Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at New York Giants (2-0)

The Giants are 2-0, but they haven’t been that impressive. Both of their wins have been close against below average opponents, with a combined margin of victory of 4 points against the Titans and Panthers, and their win over the Panthers was in large part due to the Giants having a +2 turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of efficiency, which is much more predictive week-to-week, the Giants rank just 25th on offense, 17th on defense, and 20th overall, despite a relatively easy schedule. Even though the Giants are 2-0, they have still played more like the sub .500 team most were expecting them to be this season.

Unfortunately, the public doesn’t seem to be buying the Giants either, so we’re not really getting line value with their opponents, the Dallas Cowboys. If anything, we’re actually getting some line value with the Giants, as this line has shifted all the way from NY Giants -4.5 on the early line last week to NY Giants -1 this week, a huge shift, considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by 2-4 points. That line movement happened, despite the fact that the Giants won and moved to 2-0 last week, because the Cowboys pulled a shocking upset over the Bengals as 7.5-point home underdogs, with former undrafted free agent backup quarterback Cooper Rush making just his second career start. 

However, the Bengals were likely overlooking Rush and caught off guard by a backup quarterback who they didn’t have much tape on, similar to the Minnesota Vikings last season, who lost to Rush in his first career start. The Giants should be better focused than the Bengals were a week ago and better prepared for a quarterback who they now have an extra week of tape on. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Rush led touchdown drives on his first two drives against the Bengals before being limited to two field goals and no touchdowns on his subsequent eight drives.

In addition to causing a significant line movement, the Cowboys’ upset win last week puts them in a bad spot this week, as teams cover at just a 41.3% rate historically after a home upset win as underdogs of 5 or more. Part of that is probably because big home upset wins tend to cause a significant line movement that usually tends to be an overreaction of a single week of play, but a big upset win could also make a bad team overconfident, which is not a good situation, even for a team facing a 2-0 division opponent.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting enough line value with the Giants to take them confidently, even with the significant line movement. If the Giants were mostly healthy, they would be the obvious pick, but they figure to be without key defensive lineman Leonard Williams, arguably their best defensive player, in this game for the first time this season, which will be a big loss. My calculated line is still NY Giants -2, so we’re getting some line value with the team in a better spot, but this pick is for pick ‘em purposes only.

New York Giants 20 Dallas Cowboys 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -1

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants: 2022 Week 2 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (0-1) at New York Giants (1-0)

The Giants pulled the upset in Tennessee last week, winning by 1 point on a late 2-point conversion as 5.5-point road underdogs, but I wasn’t terribly surprised by that and I think it had a lot more to do with the Titans being overrated than the Giants being underrated. The Titans finished last season at 12-5, but they ranked just 19th in team efficiency, benefiting from a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. They especially struggled without AJ Brown last season, which is a problem because they traded him this off-season and, while they have Robert Woods and Treylon Burks to replace him, they still figure to miss Brown significantly. On top of that, they lost a pair of starting offensive linemen and top edge defender Harold Landry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

The Giants, meanwhile, are likely to be below average on both sides of the ball this season and, while they’re not quite one of the worst teams in the league, they’re also not healthy right now, missing wide receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and KaDarius Toney, left guard Shane LeMieux, edge defenders Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux, and cornerback Aaron Robinson. The Panthers aren’t a great team or anything, but they’re healthier and I have them about three points better than the banged up Giants in my roster rankings, so we’re getting value with them as underdogs in New York, even if they’re only underdogs by 2-points. There isn’t quite enough here for the Panthers to be worth a bet against the spread, but the money line is a good value at +110 because the Panthers should be at least considered 50/50 to win this game, if not slight favorites.

Carolina Panthers 20 New York Giants 19 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Carolina +2

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Tennessee Titans: 2022 Week 1 NFL Pick

New York Giants (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0)

The Titans finished last season at 12-5, with the AFC’s best record and #1 seed by virtue of tiebreakers, but they ranked just 19th in team efficiency, benefiting from a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. They especially struggled without AJ Brown last season, which is a problem because they traded him this off-season and, while they have Robert Woods and Treylon Burks to replace him, they still figure to miss Brown significantly. 

On top of that, they lost a pair of starting offensive linemen and, while Derrick Henry will probably be healthier this season, he figures to not be nearly as productive as he’s been in the past, given his age, workload, and the declining talent and blocking around him on this offense. They’ll also be without top edge defender Harold Landry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. If the Titans had just brought back last year’s exact team, they would be unlikely to match last year’s 12 wins, given that they benefited from things statistically they won’t be able to rely on going forward, but the Titans are also noticeably less talented on paper than a year ago, so they could easily be worse in efficiency this season than the 19th ranked finished they had last season, which would make them significantly below average.

The Titans are favored here by 5.5 points, which might seem like a lot of points for a team that I just described as below average, but the Giants might be one of the few teams that deserves to be underdogs of this many points in Tennessee, especially with the Giants missing their top two edge defenders Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux with injury. We’re still getting a tiny bit of line value with the Giants according to my calculated line, but not nearly enough to take them with any confidence. This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Tennessee Titans 22 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +5.5

Confidence: None

New York Giants 2022 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

Three years ago, the Giants used the 6th overall pick on a quarterback they were hoping would be their long-term replacement for Eli Manning, an aging quarterback on the verge of retirement, who Jones would replace in the starting lineup in week 3 of the 2019 season. However, the results have not been good so far, with Jones completing just 62.8% of his passes for an average of 6.62 YPA, 45 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions. He has averaged 5.81 YPC with 5 rushing touchdowns on 172 carries, so he has added value in that way, but he hasn’t been nearly as productive as you would want a highly drafted quarterback to be, he has just a 12-25 career record, and he hasn’t shown significant signs of progress.

It hasn’t all been Jones’ fault though, as he’s had to deal with just about everything that can work against a young quarterback. He’s had two different head coach/offensive coordinator combinations who were both ineffective and have both since been let go. He has also had underwhelming talent around him and his PFF grades suggest that he has been held back significantly by his supporting cast and offensive scheme, ranking 26th, 17th, and 22nd among quarterbacks on PFF over the past three seasons respectively, not great, but better than his numbers suggest.

That’s despite the fact that Jones has suffered significant injuries in all three seasons in the league, not only missing 10 games since becoming the starter, but also being limited in several others. It’s understandable that the Giants wouldn’t want to pick up his 5th year option, which would guaranteed him 22.384 million for 2023, but it’s still possible Jones could become a capable starter in 2022 if he can stay healthy, if he can take a step forward, still only in his age 25 season, if the new coaching staff under ex-Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll implements a better scheme around him, and if his supporting cast is significantly improved. Those could be big ifs, but there is at least more upside here than his numbers have shown.

The Giants also did a good job upgrading the backup quarterback position, a necessity given how injury prone Jones has been and how horrendously his previous backup Mike Glennon played in his absence last season, losing all four starts he made and finishing as PFF’s lowest ranked quarterback out of 39 eligible, while completing just 53.9% of his passes for an average of 4.73 YPA, 4 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Third string quarterback Jake Fromm was somehow even worse in his two starts, completing 45.0% of his passes for an average of 3.50 YPA, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions, leading to the Giants losing all six games started by backup quarterbacks in 2021.

Glennon and Fromm are no longer with the team and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor is one of the better backup options in the league, with significant experience as a low end starting quarterback,, making 53 starts in 11 seasons in the league, completing 61.3% of his passes for an average of 6.96 YPA, 59 touchdowns, and 25 interceptions, while rushing for 5.54 YPC and 19 touchdowns on 361 carries. He doesn’t have a big arm, but he avoids mistakes and can extend plays with his legs.

Even with Jones being underwhelming thus far in his career, it’s unlikely Taylor is a true threat to his starting job, as it’s unclear what the Giants would gain by starting Taylor, in his age 33 season, rather than giving the younger Jones every opportunity to prove himself. If Jones struggles, this team will likely finish with yet another high draft pick and, in what is expected to be a strong quarterback draft in 2023, the Giants would likely target his replacement. 

If Jones plays well enough to keep his job for another year, the Giants would then have the franchise tag available to keep him next off-season, which wouldn’t be that much more expensive than if they had taken the risk and guaranteed his salary for 2023. Jones playing well enough for the Giants to justify bringing him back for 2023 is a possibility, but a lot has to go right and, overall, this is an underwhelming quarterback room, compared to the rest of the league.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

The biggest problem with Daniel Jones’ supporting cast has been his offensive line, which has not only contributed to his poor play, but also has contributed, in part, to the number of injuries Jones has suffered thus far in his career. The Giants weren’t a bad run blocking team last season, ranking 21st in team run blocking grade on PFF, but they ranked 30th in pass blocking grade, after ranking dead last the year before, so this was obviously a position of need coming into the off-season. 

With a pair of top-10 picks, as a result of a trade down with the Bears the year before, most expected the Giants to use one of those picks on one of the several offensive line prospects who were projected in the top-10 and that’s exactly what the Giants did, selecting University of Alabama’s Evan Neal with the 7th overall pick. Neal will start immediately at right tackle, where it wouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade, even as a rookie, over last year’s starter Nate Solder, who finished slightly below average on PFF and was not retained this off-season, ahead of his age 34 season. Neal could have some growing pains as a rookie, but he has the upside to be one of the better tackles in the league long-term, even if it takes him a few years to reach his potential.

Neal isn’t the only highly drafted young tackle on this offensive line, as left tackle Andrew Thomas was selected 4th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft and, despite the problems with this offensive line as a whole, Thomas has panned out thus far, being the only Giants starter to earn an above average grade from PFF last season, actually finishing 18th among offensive tackles in 13 starts, after earning a middling grade in 15 starts as a rookie. Thomas is still young and unproven and development is not always linear so, even if he does ultimately end up as one of the better left tackles in the league, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he did take a little bit of a step back in 2022, but he also could easily continue improving and the duo of him and Neal long-term has a ton of potential, even if they don’t reach that potential right away.

The Giants also signed Mark Glowinski in free agency to start at right guard and he could be a great value on a 3-year, 18.3 million dollar deal. A bit of a late bloomer, Glowinski was underwhelming early in his career with the Seahawks, who selected him in the 4th round in 2015, but he became a consistently solid starter with the Colts when he joined them in 2018, stepping into the starting lineup in week 6 of the 2018 season and finishing average or better on PFF in all four seasons since, including 7th, 26th, and 22nd ranked finishes among guards on PFF in 2018, 2020, and 2021 respectively.

Glowinski is going into his age 30 season and will start declining soon, but he has missed just three starts in four seasons since entering the starting lineup with the Colts and he could easily remain a solid starter for at least another season. It also wouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade on last year’s starting right guard Will Hernandez, who finished slightly below average on PFF and then signed with the Cardinals this off-season, opening the opportunity for Glowinski to replace him.

The Giants’ other veteran free agency acquisitions aren’t quite as promising, but Jon Feliciano and Max Garcia weren’t expensive, signed to 1-year deals worth 3.25 million and 1.2725 million respectively, and will compete to start at left guard and center, where both players have experience and where both players could potentially be an upgrade. Billy Price wasn’t terrible in 15 starts as their primary starting center last season, but he finished slightly below average on PFF and was not retained this off-season, while their primary starting left guard, Matt Skura, finished 80th among 90 eligible guards on PFF in 14 starts and would be an easy player to upgrade, with Skura also not being retained this off-season.

In addition to their veteran additions, the Giants also used a 3rd round pick on Joshua Ezeudu and a 5th round pick on Marcus McKethan, who both played tackle and guard in college and who could potentially compete the starting left guard job in year one, although they are more likely to be versatile depth behind a veteran option with more experience. Feliciano has experience, with 39 starts in 7 seasons in the league, 34 at guard and 5 at center, and while he’s never been more than a middling starter, he’s never been that bad either, so he could be a capable starter for them at either left guard or center. He’s heading into his age 30 season though and would be an underwhelming option, even if he could be an upgrade by default.

Garcia, meanwhile, also has experience at both guard (48 career starts) and center (4 career starts), but is also on the wrong side of 30, in his age 31 season, and he hasn’t been more than a middling starter since 2016, so, like Feliciano, he would be an underwhelming option, even if he was an upgrade by default. Feliciano is getting paid more, so he probably has a better chance to lock down a starting job, but it’s possible both Feliciano and Garcia could both start in 2022. The Giants are also likely getting Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux back from injuries that knocked them out for the season early in the year in 2021 and they were originally supposed to start at center and left guard respectively, a theme for a team that had the third most adjusted games lost to injury of any offense in the league in 2021. 

Gates and Lemieux are not locks to get their jobs back, as they were not great options prior to suffering serious injuries, but they’ll certainly be in the mix to be starters, competing with Feliciano, Garcia, and potentially the rookies Ezeudu and McKethan, with the losers slotting in as reserves. Gates would seem to have the better chance of being a capable starter in 2022, with Lemieux struggling mightily in 9 rookie year starts in 2020, finishing dead last among 92 eligible guards on PFF, which, given that he missed all but 1 start in 2021, is the only extended starting experience of his career. 

It’s possible Lemieux was just forced into action too early in his career, but he was only a 5th round pick, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he never panned out. Gates was underwhelming as a 16-game starter at center in 2020, the only extended starting experience of his career, and he went undrafted back in 2018, but he was better in 2020 than Lemieux was, even though he only finished 30th among 39 eligible centers. If Gates earns a starting role in 2022 it would likely be at center, but he also has limited experience as a guard earlier in his career, which at the very least makes him useful as a reserve. 

Left guard and center are still unsettled positions, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were better at those spots in 2022 than they were a year ago and they figure to be better at right tackle and right guard as well, adding Evan Neal and Mark Glowinski, which gives them a more complete offensive line than a year ago, when left tackle Andrew Thomas was their only impressive starter. This is not a great offensive line, but it’s better than it’s been.

Grade: B-

Receiving Corps

The Giants also got an underwhelming performance from their receiving corps and, unlike their offensive line, whose struggles were unsurprising, given their issues upfront the year prior and that they didn’t address the group significantly last off-season, the Giants’ issues in the receiving corps were surprising. This receiving corps wasn’t horrible the year prior and then they signed ex-Lion Kenny Golladay to a big 4-year, 72 million dollar deal in free agency and added Kadarius Toney in the first round of the draft, 20th overall, after trading down with the Bears.

Like at quarterback and on the offensive line, injuries were a big part of the problem in the receiving corps, including injuries to newcomers Golladay and Toney. Toney at least was effective when on the field, leading the team with 2.14 yards per route run and showing the promise that made him a first round pick, but he only played 302 snaps in 10 games, so he didn’t have a huge impact and he would be a projection to a larger role in his second year in the league, even if he has the talent and upside to be an above average starter in 2022 and beyond.

Golladay, on the other hand, only missed three games, but he did not appear to be the same receiver upon his return, seemingly limited by the knee injury he suffered in week 5 for most of the season, averaging just 1.23 yards per route run, down significantly from 1.94 in his first four seasons in the league with the Lions, including 2.01 from 2018-2020. Golladay averaged 1.97 yards per route run in four weeks prior to the injury and has bounce back potential if healthy, but his durability is becoming a concern, as he was also limited to 225 snaps in 5 games by injury in 2020. He’s still in his late prime in his age 29 season, but, two years removed from his last good healthy season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if his best days were behind him. Still, the Giants should get more out of both Golladay and Toney in 2021.

It wasn’t just the newcomers who got hurt either, as long-time Giants receiver Sterling Shepard also was limited to 344 snaps in 7 games by numerous ailments, including a torn achilles suffered in week 15 that not only ended his season, but has him questionable for the start of 2022. Even if he does miss the start of the season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he played more than a year ago, but he also might not be the same right away and he has a concerning injury history overall, with 25 games missed in 6 seasons in the league. Shepard has a solid 1.58 yards per route run average over the past five seasons, but he probably won’t show that form for the whole season in 2022 and he might not show it all season, depending on how he bounces back from such a significant injury.

Golladay, Shepard, and Toney were supposed to be their top-3 wide receivers last season if healthy and, not only did they miss significant time, but #4 wide receiver Darius Slayton struggled in a significant role, averaging just 0.94 yards per route run and posting just a 26/339/2 slash line. That was a surprise because Slayton had played significant roles in 2019 and 2020 as well and had slash lines of 48/740/8 and 50/751/3 respectively, with yards per route run averages of 1.57 and 1.37 respectively, in the first two seasons of his career.

Slayton could bounce back in 2022, but he probably doesn’t have a high upside, he’s going into the final year of his rookie deal, and the Giants seem to be phasing the former 5th round pick out of the offense, making another significant investment at the wide receiver position this off-season, adding Wan’Dale Robinson in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. Robinson is undersized at 5-8 178, but he has great speed and will at least play a role as a gadget player as a rookie, with the possibility that he could beat out Slayton for the #4 receiver job, which would mean he would be the #3 receiver to begin the year if Shepard was unable to return for week 1.

The Giants could use 3 and 4 wide receiver sets somewhat regularly in 2022, especially when Shepard returns, not just because of their depth at the wide receiver position, but also because they don’t have much at the tight end position. The Giants didn’t get much out of their tight ends in 2021 either, with Evan Engram (723 snaps) and Kyle Rudolph (501 snaps) playing significant roles, but averaging just 0.89 yards per route run and 1.19 yards per route run respectively. 

Engram and Rudolph weren’t retained this off-season, but the Giants didn’t really find replacements, signing a pair of underwhelming veterans in Jordan Akins and Ricky Seals-Jones and using a 4th round pick on Daniel Bellinger. Those three will compete for playing time this season, as the only real options the Giants have at the tight end position, with the other tight ends on their roster being undrafted free agents or bottom of the roster caliber talents.

Akins and Seals-Jones have experience, but they have only started 23 of 58 games played and 15 of 54 games played in their career respectively, while averaging just 1.17 and 1.18 yards per route run respectively and not being particularly good blockers. Going into their age 30 and age 27 seasons respectively, it’s unlikely they have any untapped potential, making them very underwhelming starting options. Bellinger might be too raw for a big role as a rookie, but he might have to play one anyway, given their other options. It’s unlikely any of these options play a big role in the passing game, which should be focused on the wide receiver group. This isn’t a bad receiving corps, assuming they are healthier than a year ago, which shouldn’t be that hard.

Grade: B

Running Backs

The Giants are also hoping for a healthier year out of Saquon Barkley. Barkley only missed 4 games with his ankle injury last season, but he was already working back from a 2020 torn ACL when he got hurt in week 5 and, as a result, he ended up having a very disappointing season even when on the field, averaging 3.66 YPC on 162 carries and 1.02 yards per route run, while finishing as PFF’s 60th ranked running back out of 64 eligible. Devontae Booker, the Giants’ other running back last season, wasn’t much better, with 4.09 YPC on 145 carries and 1.06 yards per route run.

Barkley missed all but 67 snaps in two games with his torn ACL in 2020, but he was one of the better running backs in the league when healthier in his first two seasons in the league in 2018 and 2019, missing just three games to injury, ranking 4th and 24th among running backs on PFF, and averaging 4.83 YPC with 17 touchdowns on 478 carries across the two seasons, with 1.37 yards per route run and slash lines of 91/721/4 and 52/438/2. Durability will remain a concern for him going forward, but he’s another year removed from his torn ACL and the former #2 overall pick is still only going into his age 25 season, so he has plenty of bounce back potential. At the very least, it would be a surprise if he was as bad as he was a year ago again.

The Giants limited Barkley’s touches even before he got hurt again in 2021, as he averaged 15.6 touches per game, down from 21.4 touches per game in his healthy seasons in 2018 and 2019, so there was some question of how the new coaching staff would view him, especially with Barkley now in the final year of his rookie deal. There was some speculation that the Giants would try to trade him before the draft or to draft his replacement, but they didn’t do anything other than replace Booker with another backup Matt Breida, suggesting they view Barkley as someone still capable of being a feature back like he was to begin his career.

Breida is better than Booker, averaging 4.89 YPC and 1.40 yards per route run in his career, but he has never had more than 153 carries in a season, with an average of 93 carries per season over the past 5 seasons, including just 85 total carries over the past two seasons combined, so, even though he’s an upgrade on Booker, he’s still a more of a true backup than a real threat to Barkley’s feature back role. If Barkley stays healthy, he could easily have a bounce back year, which would be a big boost to this offense. However, if Barkley missed more time, Breida would likely split carries with 2021 6th round pick Gary Brightwell, who had just 1 carry as a rookie. It’s a concerning situation when combined with Barkley’s injury history.

Grade: B+

Edge Defenders

The Giants’ offense will almost definitely be better than a year ago, likely to have better health and better offensive line play, but they were 31st in offensive efficiency last season, so they’re starting from a very low base point and could easily be a below average offense again, so if they are going to have a serious chance at competing for a playoff spot, they will need more from their defense, which was decent, but unspectacular a year ago, ranking 14th in defensive efficiency. The Giants made some additions on defense this off-season, but they also lost some talent and, overall, this doesn’t look like a noticeably better group and, in fact, could be worse.

Arguably the biggest addition they made on defense is 5th overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, an edge defender from the University of Oregon. He could have some growing pains in year one, but he has a huge upside and could easily make an impact as a rookie, as a potential upgrade on veteran free agent departure Lorenzo Carter (617 snaps), a solid, but unspectacular player who signed in Atlanta this off-season. With Carter gone, Thibodeaux will start opposite Azeez Ojulari, a young player in his own right, selected in the 2nd round in 2021.

Ojulari led this team with 8 sacks as a rookie, which is a decent total, but that was largely due to volume, leading the position with 781 snaps played, and his peripheral pass rush numbers were underwhelming, with 7 hits and a 9.7% pressure rate. He also struggled against the run, leading to him earning a below average grade from PFF. He has the upside to be better in year two though, even if it’s not a guarantee that he takes a step forward. It might benefit Ojulari if he didn’t have to play quite as many snaps, after ranking 21st among edge defenders in snaps played a year ago, but depth is still a concern with this group, so both Ojulari and Thibodeaux could both play around that snap count. They have the upside to be an above average edge defender duo, but it also could prove to be too much of a workload for the young players.

Quincy Roche ranked 3rd among Giants edge defenders with 401 snaps played, even though he was just a 6th round rookie and didn’t even make the final roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team who drafted him just a few months prior. The Giants claimed him on waivers and played him in a significant role and he predictably struggled, faring decently against the run, but managing just 2.5 sacks, 1 hit, and a 6.6% pressure rate in his part-time role. He could continue to have a role in 2022, for lack of a better option, and, while he could be a little better in his second season in the league, that’s far from a guarantee and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he never developed into even a useful reserve.

The Giants could get more out of 2021 4th round pick Elerson Smith, who played just 107 rookie year snaps, though he also is not a guarantee to be a useful reserve and it’s concerning he couldn’t get on the field in a thin position group as a rookie. Oshane Ximines was a 3rd round pick in 2019 and was decent across 502 snaps as a rookie, but injuries have limited him to just 293 snaps in 13 games total over the past two seasons. If healthy, he could earn a reserve role and, still only in his age 26 season, he could still have upside, but durability is a significant concern with him and he’s an unproven player even if he stays healthy.

The only notable veteran the Giants added to this group this off-season is Jihad Ward, who has averaged 338 snaps per season since entering the league as a 2nd round pick in 2015, but who has finished below average on PFF in 4 of those 6 seasons, including a 110th ranked finish out of 124 eligible edge defenders across 455 snaps last season. This group has upside because of Olujari and Thibodeaux, but both are unproven and depth is a serious concern behind them.

Grade: C+

Interior Defenders

Depth is a concern at the interior defender position as well, as the Giants let go of all of the interior defenders who played a snap for this team last season aside from starters Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams and, while the departed players weren’t a great group of reserves, the players they brought in to replace them look likely to be liabilities, adding underwhelming veterans Jalyn Holmes and Justin Ellis, as well as 5th round draft pick DJ Davidson, who is likely to be too raw to contribute in a positive way as a rookie.

Holmes was a 4th round pick in 2018, but has played more than 200 snaps in a season just once in his career, when he finished 109th among 124 eligible at his position across 617 snaps in 2020, and he would likely struggle again in a significant role. Ellis, meanwhile, was at least a solid player earlier in his career, but he’s going into his age 32 season, having not earned an average or better grade from PFF in a season in which he’s played significant snaps since 2017, and he finished the 2021 season as PFF’s 108th ranked interior defender out of 146 eligible across 381 snaps, so he too is likely to be a liability.

Fortunately, Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams are one of the better starting duos in the league and have no problem playing significant snap counts, playing 759 snaps and 890 snaps respectively in 2021 and finishing 30th and 26th respectively among interior defenders on PFF, which is in line with how they’ve played in the past. Lawrence was selected by the Giants 17th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and he immediately broke out as an above average starter, finishing 21st and 19th across snap counts of 701 and 655 in 2019 and 2020 respectively prior to last season. Not just a big run stuffer at 6-4 342, Lawrence has also added 9 sacks, 22 hits, and a 8.6% pressure rate in 48 career games. Still only in his age 25 season, it’s possible he has further untapped upside and, even if he doesn’t, he’s already established himself as a consistently above average interior defender and should remain one going forward.

Williams was also a first round pick, selected 6th overall by the Jets in 2015, and he has been an above average starter in each of his seven seasons in the league, while missing just one game ever and averaging 840 snaps played per season. Also a solid run stopper, WIlliams has totaled 35.5 sacks, 116 hits, and a 10.1% pressure rate in 112 career games, despite primarily being an interior rusher, and his best overall seasons came in 2015, 2016, and 2020, when he finished 23rd, 10th, and 18th respectively among interior defenders on PFF.

The Giants acquired Williams midway through the final year of his rookie deal in 2019 for a 3rd round and a 5th round pick, franchise tagged him at 16.126 million for the 2020 season, and then the following off-season, after initially franchise tagging him again, they re-signed him on a 3-year, 63 million dollar contract, making him the 3rd highest paid interior defender in the league in average annual salary. The Giants have given up a lot to acquire and keep him, but you could argue he’s been good enough to justify that and, still only in his age 28 season, he could easily remain worth it going forward. He and Lawrence should remain one of the better interior defender duos in the league for years to come, though depth is an obvious concern behind them this season, which hurts their overall grade at the position.

Grade: A-

Linebackers

The Giants didn’t make any significant additions to their linebacking corps this off-season, but they’ll get every down linebacker Blake Martinez back from a torn ACL that ended his 2021 season after week 3, which is basically like a free agent addition. Martinez might not be quite as good in his first season back from his injury in 2022 as he was in 2020, when he finished 7th among off ball linebackers on PFF, but he also finished 18th among off ball linebackers in 2018 and had finished average or better on PFF in four straight seasons prior to last year, while making all 64 possible starts and averaging 64.3 snaps played per game. Still only in his age 28 season, he has a good chance to remain at least a solid starter in his first year back.

Martinez’s re-addition will be big for this defense, but they didn’t have an unusually high amount of injuries on defense like they did on offense, ranking 16th in defensive adjusted games lost, and injuries are part of the game, so they can’t assume they’ll have perfect health on defense. Even if Martinez plays all or most of the season, someone else significant could easily miss an extended period of time instead. Martinez’s return also won’t push his replacement Tae Crowder out of the starting lineup, even though he was horrendous in Martinez’s absence last season, finishing dead last among 94 off ball linebackers on PFF across 1099 snaps.

Only a 7th round pick in 2020, Crowder was also horrendous in 403 snaps as a rookie, finishing 93rd out of 99 eligible off ball linebackers on PFF, and he’s unlikely to take a significant step forward in his third season in the league, but the Giants don’t have another option to start next to Martinez. Benardrick McKinney (181 snaps), Reggie Ragland (474 snaps), and Jaylon Smith (154 snaps) all saw action last season as the starter next to Crowder, but they were an underwhelming bunch and are no longer with the team. 

The Giants drafted a pair of off ball linebackers who will be at least in the mix for reserve roles, taking Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers, but they were just 5th and 6th round picks and would almost definitely struggle in a significant rookie year role. They also have a pair of recent late round picks, Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin, who were taken in the 6th and 7th round respectively in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they’ve been mediocre at best in limited action in their careers thus far, playing just 106 defensive snaps and 233 defensive snaps total in their respective careers. Blake Martinez’s return elevates this group, but he might not be the same in his first year back and depth is still a huge concern, with arguably the weakest linebacking corps in the league outside of Martinez.

Grade: C+

Secondary

The biggest losses on this defense this off-season were in the secondary, especially at cornerback, where they lost James Bradbery, a 16-game starter as an outside cornerback, and Logan Ryan, 15-game starter as a slot cornerback/safety hybrid. Both only earned middling grades from PFF, but the Giants also didn’t add any proven options to replace them and will be relying on getting significant contributions from unproven young players, behind Adoree Jackson, their incumbent top cornerback and the only returning starting cornerback on this defense.

Jackson at least gives the Giants one above average cornerback option, but that would require him to be on the field, which has been a problem for him over the past 3 seasons, missing 22 games. A first round pick in 2017, Jackson is still only in his age 27 season and has finished 36th, 30th, 16th, and 18th among cornerbacks on PFF in his last four relatively healthy seasons respectively, limited to 3 games in 2020 in between, but durability is becoming a significant concern for him and, making matters worse, the Giants have very questionable depth behind him.

Aaron Robinson was a third round pick by the Giants in 2021 and looks likely to be the #2 cornerback opposite Jackson, but he played just 268 nondescript snaps as a rookie and is a projection to a larger role. He could prove to be a solid starter in extended action, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if he struggled. Darnay Holmes is also a young cornerback and the 2020 4th round pick probably has even less chance of success in a larger role, struggling across snap counts of 442 and 282 respectively in his first two seasons in the league in 2020 and 2021. 

The Giants might not have much of a choice but to make Holmes their #3 cornerback though, with their only real off-season addition at the cornerback position being 3rd round pick Cor’Dale Flott, who also likely would struggle if forced into significant action this season. The Giants would really benefit from adding even a low end veteran to the mix before the season starts, but there’s no guarantee they do, as they may prefer to let their young cornerbacks play in a trial by fire.

Depth is also a concern at the safety position, where Logan Ryan played part-time and where Jabrill Peppers, who also departed this off-season, played 229 snaps in 6 games before tearing his ACL last season. Without Ryan and Peppers, Julian Love, who played 612 snaps in a part-time role last season, will likely become an every down starter, with their only alternative options being 4th round rookie Dane Belton and career reserve/special teamer Henry Black. 

Love was a 4th round pick in 2019 and flashed potential on 408 snaps as a rookie, finishing above average on PFF, but he’s struggled in bigger snap counts over the past two seasons, finishing 84th out of 98 eligible safeties on PFF last season and 75th out of 99 eligible safeties on 722 snaps on PFF in 2020. Only in his age 24 season, he could easily still have untapped upside, but he also just as easily could struggle, now in the biggest role of his career.

Fortunately, their other starting safety Xavier McKinney is coming off of a well above average season, finishing as PFF’s 16th ranked safety. McKinney is technically a one-year wonder, but that’s because he is only in his 2nd season in the league and missed most of his rookie season with injury. Highly talented, selected 36th overall at the top of the second round in 2020, McKinney also flashed potential with an above average grade in four rookie year starts, after returning from injury, so it wasn’t that surprising that he was able to carry that into 2021 and he could easily continue it going forward, still only in his age 24 season, with the upside to be even better going forward and develop into one of the better safeties of the league. McKinney and Adoree Jackson elevate an otherwise underwhelming secondary.

Grade: B

Special Teams

The Giants’ special teams were solid last season, ranking 11th in special teams DVOA, primarily due to kicker Graham Gano, who made 87.9% of his field goals and 100% of his extra points, while finishing as PFF’s 8th ranked kicker. Gano might not be quite as good in 2022, but he’s made 84.0% of his field goals and 95.3% of his extra points in his career, while finishing in the top-11 among kickers on PFF in four of his past six healthy seasons, so he definitely could have another comparable season and the rest of the Giants’ special teams looks likely to be better than a year ago.

Punting was their biggest special teams weakness last season and they have swapped out incumbent punter Riley Dixon for Jamie Gillan, who might not be great, but who has a good chance to be an upgrade by default. The Giants also didn’t have a single core special teamer finish in the top-50 on PFF in special teams grade last season and they added Henry Black from the Packers this off-season to give them at least one. Their return game is still likely to be a weakness, with CJ Board remaining the primary kickoff returner and an unsettled punt returner situation, but this special teams unit could be even better than a year ago and is likely to be at least above average again.

Grade: B+

Conclusion

The Giants should have better health, better coaching, and better offensive line play on offense, which should bring them out of the basement on that side of the ball, after ranking 30th in offensive efficiency a year ago, but they’re still likely to be a below average offense, while their defense could be slightly worse than a year ago, when they ranked 14th in defensive efficiency, in which case their defense would also likely be below average this season. Their special teams should be above average and, overall, this team should still be more competitive than a year ago, but it’s hard to see them seriously competing for a playoff spot in 2022. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Final Prediction: The Giants will benefit from the easiest schedule in the NFL, but should still have a hard time even finishing .500. They’ll be more competitive than a year ago, but Kenny Golladay continuing to struggle through injuries in the pre-season and Blake Martinez getting released in his return from an ACL tear do no help matters.

Prediction: 7-10, 4th in NFC East

Washington Football Team at New York Giants: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Washington Football Team (6-10) at New York Giants (4-12)

Giants fans thought things were bad with Daniel Jones, but he proved to be the one thing keeping this team somewhat competitive, as the Giants have not been competitive in any of the five straight games they have lost since he went down, losses that have come by an average of 18.4 points per game. However, they haven’t had the easiest schedule over that stretch (Dolphins, Chargers, Cowboys, Eagles, Bears) and this week’s game is probably their easiest game, with a home game against Washington on the schedule.

Washington is just 6-10 and they are arguably even worse than their record, going 5-4 in one score games and ranking just 26th in point differential at -114. Despite that, they are favored by seven points here on the road, a margin of victory they have achieved or surpassed just once all season and never on the road. As bad as the Giants are, they are a little healthier than they have been in recent weeks and Washington is not good enough to be favored by a touchdown on the road against anyone. I don’t want to make this a big play, but my calculated line has Washington favored by just 1.5 points, so there is just too much value here with the Giants to ignore, even if their quarterback situation is horrendous.

Washington Football Team 19 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +7

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Chicago Bears: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-11) at Chicago Bears (5-10)

The Bears are just 5-10, but their biggest problem has been the turnover margin, as they rank 3rd worst in the NFL at -13. Turnover margin is not predictive week-to-week though and in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on more predictive metrics, yards per play and first down rate, the Bears rank 25th, 14th, 10th, and 19th on offense, defense, special teams, and in overall mixed efficiency respectively. 

The Bears are also getting healthier, most notably left tackle Jason Peters and interior defender Akiem Hicks, who are among their most important players. The Bears were leading the Packers in Green Bay a few weeks ago when Peters got hurt, while their defense held the Vikings to a 20.00% first down rate and 3.16 yards per play in Hicks’ last game a couple weeks ago, so with both expected back this week, the Bears are suddenly a somewhat decent team.

The same can’t be true for the Giants, who are 4-11 and probably even worse than their record suggests, given all of the absences they have. Their defense is expecting to get top cornerback Adoree Jackson back, but he returns at the same time that talented interior defender Dexter Lawrence is expected out, joining safety Jabrill Peppers and linebacker Blake Martinez, who have been out for weeks, while their offense continues to miss three of their top-4 wide receivers, a pair of starting offensive linemen, and starting quarterback Daniel Jones, whose backup quarterbacks Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm have struggled mightily in his absence. 

The Bears aren’t a team that scores a lot of points and they have just two wins by multiple scores, so this line favoring them by six might seem high, but this is also one of their easiest games and there is a big enough talent gap between these two teams that I think the Bears should be favored by at least a touchdown. There isn’t enough here for the Bears to be bettable, but they should be the pick for pick ‘em purposes as long as this line stays below a touchdown.

Chicago Bears 17 New York Giants 9

Pick against the spread: Chicago -6

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-10) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

Many wrote the Eagles off when they started 3-6, but they were a lot better than their record suggested, having faced one of the toughest schedules in the league and still managing a positive point differential. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Eagles have climbed right back into the playoff picture at 7-7 as their schedule has gotten easier in recent weeks. Despite their recent strong stretch, the Eagles still remain a better team than their record suggests, as their seven wins have come by an average of 17.1 points per game, while their losses have come by an average of 9.1 points per game, giving them a point differential of +56, 11th best in the NFL.

The Eagles’ one loss since their 3-6 start was to these Giants, but that game was in New York and the Eagles won both the first down rate and yards per play battle in that game by significant margins, losing the game by 6 only because they lost the turnover battle by 4, in a game in which a banged up Jalen Hurts threw three interceptions. Turnover margins are not consistent week-to-week, but first down rate and yards per play tend to be much more consistent and predictive. 

In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the Eagles rank 11th, 14th, and 19th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 8th in overall mixed efficiency. They’re also arguably even better than that suggests as they are remarkably healthy right now for how late in the season it is, especially when you consider that they had key offensive linemen miss time earlier in the season and had a stretch where their quarterback was injured. 

The Giants, on the other hand, are going in the opposite direction injury wise and are missing key players that played just a few weeks ago in the first matchup between these two teams. The biggest absence is quarterback Daniel Jones, who was first replaced with mediocre veteran backup Mike Glennon and now is being replaced by the unproven Jake Fromm, who will be making his first career start in this game, just a few weeks after joining the Giants and is likely still getting up to speed on the playbook. 

The Giants likely would have lost the first matchup at home by double digits if not for the turnover margin and, now with Fromm under center, in a game in Philadelphia, this is likely to be a double digit win, which would be the Eagles’ 7th of the season and the Giants 7th such loss. My calculated line has the Eagles favored by 13 and, assuming nothing major changes in terms of players being in the COVID protocol, I plan on betting the Eagles as 10-point favorites before gametime. I’m also hoping we can get a -9.5 at some point to avoid a push if the Eagles win by 10. I’m leaving this as low confidence for now, but will likely be updating this before gametime.

Update: This line is rising Sunday morning, so I want to lock in -10 before it’s too late.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 New York Giants 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -10

Confidence: Medium

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at New York Giants (4-9)

The Cowboys are 9-4 and rank 5th in the NFL in point differential and they have done so despite some key absences. Starting quarterback Dak Prescott (1 game), each of their top-3 wide receivers Amari Cooper (2 games), CeeDee Lamb (1 game), and Michael Gallup (7 games), each of their top-3 offensive linemen Tyron Smith (3 games), Zack Martin (1 game), and La’El Collins (5 games), and their two best pure edge defenders DeMarcus Lawrence (10 games) and Randy Gregory (5 games) have all missed time and, in fact, last week was the Cowboys’ first game of the season where each of the aforementioned each players were all active.

Unfortunately, that did not last, as Tyron Smith left mid-game, but the Cowboys still held on to win by a touchdown over a competitive Washington team and, though Smith is out this week, it’s not bad timing for the Cowboys, as their opponents this week and dealing with a much worse situation. Already a much worse team than the Cowboys, the Giants will be very short-handed this week. The most notable absence is starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who will be replaced by Mike Glennon, who struggled mightily in relief of an injured Jones against the Cowboys earlier this year, and possibly by Jake Fromm, a signing from the Colts’ practice squad who has been with the team for two and a half weeks and has thrown zero career passes, yet reportedly might get into this game for the Giants.

However, the bigger side of concern for the Giants from an absence standpoint is their defense, which has been the more passable unit this season. Already without top linebacker Blake Martinez, top cornerback Adoree Jackson, and starting safety Jabrill Peppers, the Giants are now without their other starting safety Xavier McKinney, promising fill-in cornerback Aaron Robinson, valuable rotational edge defender Oshane Ximines, and possibly stud defensive lineman Leonard Williams, probably their best defensive player overall. In their current state, the Giants are legitimately one of the worst few teams in the league, while the Cowboys could still be considered one of the better teams, even without Smith.

This line is high at Dallas -10.5, but my calculated line currently has the Cowboys favored by 14.5 even if Leonard Williams plays and I don’t see this line getting any lower, especially since the Giants have had five COVID positives this week to just one for Dallas, meaning they are much more likely to have a bigger outbreak within the next couple days before gametime. This isn’t a big bet, but it’s one of the few I’m comfortable locking in right now, given all of the uncertainty, and it’s possible I end up increasing this play if the Giants lose Williams or others and/or we get favorable line movement.

Dallas Cowboys 30 New York Giants 13

Pick against the spread: Dallas -10.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Los Angeles Chargers: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-8) at Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)

A lot has been made of the Giants’ injury situation, as they are missing starting quarterback Daniel Jones, at least one of their top wide receivers Kadarius Toney, as well as a trio of key defensive starters, safety Jabrill Peppers, cornerback Adoree Jackson, and middle linebacker Blake Martinez, but the Chargers are missing some key players as well. Top wide receiver Keenan Allen is out with COVID, while fellow wide receiver Mike Williams and top cornerback Chris Harris could join him as close contacts, although both seem likely to end up playing. They’re also without starting cornerback Asante Samuel, starting edge defender Kyler Fackrell, and their two starting offensive linemen on the right side, tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Oday Aboushi.

Despite that, the Chargers are favored by 10 points in this game. The Chargers are a better team than they were a year ago, but, dating back to the start of last season, the Chargers have just three multi-score wins, with two of them coming last season against the eventual 1-15 Jaguars and the Chiefs’ backups in a meaningless week 17 game. The Giants might be bad enough to still lose by double digits anyway, but my calculated line has the Chargers favored by just 8.5 points, factoring in that the Chargers frequently draw road heavy crowds and don’t have much homefield advantage in Los Angeles as a result, going just 13-21 ATS at home since moving to Los Angeles.

On top of that, the Chargers are in a bad spot, with a much tougher game next week, in Kansas City, against the Chiefs. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 43.6% rate before facing a team with a winning percentage over 40% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, and, making matters worse for the Chargers, that game in Kansas City is on short rest on Thursday Night Football. Favorites cover at just a 41.7% rate before a Thursday game. It’s very likely the Chargers overlook a bad Giants team starting a backup quarterback, at least enough that this game will be closer than it should be. There isn’t enough here for Glennon and the Giants to be bettable, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 New York Giants 16

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +10

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)

The Dolphins have won four straight games after a 1-7 start to move up to 5-7 and into the mix for a potential playoff spot in the AFC, but two of their wins came against two of the worst teams in the league, the Texans and Jets, by one score, another came against a Ravens team that was exhausted on a short week after an overtime game, a 16% cover spot all-time, and another came against a Panthers team that has arguably the worst quarterback situation in the league and then lost feature back Christian McCaffrey early in the first half with injury. 

In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Dolphins rank 29th, 20th, and 26th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and their 28th ranked mixed efficiency shows them to still be one of the worst teams in the league from a statistical standpoint, despite a recent winning streak. The Dolphins went 10-6 a year ago, but they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL), so they were not nearly as good as their record suggested.

The Dolphins continue to have an easy schedule this week, as not only are the 4-7 Giants coming to town, but they are doing so without injured starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who will be replaced by backup Mike Glennon. Jones isn’t a great quarterback, but he was not the problem with this offense and could at least make plays with his feet, while having some passing success, despite a terrible offensive line and a habitually banged up skill position group. Three of the Giants’ losses this season have come by three points or fewer, with none of their wins coming by that thin of a margin, so the Giants could easily have another couple wins and it’s a credit to Jones that the Giants have been able to be competitive in a lot of their games despite the issues on this offense around the quarterback.

Glennon is a significant downgrade from Jones and will also have to deal with that offensive line and a skill position group that is missing a pair of key wide receivers in Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard, though top receiver Kenny Golladay and feature back Saquon Barkley have returned from extended absences in recent week. The Giants’ defense is not healthy either, missing top cornerback Adoree Jackson from a group that already was not the same since losing top linebacker Blake Martinez and top safety Jabrill Peppers for the season earlier this year.

This line has jumped up to Miami -6, after favoring the Dolphins by just 2.5 points on the early line last week, so we’re getting some line value with the Giants even with all their injuries, which isn’t a surprise considering the Dolphins are overrated, but we aren’t getting nearly enough line value to take the Giants with any confidence, as many calculated line has the Dolphins favored by five points. Missing all they are missing due to injury, the Giants are among the worst teams in the league, so even the Dolphins should be favored by a significant amount at home against them, even if maybe not six points. I’m taking the Giants, but this is purely a fade of an overrated Dolphins team that has already struggled to separate from bad teams in the Jets and Texans in recent weeks.

Miami Dolphins 22 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +6

Confidence: None