A disastrous offensive season for the New York Giants led to their first sub-.500 campaign since 2004. The Giants were never able to recover from an 0-6 start and a myriad of injuries on the offensive line. They went 7-3 over their final 10 games to post a respectable record, but the damage was already done. The 294 points the Giants managed was the lowest total in the Eli Manning era by 61 points.
The Giants turned the ball over 44 times, 27 of them as a result of errant throws by Eli Manning. Manning set a career high in interceptions and a career low in passing touchdowns for a full season. It was the first time since Manning’s rookie season that he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
The Giants led the league with 91 starts lost to injury. They lost 26 games to injury on the offensive line alone, a contributing factor to Manning’s interception total and his 39 sacks taken. The Giants also had a league-high six starters placed on injured reserve. With all of the injured and a revolving door at running back, the Giants were 30th in yards per carry, 28th in yards per game, and 30th in third down conversion rate.
The defense saved the Giants, ranking around average in most categories despite immense pressure from short fields and poor offensive time of possession numbers. The defense forced 29 turnovers, 10th-best in the league, and had the fifth-best yards per play at 4.9 yards. That represented a huge change for Perry Fewell’s defense, which finished 31st in yards allowed last season and 28th in yards per carry.
Looking at the Giants injury list and performance, it’s a wonder that this team didn’t go 5-11 or worse. Should that be cause for optimism entering the 2014 season? Oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag have the Giants listed at 8 with -130 on the over and even money on the under. BetOnline.ag is showing 7.5 with the same odds for each side.
Lines courtesy of CG Technologies:
|1||@ Detroit (Mon)||+4|
|4||@ Washington (Thu)||+1.5|
|11||San Francisco||+3 (+100)|
|16||@ St. Louis||+3|
Along their NFC East combatants, the Giants will take on the AFC South and NFC West with Atlanta and Detroit sprinkled in. The schedule appears daunting at first glance for the Giants with short weeks to prepare for Washington on the road, Seattle on the road, and three of the final four games away from the Meadowlands. Cole Ryan rates their schedule tied for 26th in difficulty. That number is affected by playing Houston, Jacksonville, and Atlanta, three of the league’s worst teams last season.
Capitalizing on the New York market, the NFL has scheduled the Giants for two Monday night games and a Thursday night game. Two of those are on the road and the home game against Indianapolis kicks off a very tough three-game stretch out of the bye week.
Most of the early lines for the Giants are hovering around the key number of three. The biggest favorite spot is actually in a road game at Jacksonville. If the Giants can navigate the early part of the schedule, they are favored in four of their last five lined games and project to be a very slight home underdog against Philadelphia to end the season if both teams are playing for something.
Why bet the over?
The chief problem for the Giants was their offensive line and those issues were addressed in the offseason. The depth will be substantially better with the offseason signings of Geoff Schwartz, Charles Brown, JD Walton, and John Jerry, as well as second-round draft pick Weston Richburg, a center out of Colorado State. Some good fortune on the injury front will also make this group better. Eli Manning suffered behind a porous offensive line, either throwing under duress or running for his life. It means a lot to have stability at this position.
Victor Cruz missed a couple of games, Rueben Randle will be in his second season, and Jerrel Jernigan forced his way into some touches based on his athleticism. The Giants went back to the LSU wide receiver pipeline and used their first-round pick on Odell Beckham to replace Hakeem Nicks. There’s a lot of young talent and some decent size in this group.
Eli Manning definitely drives the bus for the offense and can rack up impressive numbers with time to throw. He’s always been a bit turnover-prone, but he has led his team to an average of 9.3 wins per season as a full-time starter. The Giants had too many negative plays with 39 sacks, a boatload of turnovers, and no rushing offense. All of those things should improve next season.
Lost in the Giants season is how well the defense played under suboptimal conditions. The average starting field position against the Giants was almost at the 32-yard line. That was the second-worst mark in the league. In spite of that, the Giants defense allowed just 1.59 points per drive, which ranked eighth. The Giants signed five defensive free agents, including two cornerbacks and safety Quintin Demps. Following an injury-plagued season, the Giants made it a point to add NFL-caliber depth in order to withstand another year like 2013. That’s a very smart approach.
Why bet the under?
The Giants have to find a replacement for defensive end Justin Tuck. The Giants recorded just 34 sacks last season and Tuck was responsible for 11 of them. Linval Joseph, who had three sacks as an interior lineman, also left via free agency. The Giants addressed the back seven but ignored the defensive front. One of the team’s strengths was stopping the run and that may no longer be the case.
There is promise at the wide receiver position, but Manning loses his safety net, tight end Brandon Myers. Myers had 47 catches for the often-rushed Manning and that remains a position of need. The Giants also lack quality pass-catchers in the backfield to help stymie pass rushes. Manning’s high interception total may continue since he lacks reliable checkdowns and has to force throws down the field.
Four games against the NFC West is a difficult draw for the Giants. They are also under the microscope because of the media market and that leads to some difficult scheduling spots with weekday primetime games. With the exception of their matchup against the Houston Texans, the easier games on the schedule against the likes of Jacksonville and Tennessee are on the road.
Pick: Over 7.5 (-130) (BetOnline)
Something has to give for the Giants. They were 31st in percentage of drives ending in a score and led the NFL in percentage of drives ending in a turnover. A healthy offensive line means the world to an offense and the Giants added depth to prepare for any potential injuries. As both of those numbers normalize, it’s likely that the Giants will improve their offensive output. The defense still appears solid.
This is a talented team that really got bit hard by the injury bug. The NFC East is still a very mediocre division and a 4-4 division record would leave the Giants only in search of four more wins to go over the total. Eight of their 16 games last season were against playoff teams and they went 2-6 in those games. Only six of this season’s games are against playoff teams (Philadelphia twice, Seattle, San Francisco, and Indianapolis). With something to prove following a down year and better fortune on the injury front, the Giants should fall in their standard 9-7 range.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.