GIANTS (0-1) at Washington Football Team (0-1)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m.
Spread: Washington -3
So much for the vaunted Washington defense, right? The unit that finished second in the NFL last season was pushed around on opening day for 424 yards. And they couldn’t get the ball back from the Los Angeles Chargers, who held the ball for more than 36 minutes thanks to going 14-for-19 on third downs.
So Washington’s 20-16 loss to the Chargers, in which they also lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, sure did give a lot of reasons to believe the Giants can continue their recent mastery of The Football Team on Thursday night in Landover, MD.
That is, if only the Giants were any good.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? If I’m basing this pick on anything that we all saw on opening day, there’s no real reason to believe in the Giants at all. They were terrible again on offense, despite all their new weapons. And most alarming, their defense couldn’t get off the field either. It looked nothing like it did last year.
And the Giants were facing a Denver Broncos offense led by Teddy Bridgewater, and a team that went 5-11 last season. At least Washington’s excuses is better: The Chargers are dynamic with young quarterback Justin Herbert and all their weapons. They’re a real playoff contender this year.
Opening Day can be weird, though, so don’t base any expectations for this game on that. Washington’s defense is still likely to be pretty good, and the tag team of Chase Young and Montez Sweat can wreak havoc on quarterbacks. The Giants’ offensive line held up reasonably well against the Broncos. It’s a lot to ask, though, for them to do it again.
No, more likely the only way the Giants can hold off the Washington pass rush is to find creative ways to move the ball. They need to establish the run, which seems unlikely with Saquon Barkley playing his second game in four days after a full year out of action. More likely they’re going to have to roll quarterback Daniel Jones out of the pocket and hope he can get the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
He certainly has enough of them. And maybe he’ll use the likes of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney more.
It’s just hard to expect anything from this offense after they followed up their disastrous 2020 with a miserable showing on Opening Day. At this point, its muscle memory until they prove otherwise, which means it’s a safe assumption that, especially in the face of a strong pass rush, the Giants’ offense is going to stink.
Washington’s might not be much better behind backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke. Of course, we’ve all seen the Giants crumble against backup quarterbacks before. Maybe if the Giants’ offense surprises us, they can head into Week 3 with a .500 record. But when is the last time anyone was truly surprised by the Giants’ offense in a good way?
More likely, this is going to be an ugly slog of a game that will rest on which defense can pull things together first.
I’d bet on the one with the better pass rush.