EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 29: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants warms up prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on December 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Winning the turnover battle and keeping Daniel Jones upright is crucial if the New York Giants want to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jason Leach

Week 1 of the NFL season is finally here! Despite not having a preseason due to COVID-19, all 32 teams are confident that their season will end with them hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February at Super Bowl 55.

The New York Giants and their rookie head coach Joe Judge has a tough first task as they face a Pittsburgh Steelers team that is always coached well and has one of the best defenses in the league.

Big Blue heads into their Monday night showdown with the Steelers as decisive underdogs. But Judge will have his team prepared and if they can execute a few keys, they can win their season opener for the first time since 2016.

Here are the keys to victory for the Giants.

1. Win the turnover battle

The Steelers have several advantages coming into this game as they have one of the best coaches in the league in Mike Tomlin, Pro Bowl players on both sides of the ball, and a defense that led the league in sacks last season with 54.

A way to negate the Steelers’ advantages is to win the turnover battle and create scoring opportunities for the offense. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t played football in a year and will be rusty and if the Giants front seven can apply pressure, he’ll be susceptible to turnovers.

More importantly, Daniel Jones must show that he’s fixed the turnover woes that plagued him as a rookie.

If the Giants can be +2 or better in the turnover battle, it bodes well for them pulling off the upset.

2. Keep Daniel Jones upright

The Giants’ revamped offensive line that includes rookie Andrew Thomas, right tackle Cam Fleming, and new center Nick Gates will face arguably their toughest opposition of the season in Week 1.

As we mentioned, the Steelers led the league in sacks last season thanks in large part to edge rushers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree who combined for 26 sacks last season. Thomas and Fleming must hold their own against Watt and Dupree and keep Jones upright or else it will be a long night for Big Blue.

3. Keep feeding Saquon

It’s without question that Saquon Barkley is the Giants’ best playmaker and he’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field. The more he gets his hands on the ball—rushing and receiving—the more New York’s chances of winning increases.

It won’t be easy for Barkley to run against the tough Steelers front seven. But eventually, if Barkley gets enough touches, he’ll break one for a long gain. Barkley needs to have 25 or more touches on Monday.

4. Don’t get beat deep

The biggest concerns for the Giants this season are their inexperience and thin secondary. It’s imperative that the Giants avoid communication lapses in the secondary or else it will result in a touchdown.

Roethlisberger will try to exploit the secondary with his favorite target in JuJu Smith-Schuster. It will be up to James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and the rest of the Giants secondary to make sure Smith-Schuster and the rest of the Steelers pass catchers do not beat them deep.

5. Special teams must be special

With Joe Judge having a special teams background, this is one phase of the game that should favor the Giants. The Giants special teams unit is solid with punter Riley Dixon and special teams ace Nate Ebner, but we also may see a trick play from this unit that could determine the outcome of the game.

Prediction

The Giants will be better coached this season under Judge and will show progression. But it’s a tall task to expect a rookie head coach and a young roster to beat one of the best teams in the AFC without having preseason games. Big Blue will battle and give the Steelers all they can handle. But in the end, they’ll come up just short of victory. Steelers 23, Giants 17.

 

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