Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 07-15-21

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he was one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls up until last year. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.

(In this week's treatise, our Scott Landstrom walks us through the maze of confusion involved building a won-lost record, especially with the new 17-game schedule. As to the Las Vegas point-spreads, he sees hope, he sees optimism, he sees a future for the Giants, but so much of the math depends on the bounce of a ball or the success of a single play that's it's more fun to speculate and more dangerous to actually predict. Read on.)

By Scott Landstrom
Well, Giants Nation, with the upcoming 2021 season schedule out about a month now, the "wise guys" in Las Vegas have posted early betting lines on all the regular season games. And as one would expect of a team that went 6-10 last season, New York is the betting "underdog" in quite a few of them.
As fate would have it, with the new 17-game schedule, each team had a 50/50 chance of either getting an extra home game, or an extra away game, and you can guess which side of the coin flip the Giants ended up on. Yup - they get eight home games, but nine visiting games this coming season.
Of those nine "road" games, New York is favored to win in exactly ZERO of those contests. The betting line for those away games is as follows (as published by "Draft Kings" in Las Vegas):

NFL WeekOpponent CityBetting Favorite
Week #2at WashingtonRedskins -3.0 pts
Week #4at New OrleansSaints -5.0 pts
Week #5at DallasCowboys -5.5 pts
Week #8at Kansas CityChiefs -10.0 pts
Week #11at Tampa BayBucs -10.0 pts
Week #13at MiamiDolphins -3.5 pts
Week #14at L.A.Chargers -6.0 pts
Week #16at PhiladelphiaEagles -1.5 pts
Week #17at ChicagoBears -2.0 pts

As you can clearly see, there are nine games, and nine instances of the Giants being the betting "underdog," at least at this moment, absent any game showings. The other aspect that jumps out at me when I look at this schedule is the tough stretch that begins in Week Four.
Of the next six road games starting that week, five of them find New York as at least a 5.0-point underdog, and two of them are in double digits (the two teams that made the Super Bowl last season: Kansas City and Tampa Bay).
Even the one game in that six-game stretch that DOESN'T have a spread of 5.0 or more points is the Miami game in Week 13, and that is still 3.5 points. Now, we all know how this works. If the Giants go out and get waxed by big margins a few times, these lines will "blow up."
Conversely, if the Giants go out and win (for instance) their first two games hosting the Broncos and visiting the Redskins - which is very "do-able" - and these lines will shrink like an air mattress impaled with an ice pick. I especially like the first game (playing at Washington with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB for the Redskins) and the last two games - at the Eagles and at the Bears who will likely be starting some very "green" player at quarterback.
For the Eagles, a second-year player (Jalen Hurts, who had a 77.6 passer rating last season) and for the Bears, starting a rookie (forecasting Justin Fields to be under center for Chicago by the final week).
Switching to the Giants' (not quite as numerous - thank you NFL!) home games, we see a little more respect emerge from the "wise guys" in Las Vegas with respect to their betting lines for games at MetLife Stadium. The list is as follows:

NFL WeekOpponentBetting Favorite
Week #1DenverBroncos -1.0 pts
Week #3Atlanta FalconsGiants -2.5 pts
Week #6LA RamsRams -3.5 pts
Week #7Carolina PanthersGiants - 3.0 pts
Week #9Las Vegas RaidersGiants -1.5 pts
Week #12PhiladelphiaGiants -3.0 pts
Week #15DallasCowboys -1.0 pts
Week #18Washington FTGiants -2.5 pts

So the good news is there is only one home game out of eight where the Giants are underdogs by more than 1.0 point, and even that one is the Rams by just over a field goal (-3.5 points). The Giants are favored in five out of eight total home games, and it totally would not surprise me if they "flipped" roles as favorites for that Week 15 game against the Cowboys, wherein they are currently one-point underdogs. If they did that, they would be favored in six out of eight home games.
The way I am looking at the NFC East, we are not going to see "lightning strike twice" and a losing record won't be enough to win this division. I am thinking something in the 10-7 range is what it will take ... nothing "world beating," just a solid 58.8 percent win rate. In order to get there, for the Giants, it says here they would need to convert 5-6 out of eight home games into wins, which is basically "chalk" for Vegas given the above lines.
Then they would need to win four or five of the nine road games, depending on how many they need to get to double digit wins, all told. I think the challenge of meeting my objectives is obviously much higher in their road games, since they are favored in zero of them.
So, to be clear, we are discussing a team which is tied for the second most losses in the entire NFL over the past four cumulative seasons at 46 (with the lowly Jets, if you can believe that), trailing only the woeful Cincinnati Bengals (51 losses over four seasons). Yet I can clearly see a path for this young and ascending team to make the playoffs by winning 10 games this coming season. How? Consider, if you will, the following math and assumptions:
Home Games: They are betting favorites in five out of eight games, but let's not forget - they are still the Giants. So they lose one of those five in which they are favored. So to meet my goal, they need to upset TWO of the THREE opponents who are favored against them at MetLife Stadium to finish with a home record of 6-2.
Away Games: Let's start with the two games that are nearly "unwinnable" on this schedule - playing both defending conference champions in their stadium (Bucs, Chiefs). Both are currently 10-point favorites. So those two are highly probable to end up as losses.
Then, in descending order of difficulty, come three games which will be highly challenging to win, but clearly not outside the realm of possibility: at Saints (Week Four), at Cowboys (Week Five), and at Chargers (Week 14). Each of those games features the Giants as 5-6-point underdogs. It says here New York needs to upset one of those teams, in three opportunities.
Which leaves four "tight spread" road games left: at Washington (Week Two), at Miami (Week 13), at Philadelphia (Week 16), and at Chicago (Week 17). It says here, in order to finish with 10 wins, they need to come away with three of those four tight games. Since "home field" is generally worth 3.0 points on the betting line, and only one of those four games exceeds that level (Dolphins, and then by only point).
That says that Vegas is implying that the Giants are as good in one case (Washington game), and better in the other two cases (Eagles, Bears) than those opponents on a "straight up, neutral field" basis. So if we lose to both Tampa Bay and Kansas City, win one of the "mid-range" handicap games against New Orleans (now without Drew Brees), Dallas (with the second worst defense in the NFL last season), and the Chargers (22nd ranked in defensive points allowed, some 4.3 points behind New York), and win three of the four "squeakers" to finish with a 4-5 record on the road.
Which, added to the 6-2 home record, gets the Giants to that magical 10-win plateau, and a 10-7 final record. Could be a complete "pipe dream" or it could be "Nostradamus-esque" but the only sensible way to start a journey is to have a firm idea of where you want to get to, and then to get your arms around what is required to arrive there, right?

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