The Giants were supposed to finally rebuild (and dare I say, tank). And now they are 2-0.
A hot start isn’t exactly what is expected for the first year of an anticipated eclamation project. But hey, what the hell? The Giants have shocked many and came away with wins over the Titans and Panthers in the first two weeks. Good for them.
That’s not to say this early-season success will continue though. But it’s not to say it won’t, either. Because the Giants actually have a fairly easy schedule over the next two weeks. A pair of home games: Monday, Sept. 26 against the Cowboys and Sunday, Oct. 2 against the Bears.
Could they go 4-0?
Sure. But they could just as easily drop two straight and end up at 2-2, with the Packers and Ravens on deck in Weeks 5 and 6.
Let’s make arguments for the optimistic fan, as well as the pessimistic one.
The optimistic route. Well, they’re both home games. That obviously provides an advantage, especially when the fans are into it amid a successful stretch.
And especially (especially) when the Cowboys come to town.
That’ll be the Week 3 test, but Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott won’t be on the field. The veteran injured his hand in the season-opening loss to the Buccaneers and won’t return until possibly Week 4 or 5.
So the Giants will be going against backup Cooper Rush, a 2017 undrafted quarterback who’s only started two career games (including Sunday’s Week 2 win). And a banged-up Michael Gallup (even if he plays after missing the first two games coming off last season’s ACL tear). And no more Amari Cooper in Dallas. And the Giants might be returning starting outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) and Azeez Ojulari (calf), who sat out the first two games.
Considering all this, Wink Martindale’s defense has an opportunity to continue its strong start. The unit has allowed 18 points per game through two weeks.
And then in Week 4, Justin Fields and the Bears come to town. Don’t let a Week 1 win over the 49ers in the rain fool you. This isn’t supposed to be a great Bears team and that was apparent when Chicago suffered a 17-point loss to Green Bay Sunday.
Fields compiled just 70 passing yards and one interception against the Packers and concluded the game with an abysmal 43.8 passer rating. Through two games, the second-year quarterback has only 191 passing yards, two touchdowns, two picks, a 53.6% completion rate, and a 69.2 rating.
He hasn’t garnered much help either. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney has only two receptions for four total yards in two games. Tight end Cole Kmet hasn’t even recorded a catch.
If the Giants could exploit the weaknesses in a Panthers offense that includes running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson, Martindale could definitely do the same against a weak Bears offense that’s scored only 29 total points.
The pessimistic route. The Cowboys could at least operate without Prescott.
I’m not saying they don’t need their primary starting quarterback, because they do. But Dallas was still able to squeak out a victory against Joe Burrow and the Bengals, the reigning AFC Champions, on Sunday. Rush threw for 235 yards and a touchdown while completing 19 of 31 throws (61.3% completion rate). The Cowboys defense kept a talented Cincinnati offense in check, too. Burrow threw for only 199 yards and a touchdown. Star wideout Ja’Marr Chase was held under 60 yards receiving and running back Joe Mixon finished with 57 yards on 19 carries (3.0 yards per carry).
While Rush put up great numbers in place of Prescott, the Cowboys defense was a huge reason for the victory. And the Giants aren’t close to the Bengals in offensive talent — Jones doesn’t compare to Burrow and neither do any of the receivers to Chase.
So that Dallas unit could be a huge issue for Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
Then you have the Bears. And, well, they can run the ball. They’re currently eighth in the NFL with 139.5 rushing yards per game.
Running the ball down the Giants’ throats could be the game plan for the Bears when they come to MetLife Stadium. That would take pressure off Fields and get the Giants to bite on the play-action. From there, we could see Fields taking advantage of a New York secondary that’s young and prone to injury (three defensive backs missed Sunday’s win over the Panthers for various reasons).
And if the Bears do exploit weaknesses in the Giants defense, who’s to say Daniel Jones and company will be able to keep up? The Giants offense is averaging 20 points per game and looked stagnant on various occasions against both Tennessee and Carolina.