Giants (0-0) vs Jaguars (0-0)
The Jaguars are the defending AFC South champions. They finished 10-6 and won
their division for the first time since 1999. The Tom Coughlin influence was certainly
felt after he became the executive vice president of football operations last
year. They hadn't won more than 5 games since 2010, but managed to win two playoff
games and fell just short of going to the Super Bowl. The Jaguars season finally
came to an end with a 24-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC championship game.
Giants are coming off a disastrous 3-13 season. They started off losing five games
before traveling to Denver to surprise the Broncos with a 23-10 win. The Giants
took three more losses before notching their first home game win against the Kansas
City Chiefs with a 12-9 overtime score. Following that, a five game losing streak
included Eli Manning's consecutive starting streak being broken, and the head
coach and general manager being released. Steve Spagnuolo acted as interim head
coach and the team managed to close out the season with a 18-10 home win over
the Washington Redskins.
They almost did it. They were up
against the New England Patriots leading 14-10 at the half and then 20-10 early
in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars managed only two first downs for the rest of
the game while Tom Brady went on to throw two touchdowns to secure a 24-20 win
for his team. As Giants fans know, Tom Coughlin is not an 'oh well' kind of guy.
A better offense would have won that game, and in the offseason Coughlin made
the necessary moves.
He picked up Andrew Norwell, the top guard available,
knowing that new coach Pat Shurmur had a need, desired him, and had a strong connection
to Norwell from his time with the Carolina Panthers. Coughlin, who brought the
expansion team Jaguars to life when they first started and resuscitated them once
again, never sleeps.
year the Jaguars offense averaged about 141 yards per game on the ground making
them the top team in that area, and they were second in the league in rushing
touchdowns. Running with the ball is their biggest strength. It was hard to limit
running back Leonard Fournette last year, and now as we mentioned, Andrew Norwell
was added to the team to strengthen the offensive line. Norwell will help open
things up for Fournette as well as keeping opposing defensives away from quarterback
Their passing game was mostly average as far as yardage goes,
with Bortles throwing about a hundred less passes than the year earlier. They've
added tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkinsusins as an extra target for Bortles to
throw to, but their top receiver Marqise Lee, who can block and catch, is out
for the season. This is really a run first team offense.
to start? Last year the Jaguars were the best passing defense in the league. They
also ranked second in three other important categories, interceptions, sacks and
points allowed. Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye may have their hands full
covering Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, but they have the 'hands' to
do it. They combined last year for 35 passes defended and 10 interceptions.
Depending how the Jaguars play it, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, with 12 sacks
last year, or maybe Calais Campbell, the team's sack leader with 14.5, will be
testing Ereck Flowers, playing in his new position at right tackle. Will there
be enough room for Saquon Barkley to break free? The Jaguars run defense wasn't
their strong point, and on obvious passing plays they will still have to worry
about Barkley getting just past the line and pulling a short throw for big yardage.
seemed as though Eli Manning played last season with one arm tied behind his back.
Actually, if he had three arms it wouldn't have mattered. Manning had no receivers
he could really count on except for Sterling Shepard who missed five games.
Tight end Evan Engram, playing in his rookie year, had the most catches on the
team. As a team, the Giants had the most drops in the league. Manning's offensive
line barely offered him protection and there was no blocking for a ground game.
Things have changed. For offensive line help the Giants desired
Andrew Norwell, and when he became unavailable they signed Nate Solder from the
Patriots to a four-year contract worth $62 million. If that didn't show that the
Giants have a win-now attitude, I don't know what does.
Oh, wait, they had
the number two pick in the draft, a perfect spot to pick a quarterback for the
future. They passed on that option and instead chose running back Saquon Barkley.
They now have a better offensive line, an untested but acclaimed running back,
and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. coming
off a season ending injury. Yes, the Giants are in it to win now.
Last year this team went from
being ranked 10th in total defense to 31st, allowing 373.2 yards per game. They
overworked starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. Jason Pierre-Paul has
since been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a deal involving draft picks.
Olivier Vernon will adapt to a 3-4 defense and work with third round pick Lorenzo
Carter to pressure quarterbacks. Unfortunately, Olivier Vernon is out for this
game, so former Eagle, and last year a Rams linebaker, Connor Barwin will be getting
more work than expected in this first game.
Alec Ogletree is now the inside
linebacker, added in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams. He didn't handle the switch
to their 3-4 defense as well as the Rams hoped last year, but at least now has
one year experience playing in it. With his added influence, the Giants looked
good in preseason in stopping the run.
Giants would like to stuff the run and force Blake Bortles to throw passes that
he shouldn't. Normally that would be a great plan, but still, the Giants secondary
is still shaping up. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins will be back there, but Eli Apple
is coming off a tough year, and hasn't looked sharp in preseason play. Safety
Landon Collins can always be counted on, but some players on the depth chart are
new to the team.
Jaguars made big strides forward last year. Coming off a 3-13 season, they won
10 games, the division title, a wild card game, and continued on to fall just
short of going to the Super Bowl, Coincidentally the Giants are coming off a 3-13
season. Can they come anywhere close to doing what the Jaguars did? The Jaguars
won their first game of the season last year, and that's where the Giants are
The Giants have gone through a lot of changes, but at least they don't
have to travel for this game, playing against a more established Jaguars team.
If they were on the road playing this game in Jacksonville with a rejuvenated
Jaguars fan base, along with the number of tweaks they've made, I wouldn't pick
the Giants to win.
We have yet to see Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram,
Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard all on the field at the same time. Playing
this game at home with the usual unsettledness that accompanies any of the NFL
teams playing in the first game of a new season, the Giants have a shot, so I'll
go with that for an upset win.
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Thursday at 8:20pm Falcons (0-0)
at Eagles (0-0). Results Eagles 18 - Falcons 12.
at 1:00pm Jaguars (0-0) at Giants (0-0).
Sunday at 4:20pm Redskins (0-0) at
Sunday at 4:25pm Cowboys (0-0) at Panthers (0-0).
Eagles are the only NFC East team favored to win in these games.
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are starting the season off with a home game for the first time since 2012.
will not be playing in any back to back home games for the entire season.
offensive line will have new starters at all five positions.
Giants have won
all three meetings against Jacksonville in East Rutherford.
Giants Eli Manning
will play in his 217th regular-season game, passing Michael Strahan (216) for
the most. Jaguars Tom Coughlin coached the
expansion Jaguars from 1994-2002, and the Giants from 2004-15.
year set a franchise record with 33 takeaways, and 55 sacks was the 2nd-most for
Jaguars have lost all three of the
AFC championships, Titans in 1999, and Patriots in 1996, 2017.
Sept 16 Giants at Cowboys.
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