The schedule makers at the NFL office did the New York Giants, fresh off a dysfunctional 3-13 campaign, no favor by pitting them against the AFC runner-up in Week 1.
At least Big Blue opens its slate at MetLife Stadium for the first time since 2012 when the Jacksonville Jaguars come to East Rutherford, New Jersey, for Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff. It’s a small advantage to open at home, but it’s an edge nonetheless.
Read on for three keys to the matchup as the Giants seek to start the new season on the right foot.
Big Blue’s passing game looks promising this year, thanks in no small part to Odell Beckham Jr.’s return from a broken ankle. But their first test this year happens to come against a Jags defense that became the first unit since the 2009 Jets to allow fewer than 170 passing yards per game.
All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey likely will shadow Beckham in a clash of two of the bigger personalities in the sport. It’s the first chance for the Giants receiver to make good on the team’s $95 million investment in him.
Bank on Barkley
While Jacksonville’s defense is top flight overall, they weren’t strong against the run. The team ranked 26th in the NFL by allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
Enter Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick, who the Giants hope will revitalize their ground game. Expect the rookie’s pro debut to be busy. If things are going their way, head coach Pat Shurmur could see to it that he touches the ball 25 to 30 times.
If the Giants are to pull off the upset — even at home, they are three-point underdogs — Barkley is the most likely candidate to lead the way.
The Giants appear unlikely to have one of their most important defensive contributors Sunday after edge rusher Olivier Vernon sat out practice once again Thursday with a high-ankle sprain.
Led by quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jaguars’ aerial attack isn’t intimidating. They lack star power at receiver and tight end, and talented running back Leonard Fournette isn’t considered a premier pass catcher.
Suffice it to say the Giants might be able to get by without Vernon’s passer pressure this week, but only if likely fill-in Lorenzo Carter is up to the task in his first NFL game.