After finishing 11-5 and making it to the playoffs as a Wild Card in 2016, the New York Giants were expected to be a legit Super Bowl contender in 2017. Needless to say, they didn’t live up to their expectations.
The Giants got off to a miserable 0-5 start and lost star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to a season-ending injury. It didn’t get any better from there. After losing to the Raiders in Week 13, head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese were sent packing. New York finished up at 3-13, the worst record in franchise history. Only the Cleveland Browns, who went winless at 0-16, finished with a worse record.
The Giants brought back a familiar face in GM David Gettleman, who was with the team from 1998 to 2012 in the front office. He was the senior pro personal analyst when he left the team. Gettleman left to become the GM with the Panthers and in year three with Carolina he took them to the Super Bowl (finished 15-1 in regular-season).
Gettleman decided to give a second-chance to new head coach Pat Shurmur, whose first gig as head coach with the Cleveland Browns lasted just two seasons (9-23 record). Shurmur served as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator the last 1.5 seasons (replaced Nor Turner mid 2016). Shurmur received high praise for his work last year with Case Keenum and the overall production of Minnesota’s offensive attack.
Mike Shula, who was fired after 5 seasons as the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator, was hired to serve the same role with the Giants. All eyes are going to be on whether or not Shurmur and Shula can turn back the clock on 37-year-old quarterback Eli Manning.
Manning is known for helping guide the Giants to two Super Bowl wins over Brady, Belichick and the Patriots, but not everyone thinks he’s worthy of all the praise. Manning has just 4 seasons where he finished with a passer rating over 90 and his career mark is 83.5. In comparison, Alex Smith, hasn’t had a rating lower than 89 in each of the last 7 seasons and owns a 87.4 mark overall.
There will no more excuses if he can’t produce at a high-level in 2018. The Giants have a potent receiving corps that features wide outs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Sheppards, as well as talented tight end Evan Engram. Note that Engram led the team in receptions (64), was second in yards (722) and tops in touchdowns (6) as a rookie last year.
New York also upgraded an offensive line and running game that has been sub-par over recent years. They signed left tackle Nate Solder away from the Patriots and left guard Patrick Omameh from the Jaguars, plus used their 2nd round pick on UTEP guard Will Hernandez. As far as the running game is concerned, many believe the Giants struck gold with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who they took No. 2 overall.
The defense will be switching away from the traditional 4-3 scheme and implementing a 3-4 look under new defensive coordinator James Bletcher, who held the same position the last 3 years with he Arizona Cardinals.
The change in scheme prompted New York to trade away Jason Pierre-Paul, who led the team with 8.5 sacks in 2017. Holdovers Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson will be they key guys up front, with a ton of pressure on Harrison to perform well at nose tackle. The unit also returns Josh Mauro and used two draft picks on defensive linemen (B.J. Hill – 3rd & R.J. McIntosh – 5th).
The key to all this working is the transition of Oliver Vernon from being a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Kareem Martin was signed in free agency to start on the weak-side and they used a 3rd round pick on Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter for depth. Promising third year linebacker B.J. Goodson will look to bounce back from an injury plagued year alongside Alec Ogletree, who they acquired in a trade with the Rams.
The Giants cut corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, putting a ton of pressure on Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins to not just play well, but avoid a serious injury. At safety, New York has an emerging star in Landon Collins at strong safety, but could use an upgrade over returning starter, Darian Thompson at free safety.
As you can see, there’s a lot of reasons to be both pessimistic and optimistic about the direction the Giants will go in 2018.
2018 Giants Schedule & Projected Odds
Below you will find the early odds released by Vegas for Weeks 1-16, as well as my projected number for Week 17. Using the lines we are able to give a game-by-game win probability, which we used to come up an expected win total.
|2||at Cowboys SNF||+6||0.29|
|7||at Falcons MNF||+6||0.29|
|10||at 49ers MNF||+6.5||0.28|
Projected Wins: 6.68
Over/Under Wins Prediction: OVER 6.5
I would have to lean towards taking the OVER 6.5 on the Giants win total in 2018. I just think there’s too much value with New York only needing to go 7-9 to cash your ticket. Not only do I think the Giants have a great shot of winning at least 7 games, but I could easily see them being this year’s version of the Jaguars (improved from 3 to 10 wins) and Rams (improved from 4 to 11 wins).
Do I think Manning is an elite quarterback? No. However, I do believe that he can excel in this new look offense the Giants will be showcasing in 2018. With an improved offensive line and the selection of Barkley, the pressure is no longer completely on Eli’s arm to get the offense down the field.
If Barkley is as good as advertised, there’s no reason to think he can’t have the same kind of impact that Ezekiel Elliott had in his rookie season with Dallas. He was the focal point of a Cowboys team that finished 13-3 after going just 4-12 the previous year.
Keep in mind, teams aren’t going to be able to simply load the box with the weapons New York has in the passing game, most notably wide out Odell Beckham Jr.
When a team improves offensively, especially in the running game, you often see it have a positive impact on the play of the defense. That’s because the more success you have running, the longer breaks the defense gets between series. It’s also a lot easier playing from ahead than it is from behind, which New York’s defense did a lot in 2017.
Odds to Win the Super Bowl: +3300
The biggest thing you have to ask yourself when betting a team to win the Super Bowl, is does that team truly have what it takes to go all the way. I believe you have to put the Giants in that group of teams that has a chance.
For me it all comes down to whether or not you think Barkley is going to dominate in his rookie year or struggle to find his way. Considering he’s one of the best running back prospects the game has ever seen, I don’t know how you can expect him to play poorly. There’s also the concern of injury, which would derail everything, but that’s a chance you have to take.
The other thing to keep in mind is there’s a ton of value at the price the Giants are being listed at. New York is +3300 to win the title in 2018. There are 14 other teams with better odds, including the Raiders (+2800) and the 49ers (+2000). I’m not convinced Oakland or San Francisco has a better shot of winning it all than New York.
Odds to Win the NFC: +2500
You could argue that there’s even more value with the Giants to simply win the NFC. The payout isn’t all that different from their Super Bowl odds, as they are currently sitting at +2500.
Note the Cowboys have the exact same odds of +3300 to win the Super Bowl, yet Dallas is +1400 to win the NFC. At the same time, the Lions are +5500 to win the Super Bowl and have better odds to win the NFC at +1800.
Odds to Win the NFC East: +700
This one is a little more tricky, but I could definitely see why you would gamble on the Giants to win the NFC East at +700. The problem is the Giants play in what I think is going to be the best division in football in 2018. The Eagles look every bit as good as the team that won it all last year and I see both the Cowboys and Redskins improving.
It’s not out of the question that the Giants could win the Super Bowl and not win their own division. In fact, their Super Bowl runs in 2007 and 2011 were both as a Wild Card.