New York Giants (0-1) at Washington Football Team (0-1)
Washington came into the season with some significant potential. They returned almost everyone from one of the best defenses in the league a year ago and made noticeable upgrades in free agency at their two biggest positions of weakness, signing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Curtis Samuel to give their offense some more firepower through the air. Unfortunately, just one game into the season, both Fitzpatrick and Samuel are out indefinitely, with Samuel getting hurt in training camp and Fitzpatrick leaving early in week one.
Washington still has one of the best defenses in the league, but offensive play is much more predictive week-to-week than defensive play and this offense could arguably be worse than a year ago as their biggest strength last season was their offensive line and, with three new starters upfront, this remade group is not as good and did not play well in the opener, causing issues both on the ground and through the air.
New starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke is getting some hype for how he played in relief of Alex Smith last season and in relief of Fitzpatrick week one, but he’s been capable at best in his limited action, which amounts to just 78 total pass attempts, and he was out of the league completely a year ago, so it’s hard to be confident that he can even continue being as capable as he’s been thus far. This offense figures to struggle significantly without Fitzpatrick and Samuel.
Fortunately for Washington, their opponents this week aren’t in great shape either. I am higher on Daniel Jones than most and he has a promising group of pass catchers, while being supported by a solid defense, but their offensive line is a real problem and running back Saquon Barkley does not look healthy in his return from a torn ACL. If they can’t run and pass protect, the Giants are going to have a tough time consistently moving the ball this season, even with an underrated quarterback and solid receiving weapons, and their defense isn’t good enough to compensate.
This line moved from 5.5 on the early line last week to 3.5 this week to compensate for Fitzpatrick’s absence, but that doesn’t cross any key numbers, so it’s not overly significant line movement (about 8% of games are decided by 4-5 points). That line suggests Washington is the noticeably better team, but I have them a lot closer in my rankings. The general public is very down on the Giants after their week one home loss to the Broncos, but the Broncos were an underrated team coming into the season and that loss might not look as bad in hindsight if the Broncos can go on to win 10-11 games, which I think they easily could. There isn’t enough here for the Giants to be worth betting, but this is likely to be a low scoring game and there is a good chance it is decided by a field goal, so I’m taking the points for pick ‘em purposes.
Washington Football Team 20 New York Giants 17
Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3.5