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.)
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.
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.
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):
Washington||Redskins -3.0 pts|
#4||at New Orleans||Saints
Dallas||Cowboys -5.5 pts|
#8||at Kansas City||Chiefs
Tampa Bay||Bucs -10.0 pts|
L.A.||Chargers -6.0 pts|
Chicago||Bears -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:
Falcons||Giants -2.5 pts|
Panthers||Giants - 3.0 pts|
#9||Las Vegas Raiders||Giants
FT||Giants -2.5 pts|
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
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.
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 ½ 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,
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