Denver Broncos (0-0) at GIANTS (0-0)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Spread: Broncos -3
As if the last four years weren’t painful enough, this is a good reminder of how far this franchise has fallen. In a season when the Giants are so optimistic that they can return to playoff contention, they open the season as home underdogs to a team that went 5-11 last year.
Yeah, the outside world doesn’t seem to have any faith that the Giants will be any good.
There are two things really working against the Giants in this game. One is their relatively unknown health. There’s no doubt they have improved their team from last year’s 6-10 squad. They’ll get running back Saquon Barkley back and they added receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, and even tight end Kyle Rudolph, who’ll be a big help if Evan Engram (calf) can’t play.
But all of those players missed all or most of training camp. And while they’ve been trending in the right direction for the last few weeks, they’ve still missed significant chances to work on their timing with quarterback Daniel Jones and to get really integrated into the offense. That could, theoretically, happen fast. But the Giants have been strongly hinting for weeks that their offense might get off to a slow start.
And that’s a problem because … well, the offense is still a problem because of the offensive line. That group did not look good at all this summer. Now left tackle Andrew Thomas is nursing an ankle injury. Left guard Shane Lemieux is still battling a knee injury. And right tackle Matt Peart lost his job to Nate Solder. That’ s not a good formula going into a game against a team with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
The Giants defense is good and should hold up just fine against quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, even with his impressive receiving corps (Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick). So this game could be all about whether their offense can hold up under pressure and move the ball and score better than they did a year ago when they ranked 31st in the league.
I’m betting they can, for two reasons: One is Barkley. It’s hard to understate how important he is to the offense and what his loss in Week 2 last season did to the Giants. Even if he’s not his old self yet, even if he’s limited in his touches, his presence can change everything — including the fierceness of a pass rush. It will take the pressure off Jones and give the Giants another dimension they didn’t have last year.
And the other reason is this: I believe that there will be an extra boost to home teams around the NFL this weekend, with full crowds back for the first time since 2019. That rush of crowd noise and energy will make it feel like a playoff atmosphere to players after a season in empty or mostly empty stadiums. And it might even be a bit overwhelming to young players on the road who haven’t experienced it yet.
Even with a raucous crowd on their side, the Giants offense won’t be a juggernaut. But with Barkley back and against a mediocre Broncos defense, they should be able to score enough to get the season started off right.
Pick: Take the Giants and the points
Prediction: Giants 20, Broncos 17
My record straight up: 0-0
My record against the spread: 0-0