The New York Giants will begin its 2020 season when it hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.
New York is coming off a forgettable 4-12 record in 2019. As a result, the team made several coaching changes, including new head coach Joe Judge.
The Giants offense averaged just 21 points per game in 2019. Former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett will bring a new look to the Giants offense in 2020. The team will lean heavily on 2018 Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley. Receivers Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram provide Daniel Jones with plenty of weapons. The Giants did not have this group fully healthy and together throughout most of 2019.
On defense, the Giants were one of the worst in the NFL in 2019. New York ranked 30th in the league giving up 28 points per game. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham returns to ‘Big Blue’ as it will hope to significantly improve the long-struggling unit. The Giants secondary looks almost entirely different in 2020. Free agent signings James Bradberry and Logan Ryan, along with rookie Darnay Holmes, give the Giants plenty of depth.
Pittsburgh is coming off an 8-8 season in which starting QB Ben Roethlisberger missed 14 games with an elbow injury. Roethlisberger’s return will certainly help improve the Steelers offense that averaged just 18 points and 291 yards per game in 2019.
On offense, the Steelers will have plenty of help to give to the returning Roethlisberger. Running back James Conner, who only played in 10 games last year, is back and looking to return to his 2018 form. The Pittsburgh passing attack features Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, rookie Chase Claypool, and newly signed tight end Eric Ebron.
Defensively, the Steelers were one of the best in the league. The team gave up just 18.9 points per game in 2019, the sixth lowest in the NFL and also ranked as the fifth best defense in yards per game, giving up just 304 yards. Pittsburgh led the league in sacks in 2019 with 54. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree combined for about half of those with 26 between the two of them.
How Can the Giants Win? In order for the New York Giants to win this one, it will need to protect Daniel Jones from the Steelers’ excellent pass rush and open up the running lanes for Barkley to pound the ball and get off to a fast start. The defense will need to take advantage of the Steelers’ injured offensive line. Five-time pro-bowler David DeCastro is out for the season opener. The Giants defensive line trio of Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams will need to plug up the running lanes and keep the pressure on Ben. If they can get consistent pressure on Roethlisberger, they can take away the big play ability of the Pittsburgh receivers.
Prediction: It might be too much to ask of the Giants to have everything working in its first game of the season. The Steelers defense might just be too good for the Giants offense to handle right away. However, the Giants’ new look defense might be able to keep this one low scoring. I have the Pittsburgh Steelers beating the New York Giants 20-13 tonight.
(Photo: Michael Ainsworth/AP)