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Fact or Fiction: Who scores first TD of 2020 season?


Saquon Barkley will score the Giants' first touchdown of the season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - Last season, the Steelers allowed only seven rushing touchdowns, which was tied with the Patriots for the fewest allowed in the NFL. Their 3.79 yards allowed per rush were the third-fewest in the league. They allowed only six rushes of 20+ yards and none of 50+ yards. It would be logical to expect them to load the box against Saquon Barkley. The Giants' first touchdown will be through the air, and it will be from Sterling Shepard making a catch in the middle of the field.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - It will definitely be "Big" Dexter Lawrence on a scoop-and-score. Who wouldn't want to see that? You heard it here first.

Lance Medow: Fact - Last season, Evan Engram scored the Giants' first touchdown on the team's first possession of the season in Dallas. Saquon Barkley nearly pulled off that feat earlier in the drive with a 59-yard run. In 2019, the Steelers surrendered just seven rushing scores - a stat that doesn't help Barkley's cause. But he's a dual threat and can score as a runner or receiver, meaning his chances of reaching the end zone first are much higher than his teammates.

Jabrill Peppers will force the Giants' first turnover of the season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - Ben Roethlisberger gets rid of the ball quickly and has a good offensive line in front of him. In 2018, according to Pro Football Focus, Roethlisberger was tied for the third-fastest average time to throw (with Drew Brees) at 2.48 seconds. The Steelers, however, will potentially be without Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro for this game. If pressure is going to get home, it will be via quick pressure up the middle. I predict a Dexter Lawrence forced fumble, recovered by Lorenzo Carter, as the Giants' first takeaway of the season. If it is an interception, I'm going to with Logan Ryan.

Dan Salomone: Fact - This is the smart move by playing the odds. Peppers will play a lot of snaps on defense and special teams, where he was voted a co-captain as a core player on coverage units.

"I think that's reflective when the team voted on captains, why he got such a large number of votes," Joe Judge said. "Really on special teams, that's a great way of really showing it's not just the offense or the defense, but that bridges across all avenues of the team and the units. Now, specifically on using starters on special teams, I'm a firm believer in using the best players for every situation possible. Hey look, I don't care if you're playing 60 plays on defense or 60 plays on offense. If we need you on a unit for special teams and that's best for the team, then that's where you can make an impact."

Lance Medow: Fiction - The Giants weren't a very opportunistic defense in 2019 as they collected just 16 takeaways (tied for third-fewest in the NFL) and didn't record their first forced turnover until Week 3 in Tampa Bay, when Ryan Connelly picked off Jameis Winston. Although the takeaways didn't jump off the page, Jabrill Peppers was one of their most active players, finishing with an interception and a team-high three forced fumbles. Peppers is a strong candidate, but I think either rookie Darnay Holmes (who was very aggressive during training camp) or Logan Ryan (who has some familiarity with Patrick Graham based on their time together in New England and is coming off a career-year in Tennessee) will force the Giants' first turnover of the season.

View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.

T.J. Watt is the most dangerous player on the Steelers, offensively or defensively.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - T.J. Watt is impressive to watch, but I am going to go with Cameron Heyward. He plays with tremendous power and often marches the offensive lineman trying to block him into the backfield. His combination of athleticism and strength makes him very difficult to block. Last year, Watt and Bud Dupree were able to ring up sacks rushing outside primarily because Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Jason Hargrave (now with the Eagles and replaced by Chris Wormley) collapsed the inside of the pocket, which prevented quarterbacks from stepping up. Heyward's 66 total pressures were fourth-most among interior linemen in the NFL, behind only Aaron Donald, Calais Campbell and Kenny Clark. Heyward is also a huge reason the run defense was so effective. It might take more than one player to keep him out of the backfield on Monday night.

Dan Salomone: Fiction - Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Patrick Graham shaved before his press conference this week so we "wouldn't see all the gray hair this week is causing." In every sense of the word, the biggest culprit is two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger, whom Graham called one of the best-ever to do it.

"He can throw the ball anywhere, he's tough," Graham said. "That's the thing that stands out. He is one of the toughest players to ever play in this league. For a young team that we have, we try to explain to them, listen, no play is over. He can get the ball anywhere. He'll make the right decisions in the run game. When you are dealing with these veteran quarterbacks, I wish there was a stat or somehow (track) the decisions they make in the run game, the yards there. Take all the 50,000 or whatever many yards passing, how many yards do they contribute in the run game by getting you into the right check? I've been hit real bad by this guy over the years several times."

Lance Medow: Fact - Here's what you have to know about T.J. Watt. Last season, he led the Steelers with 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles – and those stats don't necessarily do justice for his game. The eight forced fumbles were tied for the most in the NFL with Arizona's Chandler Jones. Watt is one of the most disruptive players in the league, with an ability to easily wreck a game and completely change field position. Ben Roethlisberger is back and running back James Conner and wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson can't be overlooked, but all eyes need to be on Watt.

Andrew Thomas is the X-factor for the Giants on Monday night.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - The position is correct, but not the player. Cameron Fleming will have the pleasure of drawing T.J. Watt, who normally lines up over the right tackle. Watt has violent hands and is able to bend the edge against offensive tackles to get to the quarterback. He wins with a variety of moves and has a motor that never stops. Watt's 14.5 sacks were tied for fourth-most in the NFL and his 21.4% win percentage (according to Pro Football Focus) was tied for ninth-best in the league with teammate Stephon Tuitt. His 87 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, were tied with Nick Bosa for fourth-most in the NFL. Watt also had eight forced fumbles and eight passes defended last year. He is a playmaker and a potential game-wrecker.

Dan Salomone: Fact - The first four weeks of a season are a "crap shoot" in normal circumstances, but this season will be like no other. That's why, especially early, teams will rely more on fundamentals than Xs and Os. It means running the ball and throwing it only when you have to during the course of a game. Joe Judge laid out a clear vision for the team when he took over in January. They are going to be physical, first and foremost. Team-building is an ongoing process, and Thomas represents that commitment to fixing the offensive line once and for all. The whole line is the X-factor on Monday night as well as the rest of the season.

Lance Medow: Fiction - In 2019, the Steelers led the NFL with 54 sacks and 18 fumble recoveries. They also finished second in forced fumbles (22) and interceptions (20). Yeah, Pittsburgh's defense isn't too shabby and if Daniel Jones is to have success, he'll need protection. The above statement only focuses on Andrew Thomas, but I'd argue the entire offensive line is an X-factor. You don't just have to worry about Watt. Last season, fellow pass rusher Bud Dupree had 11.5 sacks and defensive lineman Cam Heyward nine. Those three players accounted for more than half the team's total in that department. It's going to take more than just Andrew Thomas to neutralize the Steelers' attack up front.


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