The surest bet of the NFL season is the New York Giants under 7.5 wins.
This team is still staggering under the malpractice of deposed GM Dave Gettleman. His misdeeds: $72 million contract to Kenny Golladay; $62 million to Nate Solder; $37.5 million to Golden Tate; drafting a running back with the No. 2 overall pick in 2018, etc.
New GM Joe Schoen has correctly rejected quick fixes, refusing to deepen his salary-cap mess. So New York will field Gettleman’s barren roster plus a few draft choices.
The offensive line, bottom-five league-wide, is two young tackles and a mix of interior journeymen who’ve mostly been injured in training camp.
The tight end is a fourth-round rookie, dreadfully slow and not strong. Receivers Kadarius Toney and epic-bust Golladay are chronically injured.
RB Saquon Barkley, having missed 18 games over the past two seasons, is in his walk year. If healthy and productive in the early going, he should be traded by Halloween.
What's Wrong With Giants? What's Not Is Better Question
On defense, the New York Giants don’t have personnel to play the gambling schemes of Don “Wink” Martindale, their crusty, colorful 59-year-old coordinator with the blonde mullet.
Loaded with Pro Bowlers from 2018 through 2020, Wink’s Baltimore defenses led the league in fewest yards, fewest points and quarterback pressures. His 2019 unit blitzed on an astounding 55 percent of snaps.
But last year, when three starters in his secondary suffered season-ending injuries, the Ravens sank to 25th in total defense and gave up the most completions of 20 yards-plus (74) and 40 yards-plus (16).
Those big-play numbers may be eclipsed by this season’s Giants, who have only one starting-caliber cornerback, one starting-caliber safety and no quality nickel defenders to plaster man-to-man behind exotic blitzes.
The shame of it is that GM Schoen could have plugged two of these holes in the draft. In the second round, he could have taken CBs Kyler Gordon or Anthony Booth Jr. And in the third round, he could have drafted one of three safeties.
That strategy would have given him foundational pieces to begin learning Martindale’s defense. Instead, Schoen yielded to coach Brian Daboll in the second round, over-drafting tiny WR Wan’Dale Robinson.
This was a rookie GM mistake, but fairly common. The new coach wants to run his offense, and he doesn’t like the receivers he’s inheriting. Then he sits down in March/April to watch college tape and falls in love with a player.
But rebuilding clubs like the New York Giants don’t need individuals, they need essential commodities. An NFL-ready outside cornerback is an invaluable commodity. Receivers like Robinson are plentiful. See Calvin Austin III, drafted in the fourth round by Pittsburgh.
So Big Blue will stumble into and through this painful season. Whom can they beat?
The New York Giants' Ceiling Is Seven Wins
They have two cupcakes at home, Chicago and Houston. If they can win two of three home games against Detroit, Carolina and Washington, that’s four victories. If they beat Jacksonville or Seattle on the road, that’s five.
And let’s say a miracle occurs to give them a sixth win. But that’s their absolute ceiling.
I’ve placed this bet, and you should, too. If you can still find over/under 7.5, pounce! If your book is offering only 7, I still guarantee success.
In early January, after you’ve overspent on the holidays, you’ll be grateful.
Terry O’Neil, former Senior Vice President of the New Orleans Saints, is the founder of Practice Like Pros, a non-profit national movement dedicated to increasing participation and reducing needless injury in high school football.