The key to the game in week one isn’t complicated. It’s not based on complex schemes, never-before-seen blitzes, or on one specific moment in the game that will swing things one way or the other. Rather, it’s something that’s been known for ages: the team that wins in the trenches tends to win the game outright.
That’s true in any game, but it matters more against a team that reached the playoffs last year partly because of their strength on the offensive line. They were nicknamed Sacksonville last year for a good reason, and they were the second best defense in the league in terms of total yards allowed. Only the Minnesota Vikings, who also reached the Conference Championship stage of the playoffs, were better.
A big part of that defense is the front seven, and it will be one of the most important matchups when the New York Giants take on the Jacksonville Jaguars to open up the regular season. Another notable stat is that the Jags defense is the third ever in NFL history to have two different 10 sack games in the same season.
On the other side, there’s a Giants offensive line that has a total of zero regular season games together. The changes on the offensive line are a good thing, of course, but it usually takes a group of players some time to get used to playing together. The preseason isn’t the same intense environment as the regular season, so the week one game against Jacksonville will be our first time seeing the new O-line in action during a high pressure situation.
Ereck Flowers is the only starter from last season that’s coming back, and of course, the pressure will definitely be on Nate Solder as the most expensive tackle in recent memory. This Jags defensive line, on the other hand, has a few experienced stars that already have some good chemistry playing together. Calais Campbell is the most obvious example, but their entire front should be one of the tougher ones in the NFL.
The addition of Marcell Dareus doesn’t make things any easier for the interior of the offensive line. But dealing with that threat is also going to be one of the major things that wins the game for the Giants, if they can pull it off and begin the season 1-0.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard? They can’t catch the ball if Eli Manning doesn’t have any time to drop back and throw an accurate pass. Saquon Barkley? Well, he can’t get downfield for a big run if the offensive line can’t open up any gaps for him.
The Giants offensive talent is improved this year, and the team definitely has the capability to score more points than they did during the disastrous season of 2017. But it all starts with the offensive line, and in the opening game of the season, they face one of the more challenging defenses in the entire league. Finding a way to succeed in spite of that may be the key to the game.