Everything you need to know about the Week 1 matchup between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos:
The Giants will face Denver in a season opener for the first time in 20 years plus one day. On Sept. 10, 2001, they played in the first regular season game in what is now Empower Field at Mile High. The Giants will try to win consecutive games against the Broncos for the first time since 1986-89 (two regular season games and Super Bowl XXI). They won the most recent meeting, 23-10, in Denver on Oct. 15, 2017. They last hosted the Broncos on Sept. 15, 2013, in the final game in which Eli and Peyton Manning faced each other as the starting quarterbacks. In the teams' only postseason meeting, the Giants defeated the Broncos, 39-20, in Super Bowl XXI.
Injury Report: Saquon Questionable; Engram Out
New York Giants
Out: TE Evan Engram (calf)
Questionable: RB Saquon Barkley (knee), CB Adoree' Jackson (ankle)
*WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), LB Justin Hilliard (foot), CB Josh Jackson (calf), TE Kyle Rudolph (foot), DL Danny Shelton (neck), TE Kaden Smith (knee), T Andrew Thomas (ankle), and WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring) were limited in practice this week but are probable for the game.
Questionable: OLB Bradley Chubb (ankle)
*TE Noah Fant (knee), OLB Von Miller (ankle), TE Albert Okwuegbunam (knee), and WR Courtland Sutton (knee) appeared on the injury report but are expected to play.
Starting to Gel
We may not know definitively until 90 minutes before kickoff when the inactives are announced, but the Giants are eager to see the offense that they drew up in the off-season – whenever that may be. The Giants spent much of training camp without their much-publicized additions. That may all change soon.
"I'm happy to be on the field with all the guys and all the different pieces and getting to see everybody work together," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "Starting to make this thing gel, just got to put it together on Sunday."
DJ begins Year 3
The Giants' moves in the draft and free agency centered around helping Daniel Jones get over the hump. His third season begins Sunday against a talented and well-coached defense under Broncos coach Vic Fangio. Jones was asked this week if it's make-or-break time.
"I'm not really seeing it that way, I guess," Jones said. "I think my mindset is just to go out and help this team win games. I think we're in a position, we've had a good camp and we're prepared, and my job is to put the team in a position to win games, to protect the football and distribute the ball to guys who can make plays for us. That's kind of how I'm looking at it."
The Giants broke training camp, released their 53-man roster, and voted on their team captains. Now, they have announced their Week 1 depth chart. As always, it is subject to change. It simply serves as a guide, more so for the media than the coaches.
One of the biggest questions heading into training camp was how the right side of the offensive line would shake out. Will Hernandez, who made all 39 of his previous starts at left guard, has moved to the right guard spot and is slotted as the starter. As for right tackle, Nate Solder is now listed as the starter ahead of Matt Peart, a switch from the initial depth chart released heading into the first preseason game. Solder opted out of last season due to pandemic concerns and rejoined the team this offseason.
Graham vs. Shurmur
Two years ago, the Giants were running Pat Shurmur's offense. On Sunday, they will attempt to stop it. As Michael Eisen wrote, Shurmur will begin his second season as the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator by returning to one of his former home venues when they face the Giants in MetLife Stadium in the teams' season-opening matchup. Shurmur coached the Giants in 2018-19 and was replaced by Joe Judge after the 2019 season.
This is his ninth season as a pro coordinator and his 13th calling plays, so Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham had an extensive body of work to study in preparation for this game.
"One, they run the ball and he's committed to running the ball," Graham said. "So, in this league – and you can go back to Pop Warner – if you don't stop the run, the offensive coordinator has you right where he wants you, because we're going to be scrambling to stop the run. So, that's what's important. We've got to stop the run. Not only do they have good backs, they've got a good offensive line, they've got a good scheme, whether they mix in the zone schemes, the gap schemes.
"Coach (Shurmur) does a great job of mixing it up and staying committed to it. That's the biggest thing, so it's a big emphasis for us. We've got to match their intensity in the run game. You've got an offensive line that plays well together. I know they've got a new piece at the right tackle spot (Bobbie Massie), but they play well together, so it's a challenge. But that's where it starts and then from there, the stuff off the run game – you've got the play actions, the boots, the nakeds, however you want to play off of that."
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos.
As decided by a vote, seven players will represent the team as captains: quarterback Daniel Jones, running back Saquon Barkley, center Nick Gates, linebacker Blake Martinez, safeties Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan, and kicker Graham Gano.
Barkley is a third-year captain; Jones, Martinez and Peppers were selected for a second season; and Gates, Ryan and Gano received the honor for the first time. Martinez, Ryan and Gano joined the Giants last year. The seven captains match the 2019 team for the Giants' highest number since they began selecting season-long captains in 2007.
Stats to Impress Your Friends
The 55 Super Bowl winners have a 44-10-1 record in the Kickoff Weekend games of their title seasons.
Since 1978 when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious in their season openers are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than those that lose an opening game. This season will feature a 17-game schedule for each team for the first time in history.
Of the 633 teams that won openers…333 went to the playoffs (204 won division titles).
Of the 632 teams that lost openers…151 went to the playoffs (86 won division titles).
In 2020, the 14 playoff teams compiled an 11-3 record on Kickoff Weekend, with the eight division winners going a perfect 8-0.
New to 2021
This past offseason, NFL clubs approved an enhanced season structure that. beginning in 2021. will feature each team playing 17 regular season games and three preseason games for the first time. The NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in March of 2020 enabled the league, with the approval of the union and its players, to enhance the regular season with a move to 17 games, providing fans an extra week of regular-season NFL action. That decision was confirmed in March, marking the first change to the season structure since the 1978 campaign ushered in an era of 16 regular-season and four preseason games. The 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021.
Current offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who was the Giants' backup quarterback at the time, recalled his memories of being with the team in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011.
"Obviously, it's a tragic time in our country's history and just having been here, the memories are really vivid for me," Garrett said. "I can remember so many specific details of the day and certainly the week and the time to follow. It just was a really, really sad time. One of the great takeaways – I actually was talking to (Former Giants Quarterback) Kerry Collins about this the other night, it was just amazing how this area and our country, in many ways our world, came together after 9/11. I can remember we were living in the city at the time, and I can remember we were going to go donate blood, and literally they said, 'We've had so many people want to donate blood, we do not need any more blood.' To us, that was always like this amazing thing, how everybody rallied around the cause after such a tragedy. It was such a sad, emotional time. In many ways, I think we felt fortunate as members of this team to be able to try to help the community in some ways. We spent a lot of time at firehouses and visiting police departments and some of the people who lost their dads or their moms. At least you felt like you were trying to do something, and I thought (Vice President of Community & Corporate Relations) Allison Stangeby and everybody here at the Giants did an amazing job connecting us with the community in that regard.
"I'll never forget the picture we took after the Kansas City game. I'm sure you guys have seen it. (Former Giants head) coach (Jim) Fassel – it was an emotional time, and it was an important game for us and somehow, some way we found a way to beat the Chiefs that day. I remember after the game he just brought everybody in and said, 'Just kind of get in the locker room,' and we all kind of just got in this picture and they snapped this picture. We felt a real burden and a responsibility to have success for this area and for the people who were going through such challenging times and I thought that moment captured it where we all kind of came together. It's still one of my favorite pictures I've ever had in football. I have it in my office. I have it at my house. So many distinct memories of that time. Twenty years later, I mean, they're vivid. They're vivid and you can still feel them. Obviously, a very tragic time in our country's history."