WELCOME BACK: ELI MANNING ... for a 15th season in New York. GM DAVE GETTLEMAN was wise to not use the No. 2 pick to draft a successor to the 37-year-old quarterback, whose struggles in 2017 were due to his depleted O-line and receiving corps. Physically, Manning shows no decline. With a better cast he should again look like the QB who averaged 4,290 yards and 30 touchdowns in the three seasons before '17.
SAQUON BARKLEY, ODELL BECKHAM and EVAN ENGRAM make up the most dynamic RB-WR-TE trio in football. All can pose matchup problems from anywhere in the formation, giving new coach PAT SHURMUR boundless options. But each also needs to show that he can reliably perform his position's traditional tasks. New York's O-line was revamped by signing tackle NATE SOLDER from New England and guard PATRICK OMAMEH from Jacksonville, and the drafting of guard WILL HERNANDEZ, but it is still far from flawless, which will be a challenge for Barkley in the base run game. The electrifying Beckham must be a consistent possession target for this otherwise underwhelming receiving group. Engram must become at least a half-decent blocker. If not, then he's simply a No. 2 receiver, offering less schematic dimension than a flex tight end.
Cornerbacks will make or break this defense. New coordinator JAMES BETTCHER'S pressure-intensive scheme depends on corners who can cover one-on-one. JANORIS JENKINS can be similar to what Bettcher, hired from Arizona, had in Patrick Peterson—assuming Jenkins rediscovers the discipline he showed in '16. Third-year player ELI APPLE can be one of the best mirror-coverage technicians. The success of these two is key because there's not much behind them, especially with supplemental third-round draft pick SAM BEAL out for the year with a shoulder injury.
On first and second down, Bettcher likes to condense his D-line to eliminate interior run gaps. The Giants have good tackles for this in DALVIN TOMLINSON and especially DAMON HARRISON, the league's best run stuffer.
2017 RECORD 3W 13L
SI'S 2018 PREDICTION 8W 8L
11th EAGLES [Thursday]
22nd @FALCONS [Monday]
12th @49ERS [Monday]
23rd @COLTS [Flex/Saturday]
THE GIANTS gave new left tackle NATE SOLDER a big contract, but he was inconsistent last year—that's why New England let him walk. Aside from rookie left guard WILL HERNANDEZ, the talent on the rest of the line is questionable.