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Fact or Fiction: Predicting win total to take NFC East

FACT-OR-FICTION

The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

With the expanded 17-game schedule, nine wins will be enough to win the NFC East this year.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - It's hard to believe that a year after Washington (7-9) won the NFC East, a team is going to be able to win it going 9-8. It doesn't happen very often that a division struggles that much for two consecutive years. Last season, no other division winner had a record worse than 11-5. One of the NFC East teams – probably either the Giants, Cowboys or WFT – will figure out a way to get to 10-7.

Dan Salomone: Fact - There is always a chance that one team just gets hot and stays hot in this topsy-turvy division that has not had a repeat champion since Andy Reid's Eagles won four in a row from 2001-2004. But the NFC East is matched fairly evenly again, which means they could beat each other up. Much was made about Washington winning the division last year with just seven wins, but at the end of the day, it earned the right to host a playoff game and took the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers into deep water with a fourth-string quarterback facing off against Tom Brady.

Lance Medow: Fiction - It's a guarantee it will take more than seven wins this year to win the NFC East but and the minimum will be 10. In complete seasons since the division was formed in 1970, the winner of the NFC East has needed at least 10 wins all but four times (2011, 2015, 2019, 2020). Although in recent history, nine wins has done the trick a bit more often, you also can't overlook the role injuries has played in the division each of the last two seasons. While it's impossible to predict the latter, needing at least a 10-7 record to claim the NFC East title isn't a stretch.

Of the major pro sports leagues, the hardest team championship to win is in the NFL.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - The answer here is pretty clearly the NBA. Why? It is almost always one of the two best teams in the league that walk away with an NBA Championship. Very rarely does a low seed or underdog emerge to win a title because of the playoff format and the nature of the sport. A seven-game series is always going to be harder to win than a single game because there's so much less randomness involved. It is always going to be harder to build the most talented or best team in the league than to put a group together that can get hot and win a championship on a late season run. For other leagues with seven-game series, the nature of the sport makes it easier to win. In hockey, a hot goalie can lead a team to a title while in baseball a hot pitching staff or lineup can do the same, while the most talented team may slump at the worst possible time. Those types of things rarely happen in the NBA, making it the hardest league to win a title in.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - After all these years, Schmeelk has finally changed my mind. It's the NBA for one reason: The Finals are determined in the off-season. If a team doesn't have a Big Two or Big Three, they are essentially eliminated before the regular season even tips off. There are outliers, but the NBA is a league of dynasties.

Lance Medow: Fact - As far as I'm concerned, this isn't even close. The NFL wins by a landslide. In the NBA, NHL and MLB, you have to win a series, allowing you multiple opportunities to handle your business and giving you more margin for error. The series format also favors the higher-seeded team because the chances of that team winning more games over the course of five or seven contests is greater. In the NFL, each round is one game so there's no room for error and no tomorrow if you lose. You can be the top seed in the AFC or NFC, lose in the Divisional Round and your season is over in the blink of an eye.

Saquon Barkley will have more receptions than Kadarius Toney in 2021.

John Schmeelk: Fact - This will be very close, with both players finishing with between 50 and 60 receptions, but Saquon will get a bit more. The Giants are still going to want to get the ball in his hands, so expect him to be used not only as a target on screen passes and wheel routes, but also as an emergency dump-off target for Daniel Jones. He can get the ball on any play and will not have to have as much schemed up for him as the team would for Toney. Barkley will also be on the field for more offensive snaps each game.

Dan Salomone: Fact - Barkley could even be in the running to lead the entire team. This is a running back who recorded 91 receptions as a rookie, which are tied with Odell Beckham Jr. (2014 when he was also a rookie) for fourth-most in franchise history for a season.

Lance Medow: Fact - In the two seasons that Barkley has played at least 13 games, he's had at least 52 catches and he had six over the two games he appeared in during the 2020 season. It's not a stretch to say Jason Garrett will utilize Barkley as a receiver and he can reach his 2019 totals. Kadarius Toney has to contend with Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton as well as tight ends Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph for targets, so let's lean toward Barkley.

Linebacker Lorenzo Carter is the Giants' defensive X-factor heading into the season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - It's rough to put the weight of the defense on a guy coming off a torn Achilles tendon injury. It can take a full season to bounce back from those, especially for players who rely on exploding out of their stances to get to the quarterback. The Giants have a full edge rusher room and someone such as Azeez Ojulari, Ifeadi Odegnibo or Oshane Ximines could step up in his place. Consider linebacker the "X-Factor" position group, and answer the question with cornerback Adoree Jackson. Figure the Giants' intention is to play a lot more man-to-man defense and, for that to work, Jackson has to be an effective and healthy outside corner. He has only played in 14 games over the last two seasons, and the Giants do not have anyone close to as accomplished behind him. Jackson only played three games last year and we haven't seen him in a Giants uniform yet, which makes him a bit of an unknown. He is the X-factor because if he is great, this defense has a chance to vault from a Top 12 into a Top 5 ranking

Dan Salomone: Fiction - Let's call Carter him the Z-Factor. For the X-Factor, how about Xavier McKinney? This is shaping up to be one of the best secondaries in the NFL, and last-year's second-round pick can help put it over the top. After an injury put his rookie year on pause, he got his sea legs by season's end and grabbed a game-winning interception in the end zone in the final game of last season against the Cowboys – a victory that kept the Giants' postseason dream alive for a few more hours.

Lance Medow: Fact - Last season looked like it would be a critical year for Lorenzo Carter but, unfortunately, he suffered a torn Achilles in Week 5 and missed the rest of the season. Carter is entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract and his production will go a long way in determining the ceiling of this Giants' defense. That unit is still looking for a consistent weapon to complement Leonard Williams up front as Kyler Fackrell and Dexter Lawrence finished tied for second on the team with four sacks apiece in 2020. Williams posted double-digit sacks in a season for the first time in his career. Can you assume he'll collect 11.5 again? It's unlikely and that's more of a reason why they need someone like Carter to step up and be a consistent presence in the pass rush department.

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