The 2020 NFL season kicked off today after a long, tumultuous offseason. Almost every team played on Sunday, but four teams remain unplayed heading into Monday night. The Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans will face off on Monday, as well as the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Giants are the underdogs in their Week One matchup. They are hosting the rugged Steelers defense at home while installing brand new offensive schemes. For New York, the key to winning their first game of the 2020 season is to play turnover-free football.
Jones Can Not Fumble
The Pittsburgh Steelers possess one of the best defenses in the NFL. In 2019, Pittsburgh led the NFL with 38 forced turnovers. The Steelers intercepted 20 passes (second-most) while holding opposing quarterbacks to only 3,113 passing yards (third-best).
The Giants will have a tough time airing out the football in Week One. The Steelers’ secondary is loaded with playmakers, but they also have the best pass-rush in the NFL. Pittsburgh sacked opposing quarterbacks a league-high 54 times last season. Their 30.5% pressure rate also led the NFL.
Pittsburgh’s incredible pass-rush is led by First-Team All-Pro TJ Watt. JJ Watt’s younger brother was dominant in his third professional season. Last year, TJ put together an insane 14.5 sack performance along with 8 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. Watt is a versatile talent that forces turnovers with ease and impacts both the run and pass games.
There are other pass-rushers on the Steelers’ defense who pose a serious threat to New York’s new offensive line. Opposite of TJ Watt is Bud Dupree, an edge rusher who totaled 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles last season. Those are two talented edge rushers on the Steelers’ defense, but there is also a pretty dominant rusher on Pittsburgh’s interior. Cameron Heyward was also a First-Team All-pro, as he totaled 9 sacks and 1 forced fumble in 2019.
Daniel Jones struggled to hold onto the football last season. As a rookie, Jones fumbled 17 times in 13 starts. This is something that Danny Dimes needs to improve on to take that step forward as a franchise quarterback in 2020. With such fierce pass-rushers who force so many fumbles all over the Steelers’ defense, it is crucial that Daniel Jones keeps the ball off the turf.
Smart Decisions Necessary
Daniel Jones struggled with fumbles last year, but he kept his interception number down for the most part. But as great as the Steelers’ pass-rush is, their secondary is phenomenal, too. That unit is led by third-year superstar Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is another Steelers player coming off of a 2019 First-Team All-Pro campaign. Minkah intercepted 5 passes last season and forced 2 fumbles. Fitzpatrick also scored 2 defensive touchdowns. He is a turnover machine that must be avoided by Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense.
The Steelers’ secondary also features veteran Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. The Steelers are bound to force turnovers all season long, but if the Giants can play turnover-free football in Week One, they can keep themselves in this game.