One of the best things about the NFL is the fact that change is encouraged. In a league that constantly promotes parity, it should be no surprise that teams come out of nowhere every single year to become relevant in the standings.
Last season, the eventual champion Eagles were underdogs throughout the postseason, as nobody gave them a real chance of making it to the Super Bowl, let alone take down the Lombardi Trophy. But that’s exactly what they did. There were also the Jaguars, who were an afterthought for everyone outside of the Jacksonville area, yet they climbed to the top of the AFC, only to fall to the Patriots in the conference championship game.
Even the Giants themselves have endured such seasons in the past. They came on strong twice during Eli Manning’s career to unexpectedly win Super Bowl titles. And while those rings were earned on the backs on strong defensive units, this time around, it could be the offense that sends them to the top of the standings. It won’t be easy by any means. Their division alone has the aforementioned champion Eagles, as well as the Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys and the Alex Smith-led Redskins. The rest of the conference is even more loaded with the like of the Vikings, Packers, Saints, Falcons, and many other teams that have strong potential as well.
But this Giants team could be scary for any defense to handle. Rookie running back Saquon Barkley looks like a truly special player. A generational talent that can instantly transform the direction of a team. And Odell Beckham Junior has just agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension that has him getting paid more than any other receiver in the history of the NFL. Those two players can catapult the Giants back to the playoffs, and we all know what Eli Manning can do once he’s there.
Barkley offers the Giants a dimension in both the running and passing games. He can single-handedly take over a game for his team. This was alreay evident in the limited snaps he saw in the preseason. Barkley took his first ever NFL handoff for a 39-yard gain, displaying his patience to wait for a hole to open up, as well as his elusiveness, as he side-stepped a defender to make an explosive cut up the right side of the defense. It was truly a beautiful run, which we should see a lot more of during his rookie season and throughout what should be a stellar career in the pros.
And then there is second-year tight end Evan Engram, who is a special talent in his own right. It’s rare to see tights ends have success in their first seasons in the NFL. They typically have a much tougher learning curve than other positions. But Engram relished his opportunities last year, in the midst of an ankle fracture to OBJ. While there is still a lot of room for him to improve, he still put up good numbers, with 64 catches for 722 yards and six touchdowns. He should do even better in his sophomore campaign.
The Giants will look to apply pressure on their competition, by putting up big offensive numbers. The offensive line appears to be much improved as well. Rookie guard Will Hernandez is a monster up front, and he should help Eli stay upright, while also opening up holes for Barkley.
Ultimately, the Giants should only go as far as Manning takes them. But he also knows this could be the start of a special team. A unit that can impose their will. Don’t be surprised if the Giants end up having a top-five offense this season. And that could be enough for them to make their first postseason appearance since a 2016 Wild Card loss in Green Bay.