While I'm a bit baffled why the Giants fired head coach Tom Coughlin yet basically kept the status quo by promoting inexperienced offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach, I'll just get right to the point and say this team is my pick to win the NFC East this year. Is it that I think the Giants are a great team? No. But the NFC East is pretty weak.
That's not to say the Giants can't stage another run to an unexpected Super Bowl. Eli Manning, and not just because he's on two of my fantasy football teams, is my dark-horse pick for NFL MVP. He looks poised for a huge season with a potentially healthy (although now dealing with a groin injury) Victor Cruz and good-looking rookie Sterling Shepard, the team's second-round pick out of Oklahoma, joining the incomparable Odell Beckham Jr. to form what should be a terrific receiving group. Even if Cruz isn't around, it's still a nice group. Yeah, the running game and offensive line aren't the best, but this should be one of the NFL's highest-scoring teams.
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The defense will determine how far this team goes. It was the NFL's worst last year -- yes, even worse than the pathetic Saints -- in allowing a 420.3 yards per game. Yet not only was coordinator Steve Spagnuolo not fired this offseason, he also interviewed for the head coaching job. But it was on that side of the ball where the Giants focused in free agency in spending a couple hundred million dollars. The line adds former Dolphins end Olivier Vernon, widely considered the top pass-rusher in this year's free agent class. He had 7½ sacks last season and has 25½ sacks over the last three years. To help against the run, the Giants signed former Jet "Big Snacks" Damon Harrison, who started 48 straight games for the Jets.
And in the secondary, the G-Men added former Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Last year he had 64 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble in 15 games. In his four seasons with the Rams, Jenkins had six touchdowns, the most of any defensive player in the NFL in that span. He does gamble a bit too much to make the big play, which means he's going to give up a few of them as well. New York also grabbed Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple with its first-round pick. The Giants' defense gave up an average of 298.9 yards passing per game in 2015 (32nd in the NFL), so help was needed everywhere.
The Giants were 3-5 at home last season, 4-4 against the spread and 6-2 "over/under" as they were in plenty of shootouts. New York hosts two 2015 playoff teams this season. I project a 6-2 record. The Giants have a wins total of 8 at BetOnline, with the over a -140 favorite. I'm going over as I see a 9-7 mark, which should be plenty to win the NFC East (10-6 really wouldn't surprise me, either). Overall, New York's strength of schedule ranks as the second-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .461. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 18 vs. Saints (-4.5): New York off a Week 1 trip to Dallas. New Orleans off a home game vs. Oakland the previous Sunday. Eli against his hometown team, and I fully expect a game much like last year's epic 52-49 Saints home win in Week 8. Has a quarterback ever thrown for 350 yards and six touchdowns and lost like Eli did? Drew Brees did him one TD better. Beckham caught three of those Manning scoring passes. The teams combined for 1,030 yards of offense in the third-highest scoring game in league history. Key trend: Giants 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC South.
Sept. 25 vs. Redskins (-3): Washington off a Week 2 home game vs. Dallas. The Giants beat the visiting Redskins 32-21 on a Thursday in Week 3 last year for their first win of the year. New York took an early lead on a safety off a blocked punt and never trailed. Manning was 23-for-32 for 279 yards and two scores without a pick. Beckham caught seven passes for 79 yards and a TD. Key trend: Giants have won four straight as home favorite in series (3-1 ATS).
Oct. 16 vs. Ravens (-3): New York off a Sunday night game in Green Bay in Week 5 and ahead of a trip to London. Baltimore is home to Washington the previous Sunday. The Giants are 1-3 in this series, including a Super Bowl loss following the 2000 season. Baltimore won the most recent meeting 33-14 at home in 2012. Key trend: Giants 4-2 ATS at home vs. AFC North.
Nov. 6 vs. Eagles (-3): G-Men are off their bye week. Philadelphia comes off a Sunday night trip to Dallas. New York was 5-1 against the Eagles when they were coached by Chip Kelly. But the Giants lost at home to Philly in Week 17 last year, 35-30 in Coughlin's final game. Manning threw for 302 yard and two scores and Rashad Jennings had the game of his life with 27 carries for 170 yards and a TD. The teams combined for 937 yards of offense. Key trend: Giants 3-7 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Nov. 14 vs. Bengals (-2): Monday night. Cincinnati off its bye week. New York has won all three home regular-season meetings but lost the most recent, 31-13 in Cincinnati in November 2012. Key trend: Giants have failed to cover three of past four as a home favorite of 2 points or fewer.
Nov. 20 vs. Bears (-4): Obviously a short week for the Giants. Chicago is in Tampa Bay the previous Sunday. Jay Cutler probably would like to forget his last trip to the Giants (2010) as he was sacked nine times in the first half and wouldn't play the second. New York lost the last meeting 27-21 in Chicago in 2013. Key trend: Giants 2-8 ATS in past 10 as November home favorite of at least 4 points.
Dec. 11 vs. Cowboys (-1): Sunday night. New York off a trip to Pittsburgh in Week 13. Dallas on extra rest as it plays at Minnesota on a Thursday in Week 13. The Giants beat the visiting Cowboys 27-20 in Week 7 last year to end a five-game skid in the series. Dwayne Harris returned a kickoff 100 yards for the winning TD midway through the fourth quarter. The Giants were dominated statistically but forced four turnovers. Key trend: Giants 6-4 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 18 vs. Lions (-3): Might be an advantage if it's wintry for this game since the Lions are a dome team. Detroit is off a home game vs. Chicago in Week 14. The Giants lost the last meeting 35-14 in Detroit in Week 1 of 2014. Calvin Johnson tore up the New York secondary that day, but the Giants don't have to worry about him now. Key trend: Giants 5-1 SU and ATS in past six at home vs. NFC North.
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