Three out of the four teams in the NFC East dropped to 0-1, including the defending division champions. The Giants won both regular-season meetings against the Washington Football Team in 2020, though Washington opened as 3.5-point favorites for the first meeting of the new season. The Football Team lost outright as Week 1 favorites after leading the Chargers in the second half. After Ryan Fitzpatrick went down, Taylor Heinicke led Washington to open the third quarter on a scoring drive. Still, the Football Team followed it with a missed field goal and a fumble inside their own 5-yard line on the next two possessions. The latter set up a game-winning touchdown. WFT also gave up 337 passing yards in its opener after finishing as the No. 2 pass defense last year.
The Giants didn’t fare well against the Broncos, losing 27-13. New York had a top-10 run defense in 2020, though it conceded 165 yards to Denver on the ground at 5.9 yards per carry. Daniel Jones started 10-of-14 passing before completing 12 of his final 23 attempts and losing a fumble in the red zone. Saquon Barkley was limited to 10 carries in his return from an ACL tear as New York finished with 314 total yards. The Giants hit the under for a ninth consecutive game dating back to the middle of 2020.
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We loved the Broncos laying a field goal against the Giants last week because it was a significant strength on weakness matchup whenever the Giants had the ball. That will be exactly the case for the Giants offense again this week.
Washington dropped their season opener to the Chargers, but it made life tough for an offense that comfortably rates from good to great. Justin Herbert got 7.2 yards per attempt, not including kneel-downs; the Chargers ran for 89 yards on 25 carries. Austin Ekeler grinded his way to 57 yards on 15 totes. The Chargers got just 5.4 yards per play, which ranked 20th over the full year last season. Washington’s defense wasn’t an overwhelming force in that matchup, but it more than did its job against an already-good offense that’s expected to take a step forward in Herbert’s second year.
And now it gets the Giants.
I see little chance that the Giants’ offensive line can keep Chase Young, Montez Sweat and company off Daniel Jones. The Giants’ surest way to keep the Washington pass rush honest would be to deploy a fully healthy Saquon Barkley, but, likely, he’ll still be operating at less than 100%. The strongest unit in this game is, without question, Washington’s defense, and they’re playing at home on a short week.
Washington’s offense has some issues of its own. Ryan Fitzpatrick is out for multiple weeks because of a hip injury, leaving the offense in the hands of Taylor Heinecke. Antonio Gibson is expected to play on Thursday, but he suffered a shoulder injury, likely a sprain of his AC joint, last week. Curtis Samuel remains on short-term IR. It’s reasonable to be concerned about this group on a short week, as well.
Heinecke, however, was effective in a tough spot last week, completing 11 of 15 passes for 122 yards, 8.1 YPA and a touchdown. The game was played entirely within a one-score window while he was on the field, too, so it wasn’t a matter of him finding a soft landing spot. Running backs routinely play through sprained AC joints, so while Gibson could have some added pain on Thursday, no evidence suggests he won’t be his usual self. I’d play this up to Washington -5, but I am happy to lock it in at -3. — Michael Beller
(Photo of Taylor Heinecke: Patrick Smith / Getty Images; The Athletic may receive an affiliate commission if you open an account with BetMGM through links contained in the above article.)