- This Giants offense is the most talent Eli Manning has ever been surrounded by. Yet, is that unit good enough on its own to sneak into the playoffs and for you to bet the over on Big Blue's win total?
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Giants 2018 win total: 7 (-130 over, +110 under)
Giants 2017 record: 3-13
Key offseason acquisitions: OT Nate Solder, LB Alec Ogletree, RB Jonathan Stewart, LB Kareem Martin, OG Patrick Omameh, HC Pat Shurmur, DC James Bettcher
Key offseason losses: C Weston Richburg, OG Justin Pugh, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Devon Kennard, OG D.J. Fluker, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Ross Cockrell, WR Brandon Marshall
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Giants’ win total
1. Saquon Barkley, even while dealing with a minor hamstring injury, greatly upgrades the running game, a running game that has been one of football’s worst over the past couple seasons (which is how it goes when you have underwhelming talent and you run the same three-wide formation 90% of the time). But anyone bashing the Giants for taking a running back when the NFL is a pass-happy league (have you heard that before?) is unfamiliar with the rookie’s skill set. He’s going to add the same kind of dimension to this passing game as Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh or David Johnson in Arizona.
This is what defensive coordinators will be asking themselves this year when the Giants have two tight ends on the field. Odell Beckham Jr. requires safety help, you need to put defensive backs on Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. That’s four DBs right there. So, do you leave a linebacker on Barkley to get torched? Or, do you go with a fifth defensive back, at which point Eli Manning checks to a run and you get pulling guard Will Hernandez and blocking TE Rhett Ellison steamrolling the undersized back end of your defense, which would have its hands full tackling Barkley even if it was a fair fight? This offense presents nightmares for that reason, and this…
2. Ben McAdoo was a good position coach who was probably not ready to run a team, let alone this Giants team. And his tendency to use the same formations and run those same iso routes—an offense built for Aaron Rodgers and his elite improv ability, but not one that plays to Manning’s strengths—was dependent on receivers who could win one-on-one. Once Beckham went down last season, there was no one who could do that save for the then-rookie tight end Engram, still adjusting to the league. Pat Shurmur’s offense is going to be a huge upgrade, and whatever you think of Manning, he’s shown no signs of physical decline (namely, arm strength) the past couple seasons. Simply put: This is the most talent Manning has ever been surrounded by. And it might be the best system he’s ever played in too.
3. The Giants don’t have a pass rush. That’s an issue, especially with a secondary that looks okay on paper but—as we saw a year ago—has a chance to implode. Landing James Bettcher as defensive coordinator was something of a coup for the Giants, but unless, say, Olivier Vernon recaptures his Miami form, this could end up being one of the league’s bottom-five scoring defenses for a second straight season.
4. Let’s give some respect to the defending champs and proclaim the Eagles the odds-on favorites in the NFC East. You have to go back to 2005 to find a division whose second-place team didn’t have at least seven wins, so who do you like: the Giants, Dallas or Washington? The Cowboys have the run game (obviously), and have a pretty good defense, but can they win games from behind with what is—on paper entering the season—the worst group of pass-catchers in the NFL? Washington goes from the sometimes too aggressive Kirk Cousins to the almost-always too conservative Alex Smith under center. In short: Both Washington and Dallas are far less dynamic on offense than the Giants figure to be. In a league where the rules favor offensive firepower more and more (the helmet-lowering rule is just the latest example), that’s an edge for the Giants.
5. Yes, the Eagles are the clear favorite, on account of the trophy they won some seven months ago. But consider this: With Beckham still healthy, the Giants went to Philly last September and went punch-for-punch with the Eagles, losing on a rookie kicker’s 61-yard field goal as time expired. The Giants have won a lot of games during the Eli era, and their roster is once again good enough that they won’t be overmatched in the way they were in most games last year.
PICK: OVER 7 Wins