By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: GM Dave Gettleman insists that although the Giants need to prepare for the future with the drafting of quarterback Daniel Jones to succeed Eli Manning. He also believes the Giants can compete for a playoff spot at the same time as well. After free agency, the draft and UDFA signings, GM Dave Gettleman had an overall grade of B-, however; it should have been better. With that being said, what do the Giants need to do in 2019 to make the playoffs? After a thorough review and breakdown of their current roster and what I believe their final 53 man roster will look like (more on that in future articles). Here are my top 10 musts the Giants need to do to make the playoffs in 2019.
- Stay Healthy: This is universal for all teams who intend to make the playoffs. This is especially true for the best players (Stars) who are major contributors. Football is a very physical sport and bumps and bruises are part of the game, however; teams that avoid major injuries to key players usually have a better chance of making the playoffs than teams who suffer key injuries for a long period of time. The New York Giants over the last decade have been one of the top teams in the league in games lost to injuries and that certainly needs to change in 2019.
- Top Players Need to Career Years: The Giants need to have quarterback Eli Manning to give an encore performance in 2019, if this is his final season. That’s a lot to ask from a 38 year old quarterback, but Manning needs to have a 2 to 1 ratio (touchdowns to interceptions) and pass over 4,000 yards again to give the Giants a chance. Running Back Saquan Barkley needs to at the very least duplicate his rookie season in 2019 or be even better; if that’s possible. Obviously; for both of these players to accomplish this, the Giants offensive line needs to perform at a high level. With two new faces on the right-side (Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers), the Giants might make some noise if the line is as good as advertised.
- Defense Needs to Step Up: The Giants defense in 2018 was horrendous and the addition of players the Giants have added for 2019 need to produce right away. DE/OLB Markus Golden could be a key to how the Giants defense will perform as he is arguably the best overall pass rusher (based on past performance) currently on the Giants roster. Other factors to look for here is that the Giants coaching staff are going to depend heavily on players with one year or less experience to play key roles. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter, Dexter Lawrence, DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Julian Love and Oshane Ximines will all be asked to contribute ahead of schedule in order for the Giants to be a serious playoff contender.
- Repeat Performance: There weren’t many highlights in the 2018 season aside from Saquon Barkley, however; kicker Aldrick Rosas was an unexpected surprise for the Giants last season. If the Giants want to even think about the possibility of getting a playoff spot, kicker Aldrick Rosas needs a repeat performance in 2019 as I believe many games will be close enough to be decided by the kicking game.
- Turnover Ratio: The Giants need to have a turnover ratio by season’s end at least in double-digit. Meaning, they need to create turnovers and also catch a few breaks along the way. This is an area that this team really hasn’t excelled in for the past few seasons and that needs to change.
- Red Zone Efficiency: This is another area the Giants have not fared well in over the past few seasons and if they have any intentions of being a serious playoff team, this area has to change. Someone needs to step up; perhaps Tight End Evan Engram has a breakout season; which includes Red Zone production. Perhaps Saquon Barkley and the Giants running attack can win those short yardage battles inside the five yard line.
- Special Teams: The Giants were in the top tier in special teams in 2018, but they need to step that up another notch and be a top 3 team in special teams; which means they need to prevent long runs on kickoff and punt returns. They need to create turnovers; which coincides with the turnover ratio. They need to be more productive offensively on kickoff and punt returns. Perhaps Corey Coleman can score a couple of touchdowns in 2019 and help set the tone.
- Take advantage of the schedule: Based on the Giants 5-11 record in 2018, their schedule in 2019 is a little friendlier than some of the other NFC east teams. Aside from playing their divisional rivals (Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles), the Giants will also be playing the NFC central (Vikings, Bears, Packers and Lions) and the AFC east (Patriots, Bills, Jets and Dolphins), with the remaining teams being the Buccaneers and the Cardinals. Combined their opponents had a 68-90 record in 2018, however; many of these teams improved the roster through free agency and the draft, so it remains to be seen just how easier the Giants schedule will actual be in 2019.
- Outside Help: The Giants need some breaks that are not under their control and one them would be other teams around the league beating up their division rivals. The Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles all most suffer a few upsets in the 2019 in order for the Giants to have a realistic shot at the playoffs. On paper, the Giants roster doesn’t appear to be as deep or as talented as their rivals. However; games are won on the field and not on paper.
- Winning Record within Division: This is a big one, the Giants must have a winning record within their division, anything less and their chances of making the playoffs are extremely low. In 2018, the Giants had a 1-5 record within their division and that’s unacceptable for a team with playoff aspirations.
Final Thoughts: As you can see, a lot has to happen for the Giants to make the playoffs for the 1st time since 2016 when they finished 11-5 and lost in the wild card round against the Green Bay Packers. Can the Giants make the playoffs in 2019? It’s not going to be an easy task and looking at my list of what they need to do to accomplish that it seems that the odds are extremely against them. However; in the history of the NFL, stranger things have happened and maybe, just maybe the Giants will have one of those magical seasons where all the breaks will go their way; all their key players stay healthy and have career years. Seeing the glass half full rather than half empty for the 2019 season may seem like an unrealistic approach on my part. However; as a long time Giants fan, that’s all I’ve got going for me.