To say 2017 was one to forget for Eli Manning is probably an understatement. Though the veteran quarterback and his team entered the year with aspirations to contend for a Super Bowl, just about everything that could go wrong on (and off) the field did. The end result was Manning getting strangely benched for the first time ever and ownership eventually hitting the full reset button late in the midst of a 3-13 boondoggle.
Manning is back to lead the team in 2018 but he and fans of big blue will notice a very quick re-tooling of just about every aspect of the franchise. Dave Gettleman has already left his imprint as general manager and new head coach Pat Shurmur is not exactly hiding from raising expectations in his first season on the job. Superstar Odell Beckham Jr. remains a focal point on offense but No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley and splashy free agent left tackle Nate Solder were among the offseason additions that were designed to make New York even more dangerous (if, it should be said, everybody stays healthy) in hopes of eking out just a bit more from their quarterback.
New defensive coordinator James Bettcher was also brought into fix things on the other side of the ball, but improving the chemistry in the locker room could be a bigger challenge for him and the rest of the staff than making the switch to a 3-4 alignment. There’s still plenty of talent like Landon Collins and Oliver Vernon to work with but the depth at positions like linebacker might play an oversized role in the team’s fortunes as the year goes on.
We’ve seen major turnarounds before in the NFL and all these offseason moves have New York believing it can be the next team on the list to go from division bottom-feeder to the postseason. We asked a group of experts at Athlon Sports how they see the Giants' 2018 season playing out.
New York Giants Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster)
After bottoming out at 3-13, this proud franchise has nowhere to go but up. Last year’s Giants were a walking personification of Murphy’s Law, but the offseason represented a turning of the page, if not a total teardown and rebuild. New coach Pat Shurmur will have a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., something last year’s G-Men lacked, and OBJ immediately adds a down-the-field element that the team desperately needs. Rookie Saquon Barkley could single-handedly revive a moribund ground game, and Eli Manning might still have a couple good years left if the line can keep him clean. The defense can’t get any worse, and a switch to a 3-4 could spark a turnaround. The Giants will undoubtedly be improved, but sharing a division with the Eagles and Cowboys puts a ceiling on their progress in the win column.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
I'm not quite convinced that the Giants can immediately jump back into the playoffs but the entire organization seems like it got a lot better in the offseason to the point where a big jump in the record is in store. So many of their problems were self-inflicted a year ago, something that probably will be cleaned up and they’re bound to be a little luckier on the injury front. They’ve improved up front on offense and at linebacker, which is notable given past struggles. They’ll be pesky and beat a few teams better than them but the schedule doesn’t quite shape up to lead the kind of turnaround the G-Men think they are capable of.
John Gworek (@JohnGworek)
Despite a 3-13 season and a coaching change, the Giants made moves in the offseason mostly to try to win now. In theory, they improved the offensive line and are adding Saquon Barkley and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. So yeah, they are unlikely to finish 31st in the NFL in scoring again. But the defense was also brutal (31st in yards allowed, 27th in points allowed), and it’s a long way from 3-13 to a playoff berth in the NFC. Despite a last-place schedule, six of the Giants’ first seven games are against teams that had winning records last season. I doubt it all comes together that fast.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMark)
Simply put, the Giants should be a better team in 2018. Then again, a 3-13 showing and ranking near the bottom of the league in most of the major categories on both sides of the ball doesn't exactly set a high bar when it comes to improvement. The offense oozes potential, especially if Odell Beckham Jr. returns healthy (and doesn't get distracted by his contract situation) and Saquon Barkley plays up to his No. 2 overall billing. The defense also should take a step forward but how big depends on how well the unit takes to coordinator James Bettcher's 3-4 alignment. Don't be surprised if things get off to a rough start as the franchise is starting over in many ways. But by the end, I think there will be enough evidence for Giants fans to believe that better days are ahead.