Odell Beckham Jr. will have more touchdowns than Olivier Vernon has sacks.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - On the surface, this looks like a surefire “Fact”. In his three healthy seasons Beckham had 10 or more touchdowns. Olivier Vernon has topped ten sacks only once (with 11.5 in 2013) and has had more than eight only one other time in his career. So why will things change this year? The Giants have much more offensive diversity than they had in the first few years of Beckham’s career with weapons like Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. Eli Manning has a lot more places to look to make plays not only in the red zone, but for big plays as well. I think Vernon finishes with ten sacks, and Beckham with nine touchdowns.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I think both players are primed for big comebacks in 2018. Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t caught a touchdown since Oct. 8, so you know he’s itching to make up for lost time. Meanwhile, Olivier Vernon missed a game for the first time since coming into the league in 2012. Their numbers will be close in these respective categories, but I’ll go with Vernon on this one because I think he will thrive in James Bettcher’s scheme. Chandler Jones averaged nine sacks over four seasons in New England and then had 11 and 17 in his two seasons in Arizona under Bettcher.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Olivier Vernon has recorded double digit sacks just once in his career and that was back in 2013 when he was with the Dolphins. Although I believe Vernon will lead the team in sacks in 2018, I still think Odell Beckham will have more touchdowns. With the exception of last season when he was limited to just four games, when Beckham has played at least 12 games in a season, he’s had at least ten touchdowns. With Eli Manning still throwing him the football and plenty of other weapons around Beckham, I don’t see why that trend will end.
Damon Harrison will have more tackles than Saquon Barkley has receptions.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - This is another really good one and it will be extremely close since both will probably be right around the 70 mark. If Harrison stays in the 76-86 range he has been in with the Giants since he got here then he will win here. I am curious, however, as to whether or not a move back to nose tackle will hurt his tackle numbers. In his final year with the Jets, he did have an impressive 72, so there might be an adverse effect. I do think the strong play from Dalvin Tomlinson and BJ Hill, not to mention Alec Ogletree might spread the tackles around a little bit too. I think Barkley will be anywhere from 60-75 receptions for the season as a target in traditional running back routes and down the field, so I’ll give him the edge here.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - The reception totals for rookie running backs were off the charts last season, and I see that becoming a trend, especially when players like Saquon Barkley come along. Alvin Kamara had 81 for the Saints last year and Christian McCaffrey had 80 for the Panthers under offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who is now with the Giants.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - In each of his first two seasons with the Giants, Damon Harrison has recorded 86 and 76 tackles respectively. Given Snacks has been one of the most consistent and durable weapons on defense, I don’t think it’s a stretch for him to put up similar tackle totals in 2018. While I believe Saquon Barkley will be heavily involved in the receiving game, I’d be very surprised if he tallies 76-86 receptions. Last season, Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey had 80 catches but keep in mind, Carolina traded its top wideout Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills at the deadline, tight end Greg Olsen missed nine games due to injury and the Panthers didn’t have as many weapons around McCaffrey as the Giants do with Barkley.
Janoris Jenkins will have more interceptions than Sterling Shepard has touchdown catches.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I never like predicting high interception totals for anyone. I think Jenkins is an excellent cover corner, one of the best in the league, but he needs help from quarterbacks to rack up high interceptions totals. The Giants also figure to play a ton of man to man defense with bump and run from the line of scrimmage, which makes it harder for cornerbacks to get interceptions. They are not sitting in zone reading thee quarterback. Getting their head around, picking the ball up and making a play on it is very difficult. Meanwhile, I think Sterling Shepard tops five touchdowns. This is an easy one for me.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - A lot of people are wondering who will be the Adam Thielen of the Giants with Pat Shurmur coming over from Minnesota. Sterling Shepard is not as tall, but he showed last year that he can be just as explosive as the Vikings’ Pro Bowl wide receiver out of the slot. Shepard set out to improve his yards after the catch last season, and he went from 3.9 YAC per catch as a rookie to 5.4 in 2017, including touchdowns of 77 and 67 yards. His longest catch in 2016 was 32 yards. Everyone is talking Eli, Odell, Saquon and Evan – as they should – but don’t snooze on Sterling.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The most interceptions Janoris Jenkins has collected in a single season is four, as a rookie, when he was with the Rams, in 2012. His single-season best with the Giants is three and that’s exactly how many picks he’s recorded in each of the last three campaigns. Sterling Shepard had eight touchdowns, as a rookie, in 2016 but, last season, that total fell to two. In 2017, he also missed five games due to injuries. With Beckham, Engram and Barkley now all in the mix, I don’t think Shepard will get to eight touchdowns but I also don’t think four or five is a stretch. It will be real close with Jenkins but Shepard will just edge him.
The Giants’ passing offense will rank higher than their rushing defense.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - This is a really tough one. The Giants were 27th in rush defense last year, and 19th in pass offense. Based on the personnel comprising both groups this year, I think both will be substantially better. With Snacks Harrison, BJ Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson all on the line, I love the run stopping potential along with Alec Ogletree, Olivier Vernon, and BJ Goodson. The passing game will certainly do better too, with an improved offensive line and such excellent skill position players. That said, I think the Giants are really going to focus on running the ball more effectively this season, so their passing attempts will be down. I expect they will be a top ten rush defense. I’ll tip the cap to the rush defense.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - I’m hook, line and sinker on James Bettcher’s defense, but the other side of the ball has Eli Manning throwing to Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Rhett Ellison, Cody Latimer, and the list goes on. On top of that, general manager Dave Gettleman rebuilt the offensive line to give the two-time Super Bowl MVP time to decide which weapon to use on any given play.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Last season, the Giants’ passing offense ranked 21st and that was partially due to an injury plagued receiving corps. With the team back to full health and the addition of a few new weapons, that ranking should, noticeably, improve. In comparison, the Vikings were 11th and the Panthers were 19th. This season, I think anywhere between 10th and 14th is a realistic goal for New York. In 2017, the Giants ranked 27th against the run, a number that needs to dramatically improve. In James Bettcher’s three seasons as Cardinals’ defensive coordinator his units ranked in the top ten in the NFL against the run: 2015 (6th), 2016 (9th), 2017 (6th) but he’s now working with, for the most part, completely new personnel. Like Jenkins’ interceptions versus Shepard’s touchdowns, I think it will be close but I’d give the edge to the passing game, based on the personnel.