In preparing for Sunday’s matchup against the New York Giants, Big Blue View’s Ed Valentine and I sat down for a small Q&A for one another’s publications. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Giants as 5.5-point underdogs to the Ravens.
1. Simply, what is going on with the New York Football Giants? Entering this season, nobody had them chalked up to be 4-1 after five weeks. What is working for them?
Simply put, good coaching matters. We are learning that maybe, just maybe the roster that GM Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll inherited was not as terrible as many thought. Now, it’s not great. There is a lot of work to be done before the Giants truly become an upper echelon team.
They are winning, though, in large part because they have been exceedingly well-coached to this point by first-year head coach Brian Daboll and the talented, veteran staff he has assembled. There are things that the Giants don’t have, but they are being aggressive, creative and getting every drop they can out of what they do have. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Saquon Barkley looks like THAT GUY again.
2. From an outside perspective, it’s hard not to assume the entire offense is running back Saquon Barkley. Of course, the offense operates through your best players and he looks to be that guy. But, how else are the Giants moving the football on offense?
The Giants are running the ball exceptionally well. They are second in the league to the Browns in rushing yards per game (179.0) and fourth in yards per rushing attempt (5.4). Some of that is Barkley sometimes making the best defenders in the world look silly. That isn’t all, though.
Daniel Jones is not Lamar Jackson, but he has speed, toughness, and willingness to run. He is third in the league in quarterback rushing yards, and that has been a huge part of the run game. Designed QB runs are a real thing for the Giants.
The run-blocking has been good, and the Giants are getting help from their tight ends and wide receivers. They are committed to it.
They have not passed the ball for huge yardage. What Daniel Jones has been able to do is make big throws at big times and take care of the football.
3. The Giants have a sizable list of former Ravens. Can you tell us if any have made an impact this season, and to what extent? (Ben Bredeson, Justin Ellis, Tony Jefferson, Tyre Phillips, Tyrod Taylor, Jihad Ward)
Jihad Ward is not a captain (the Giants already have 10 of them) but maybe he should be. He is a good player and big part of the Giants’ aggressive, play every play at 100 MPH attitude. He is a bigger presence in the locker room. His voice, and his boom box, are everywhere. Ben Bredeson has been starting at left guard. Is he the long term answer there? Maybe not, but he has done an adequate job. He is also the backup center. Jefferson has been elevated from the practice squad to the 53 as a reserve safety. Taylor is QB2, and got concussed in the only game in which he played. Phillips has been inactive all season.
4. Who are two Giants players (one offense/one defense) Ravens fans should pay specific attention to in this game that aren’t ‘household names?’
— On offense, I’m going to give you left tackle Andrew Thomas. Now, he is a former first-round pick (No. 4 overall) and everybody should know “who” he is. I’m not sure, though, that everybody knows how good the guy is. Through five weeks, he is the highest-graded tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. The guy has not given up a sack yet, and he has allowed ONE quarterback hit. He’s a stud. If he keeps playing this way, he should get All-Pro consideration.
— On defense, I’m going to give you another name you probably know. Linebacker Jaylon Smith didn’t have a job at the start of the season, signed to the practice squad, was bumped to the 53, and is now starting. Oh, and playing really, really well. He’s showing speed and range a lot of people didn’t know he still had.
5. The Giants come into this game fresh off a victory over the Green Bay Packers, a game they opened as 7.5 point underdogs. This time, they’re 5.5-point home underdogs. Do you agree with the line? If not, where would you put it?
— Yeah, I agree with the line. The Ravens are still the more established team and, on paper, have the better roster. These Giants continue to amaze, though. They play every play like it’s going to determine the outcome of the game. Brian Daboll has shown confidence in his players, and in turn they are buying in and giving max effort all the time. They have been ‘The Little Engine That Could’ so far. They shouldn’t have been able to do some of what they have done, but belief and good coaching go a long way.
I am picking the Ravens to win on Sunday, but the way things are going with this Giants team the only thing that would shock me on Sunday is if they aren’t competitive at all.