3 keys to game as Giants welcome Bills back to MetLife Stadium for home opener

Sunday is the Giants’ first game at MetLife Stadium this season, but it’s the second week in a row Buffalo visits The Meadowlands.

After a disappointing 35-17 loss in Texas to the rival Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants must be happy to be back in the tristate area this weekend for Sunday afternoon’s home opener.

But when their opponents, the Buffalo Bills, are playing in MetLife Stadium for the second week in a row, which team will feel cozier in The Meadowlands? It might just be Buffalo, which metaphorically devoured the souls of Jets fans last week when the Bills rallied from down 16-0 late in the third quarter to win 17-16.

But home is home, and the Giants have won in New Jersey at a higher rate than they have at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium the last seven years (1-6 in that time). They’re better off this week by default.

This is a winnable Week 2 matchup for Big Blue, who will look to avoid an 0-2 hole to start the year for the sixth time in seven seasons. Read on for three keys to the matchup.

Turnover battle

Bills quarterback Josh Allen was twice intercepted and lost a pair of fumbles … and he still got the win for this team. It’s not often that a team wins with a minus-three turnover margin, but that just about sums up how outrageous their victory over the other tenants of MetLife Stadium.

The Giants, too, squandered two possessions against Dallas with a pair of fumbles, one each from quarterbacks Eli Manning and Daniel Jones — the latter in mop-up duty. The G-Men, however, failed to force a turnover in return.

With Allen prone to miscues and Manning typically taking fewer risks at this stage of his career, the stage is set for the Giants to get the better of the turnover margin. That’s one of the clearest paths to victory in the NFL.

Unleash Saquon

Without question, running back Saquon Barkley is the most vital offensive weapon for the Giants. His 59-yard scamper on the team’s second offensive play of the season, which was followed a few plays later by a touchdown, backs that up.

But even with 120 rushing yards on 11 carries — he averaged a blistering 6.1 yards per carry even without factoring in his longest run — he was entirely underutilized. Barkley’s 17 combined rush attempts and targets in the passing game were lower than any game in his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018, including a few games more out of hand than Sunday’s 35-17 defeat.

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula can’t afford to get conservative with his usage of Barkley on a weekly basis. Expect the talented runner’s number to be called more often this weekend.

Get it together on ‘D’

After forcing a punt on Dallas’ opening drive, the Giants defense transformed into a turnstile. The Cowboys found the end zone on their next five drives; Big Blue couldn’t get a stop until the fourth quarter, with the game already out of hand. 

Worse was how the scores came about. Dallas’ drives started on average at their own 17, and no better than the 25. Their first three scoring drives lasted 11, nine and 13 plays, respectively. Sunday was nothing short of a terrible start for the new-look Giants defense.

The Bills’ offense is a far cry from that of the Cowboys, with fewer established skill position players and an inferior quarterback compared to Dallas’ Dak Prescott. Someone — anyone — must step up and make plays on defense for the Giants. A repeat performance against Buffalo would be a bad omen for 2019.

Scott’s prediction

Giants 24, Bills 21

Scott Fontana