odell Beckham Jr., New York figures to enter 2016 with plenty of firepower. What remains a concern, however, is the defense. And as such, the Giants went out of their way to shore up that side of the ball in the offseason. More on that later.

Matchup to watch: Manning vs. the Browns pass defense — With Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden expected to be ready by the season opener, he and fellow veteran Tramon Williams find themselves as the elder statesmen on a relatively young/new-look pass defense. And while Manning has solidfied himself as one of the league's elite quarterbacks, he also averages 16.5 interceptions a season. Let's see if Cleveland -- led by Haden and Williams -- can force some turnovers and, more importantly, capitalize of them.

Biggest addition: DL Olivier Vernon — After four years in Miami, Vernon parted ways with the Dolphins and signed with the Giants during free agency. The 25-year-old recorded 7.5 sacks in 2015 and has notched 29 sacks in his relatively young career. For New York, the addition of Vernon — considered one of the league's premier pass rushers — should help a defense that finished last in pass defense a year ago.

Biggest loss: CB Prince Amukamara — You could probably make a case for the departure of defensive end Robert Ayers (now with the Buccaneers) was New York's biggest loss, but they seemed to address that with the signing of Vernon. The absence of Amukamara, on the other hand, means a pass defense that finished 32nd last season loses one of its starting corners. Of course, the Giants scooped up Janoris Jenkins to offset the loss, but it still should be interesting how that dynamic plays out as dubbed it a “boom or bust” signing.

The star: Manning — Manning has been the centerpiece of the Giants offense since 2004 and this season shouldn't be any different. He completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,436 yards and 35 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions in what was one of his best statistical seasons since 2012. And with Beckham in the lineup, Manning should continue to have a reliable (and then come) go-to target this fall.

The X-Factor: The pass defense — As previously mentioned, the Giants really struggled in 2015, giving up almost 300 yards a game through the air despite their best efforts. As good as New York's offense was (26.3 points p/g, sixth-best in 2015), it was unable to overcome defensive deficiencies that ultimately doomed Coughlin and Co. If the Giants want to get back to their winning ways, it'll probably start by returning to form on defense.

What makes this game tough: Facing Manning and Beckham is a challenge for any defense and the same goes for the Browns, who are looking to improve after finishing 22nd against opposing pass games. And New York's defense should be improved from a year ago, though it remains unclear how much of a step it'll take in 2016.   What makes them beatable: If the Giants struggle on defense again and the Browns are able to take advantage of it, expect Cleveland to put itself in a good position come November.

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