The New York Giants will look to begin the Pat Shurmur era with a win as they look to upset the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
After weeks and weeks of training camp and four preseason games, the games count for real starting Sunday for the New York Giants as they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
At the end of last season, these two teams were going in completely opposite directions. The Giants had the worst season in the history of their franchise and were on their way to the second pick in the draft. The Jaguars were 15 minutes away from the Super Bowl as they let a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Patriots slips through their grasp.
But last year was last year and the Giants have made huge upgrades to their roster from last season.
Despite the upgrades, the Giants still come into this game as a home underdog. The Giants are 1-6 in their last seven season openers, but the team has a quiet confidence heading into this game.
Here’s what they’ll need to do to win on Sunday:
1. Win the turnover battle
It’s always important not to lose the turnover battle, especially when you’re facing a team like the Jaguars who forced 33 takeaways a season ago. It’s imperative that the Giants, particularly Eli Manning, not turn the ball over.
It would also behoove the Giants if the defense can force turnovers as well. As potent as the Giants offense is, it will be difficult for them to move the ball consistently on the Jaguars defense. So if the defense can force a turnover and give them up with a short field, it will increase the Giants chances of winning.
2. Get Odell involved early
After 11 months, Odell Beckham Jr will finally play in an NFL game. Beckham has always been the sparkplug of the offense. As he goes so do the Giants.
Despite him being matched up often against All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Giants need to get Beckham going early so that he gets acclimated with the offense. Throw him a screen pass or a quick slant to get him going and into the game.
3. Contain Leonard Fournette
The Jaguars offensive game plan will be to pound the ball with running back Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars had the number one rushing attack last season and with their best receiver Marqise Lee out for the season, the Jags will rely on the ground game even more. So the Giants will need to shut down or at least contain Fournette.
Shutting down Fournette won’t be easy especially if Olivier Vernon is unable to play due to a high-ankle sprain. Look for the Giants to have safety Landon Collins play close to the line of scrimmage to help the front seven contain Fournette and to force Blake Bortles to beat them.
4. Run behind Nate Solder and Will Hernandez
The Jaguars defensive line might be the best in football with Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus, Malik Jackso and Yannick Ngakoue. So it will be tough to get Saquon Barkley and the ground game going.
Here are the #Giants starting offensive line overall grades from this preseason:
LT Solder- 80.8
LG Hernandez- 69.7
C Halapio- 57.5
RG Omameh- 45.6
RT Flowers- 62.5#BigBlue
— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) September 2, 2018
However, if the Giants are going to have success running the ball, it will be running to the left side behind tackle Nate Solder and guard Will Hernandez. Solder and Hernandez are clearly the Giants two best offensive linemen and if they’re going to have success running the ball on Sunday, it will be running the ball behind them.
5. Keep Eli Manning upright
The Jaguars defense has the nickname Sacksonville for a reason as last year they finished with 55 sacks, second most in the NFL. One thing that we’ve seen in the preseason is that the Giants revamped offensive line is better in pass protection than run blocking.
They’ll need to perform as well if not better on Sunday as they did in the preseason to allow Manning to find OBJ, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram.
6. Special teams need to be special
In the offseason, the Giants put an emphasis on improving their special teams unit by signing Cody Latimer, Michael Thomas and Riley Dixon.
In a game that should be tight throughout, it could come down to a huge special teams play that decides the outcome. Don’t be surprised if the Giants have Beckham returning a punt in the fourth quarter if the game is close.
Defensively, the Giants match-up well against the Jaguars offense. So ultimately, this game will be decided by which quarterback performs the best on Sunday. My money is on Manning outperforming Bortles and the Giants win a close game.