By Michael Stewart
Introduction: After a dismal 2017 season that saw the Giants finish with a 3-13 record and in the cellar of the NFC eastern division. The Giants ownership brought back a familiar face to the organization in Dave Gettleman, who served under Ernie Accorsi. The no nonsense former GM of the Carolina Panthers immediately went to work and re-structured the Giants roster through free agency, the draft and through UDFA signings. The results could earn Gettleman GM of the year and transition the Giants from a basement dweller to serious playoff team in 2018. Also added to the mix along with Gettleman are Head Coach Pat Shurmur, Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula and Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher who collectively will bring more energy, creativity and better performance on both sides of the ball. With many of the pieces in place; which could change by the end of training camp with a few more additions; the Giants are going to surprise a lot teams in 2018. I have compiled my top 5 predictions for the upcoming for the Giants that Giant fans should expect or perhaps not expect. Therefore; here are my top 5 bold predictions for the New York Giants in 2018:
- Giants will make the Playoffs: This would seem like a bold prediction for a team that finished the previous season 3-13. However; if not for the rash of injuries especially to key players; the Giants would have won at least three more games. This team will be more competitive on both sides of the ball and I’m projecting an 8 win swing and for the Giants to finish with a 11-5 record and securing a spot in the playoffs.
- Saquon Barkley will shine: This prediction may not be a reach on my part as Barkley is the real deal. Look for him to gain over 1,000 yards, score double digits in touchdowns and collect at least 50 receptions out of the backfield. These achievements will make him the top offensive rookie in 2018. Barkley will add a dynamic element to the Giants offense that hasn’t been seen since Tiki Barber and he will make everyone around him better.
- Eli Manning Bounces Back: Too many so-called experts were hard on Eli Manning in 2017 as his production slipped. However; a closer look reveals that Manning lead the league in dropped balls with a receiving crew that included a rookie in Engram and a variety of journeymen wide outs with the exception of Sterling Shepard. Despite this, Manning still finished with a 61.6% in completions for nearly 3500 yards. Look for Manning to improve on those numbers and have a bounce back season.
- Odell Beckham on a mission: Beckham is returning from a season ending ankle injury and is in the final year of his rookie contract. There’s no secret that Beckham wants a long term deal from the Giants and expects to be compensated for his overall performance since being drafted in 2014. Therefore; I expect Beckham to be a man on a mission in 2018 and play with the intensity that will result in him achieving another 1,000 plus yard season with at least 85 receptions. Despite the fact the Giants will most likely be more of a balance offense in 2018, Beckham will get his touches and the result will be rewarded with Comeback Player of the Year.
- Offensive and Defensive creativity: My final prediction will be more geared towards the team and not an individual. Offensively; the Giants finished 31st in scoring with 15.4 per game. Expect that to change with the additions and with Mike Shula as Offensive Coordinator, who will bring creativity in play calling that the Giants haven’t had in a very long time. Shula will have a field day putting together game plans with the weapons at his disposal. As I mentioned earlier, I expect the Giants to have more of a balance attack with the run and pass, however; I also expect to see some wrinkles with a few trick plays in their arsenal. Don’t be surprised if we see a play that will feature Saquon Barkley and/or Odell Beckham throwing a pass. Both players are extremely gifted and have excellent arms. Defensively, the Giants finished 28th surrendering 24.2 per game. Again, I expect that to change with the addition of players and James Bettcher as the New Defensive Coordinator. Bettcher will provide more energy and creativity to a defense that was the complete opposite in 2017. Look for many different defensive schemes from Bettcher while utilizing both the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments. The Giants have a ton of depth on the defensive line and in the linebackers and expect Bettcher to implement plays to utilize the talent at his disposal. Overall, I project both the offense and defense to finish in the top 16 respectfully and not in the bottom 16 as they did in 2017.
Final Thoughts: Projecting an 8 game swing in wins could be considered a stretch on my part, however; I’m banking on this team to rebound under the new regime and returning to Giants football that Giant fans expect. We’ve got a long way to go before opening day when the Giants host the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 9th at Metlife Stadium, as the Giants will have the 8th toughest schedule with opposing winning % at .520, while also facing the NFC South that feature talented quarterbacks from each team (Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston and Cam Newton). Also, the fact that they will battle the AFC South with much improved teams in Jacksonville, Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee; starting the season strong will be a key component to their success in 2018.