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Fact or Fiction: Predicting firsts of 2022


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

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

John Schmeelk: Fiction – The odds with questions like this always say to take the field, but let's dig a bit deeper. The Giants are unlikely to be a run heavy offense this season; they will pass it far more than they will run - which means the odds a rushing touchdown will be their first of the season aren't great. Is there a chance Saquon catches the first touchdown of the season? Yes, but let's go with someone more unlikely - a play-action pass from inside the 5 to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger.

Dan Salomone: Fact – He can do it through the air as well as on the ground, so he doubles his odds. Barkley is also no stranger to splashy season debuts. As a rookie, he broke a 68-yard touchdown run as part of his 128 yards from scrimmage in his first NFL game. He outdid himself in 2020 with 139 total yards, including 120 on the ground. The Giants, including Barkley himself, plan for him to return to that form in 2022.

Lance Medow: Fiction – In the two seasons that Daniel Jones has been the opening day starter, a wide receiver has found the end zone first. In 2020, it was Darius Slayton against the Steelers and last season, Sterling Shepard accomplished that feat against the Broncos. Although Saquon Barkley's versatility increases his chances to score touchdowns, let's take the field and, perhaps, the continuation of the wide receiver theme.

Matt Citak: Fiction – If he can stay healthy, Saquon Barkley could be looking at a huge bounce-back performance in 2022. However, it may not begin with the first touchdown of the Giants' season. The offense under Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka appears set to be more creative than Giants fans have ever seen. There will be a lot of misdirection and pre-snap motion, all with the goal of keeping opposing defenses on their toes. That is why it would not be surprising at all if the first touchdown of the season came on some sort of gadget play or even a designed Daniel Jones run. One way or another, Jones will be involved in the first touchdown of the season, whether it's through the air or on the ground.

Leonard Williams will have the Giants' first sack of the season

John Schmeelk: Fiction – In Wink Martindale's blitz-heavy scheme, the first sack of the season can come from anywhere. So go with a cornerback blitz from Aaron Robinson, but it could easily be someone such as Darnay Holmes or an off-ball linebacker such as Blake Martinez or Tae Crowder because that's the beauty of Martindale's scheme.

Dan Salomone: Fact – First game for a team with a new head coach and scheme? Lean on the vets. Don't forget that Williams' 18 sacks in 2020-21 are the most of any two-year span in his career. He has a lot of football left ahead of him.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Last season, Azeez Ojulari recorded the first sack of the year. In 2020, it was Dexter Lawrence. Leonard Williams didn't register his first sack of the season until Week 3 in 2021 and with Kayvon Thibodeaux and Ojulari now in the mix, he has some competition in getting after the quarterback. On top of that, in Wink Martindale's system, just about anyone can collect a sack because of his aggressive nature; so don't be surprised if a member of the secondary brings down the quarterback first this season.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Leonard Williams should get plenty of opportunities this season and could easily have one of the better performances of his career under Martindale, but this one is fiction. Wink Martindale is known for his blitz-heavy defense, sending defenders from all over the field to get after the quarterback. Martindale gets very creative with his blitzes. As he and his players have stated over the past few months, the goal is to have opposing offenses change what they're doing due to their defense, as opposed to the defense reacting to what the offense is doing. That is why there is a good chance that the first sack of the season comes from an unlikely source, such as a defensive back like Julian Love or Xavier McKinney, or maybe even one of the inside linebackers.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2022 offseason.

Week 5 vs. Green Bay in London is the Giants' toughest game before the bye week

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Ravens and Cowboys are the two other teams on the schedule with talent close to that of Green Bay before the Giants bye week, but the Giants face both of those opponents at MetLife Stadium. The Titans have also been a perennial playoff team but the loss of AJ Brown, tight end Anthony Firkser and Pro Bowl guard Roger Saffold in the off-season makes their offense less dangerous and the opener slightly less difficult. Even though the Packers lost Davante Adams this off-season, they have one of the most complete rosters and one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Their defense is also very strong. Playing the Packers on a neutral field in London should be the most difficult game before the bye week.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – The Giants are undefeated in London. So, there's no need to worry about that trip, mates. Week 6 at home vs. Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens would be a tough test even if the Giants weren't coming off the international game. Jackson threw two touchdowns and ran for 80 yards in his only previous meeting with the Giants, a 2020 victory for Baltimore. The Wink Martindale effect will be fun to watch, though, with his familiarity with the Ravens' scheme.

Lance Medow: Fact – There's a number of strong candidates to go with including Week 1 in Tennessee against a team that has won the AFC South in each of the last two seasons but when you take into consideration the travel and the caliber of the opposition in Week 5, there's no other team in the first half of the season tops that. The Giants will have to travel across the country for an early-morning game against a team with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, who has helped the Packers win the NFC North the past three seasons. And don't overlook a Green Bay defense that finished in the Top 10 in scoring in 2021 and its specials teams should improve thanks to new coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

Matt Citak: Fiction – This was a close one, as any matchup against two-time reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is going to be a difficult one. But the fact that the game is on neutral ground in London helps to level the playing field a little bit, which is why the team's Week 6 game against Baltimore is the toughest game before the bye week. The Ravens dealt with injuries up and down their roster last season, starting in training camp with the loss of several running backs to season-ending injuries (JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards) and continuing with the loss of some of their most important defenders (Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey). Now healthy, the Ravens should return to their status as contenders in the AFC, with quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the way. Add in the fact that the Giants will be returning from their trip across the pond at the start of the week, and it's easy to see why this Week 6 matchup will be the toughest before the bye.

Week 12 at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day is the Giants' toughest game post-bye week

John Schmeelk: Fact – The other two games to consider are Week 16 at Minnesota on Christmas Eve and Week 17 at home against the Indianapolis Colts on New Year's Day. Since the Colts game is at home, let's push that one aside. We don't quite know what the Vikings are going to look like with a new head coach, which makes them a question mark. It makes Dallas the answer here. The Cowboys roster may not be as talented this season with the losses of Amari Cooper, La'el Collins, Randy Gregory and Cedrick Wilson, but they still have a good core of high-level performers that make them dangerous on both sides of the ball. Rate them ahead of the Eagles because of more faith in Dak Prescott over Jalen Hurts.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Playing in Philadelphia will be a problem for the Giants until it's not. They have lost their past eight games at Lincoln Financial Field by a combined score of 209-120, including a 24-point loss last season.

Lance Medow: Fact – The Giants will head to Dallas on a short week coming off a game against the Lions. They'll have very limited practice time because of two games in the span of five days and this will be a contest against a division rival and one of the most consistent teams in the NFC East over the last several years.

Matt Citak: Fact – The Giants have nine games (five divisional contests) following their Week 9 bye. The four non-NFC East contests are against Houston, Detroit, Minnesota and Indianapolis, with the last one against the Colts offering the most difficult matchup of the bunch. But traveling to Dallas to play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving is no easy task for any team, especially one with a rivalry as deep and rich as the Giants. The Cowboys are 33-22-1 all-time on Thanksgiving, but have lost the Turkey Day game in each of the past three seasons. They last won in 2018, defeating Washington, 31-23.

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