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Over or under 6 wins for Giants? BBV writers debate

Fans are split on that question — how about BBV staff members?

NFL: New York Giants-OTA Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The common Over/Under win total we see from oddsmakers for the 2019 New York Giants is 6 or 6.5. In a recent ‘FanPulse’ survey, we placed the number at 6 asked Big Blue View readers which they would choose. In a divided fan base, 48 percent took the over, 29 percent took ‘push’ and 22 percent took the under.

I put that same question to our Big Blue View contributors. Here are the answers from those who chose to respond.

Chris Pflum

I want to take the over.

Dear God, do I want to take the over. Some people around here seem to have gotten the impression that I hate the Giants. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As I have said before, I am a third generation Giants fan and I love this team. But watching and rewatching them in the course of analyzing what went wrong and why over the last two years has been almost physically painful.

I believe in an evidence based approach to life, and I have to be fair and honest about what I see.

So I just can’t do it. I can’t put faith in this team until they give me a reason to do so.

And they absolutely could do so. If the Giants take the right lessons from their self-scouting, they could be dynamic on offense. Saquon Barkley averages 6.7 yards per carry against 6-man boxes, which is almost as good as throwing the ball. The Los Angeles Rams have shown us that an offense can dictate defensive personnel packages and create the match-ups they want.

Evan Engram was second in the league in yards after the catch — behind only George Kittle. And like the Rams, the San Francisco 49ers used their personnel packages to manipulate the defense. However they used heavy packages to constrict defensive personnel and create opportunities for Kittle in the passing game.

Barkley and Engram could be one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in the NFL if the Giants put them in position to do so.

But the Giants will have to be honest about themselves and make a conscious effort to change their tendencies compared to what we saw last year, when Barkley faced stacked boxes at nearly twice the rate of Todd Gurley, and saw light boxes almost half as often. And while the development of Will Hernandez and the addition of Kevin Zeitler means that the offensive line should be improved, they can only do so much when outnumbered. And by the same token, their job is much easier when there are fewer defenders to block. Meanwhile, Engram also had the second-shallowest average depth of target among receivers as he was frequently used as a check-down option or on a shallow crossing route.

Likewise, while there is plenty I like about Pat Shurmur, I remain frustrated by his refusal to play to his personnel’s strengths and attack opponents’ weaknesses.

But as I said before, this team still has talented players, and I’m also hopeful that Shurmur can self-scout and make the necessary changes.

In short, the Giants need to unshackle their best players and put them in position to produce, not just hope their athletic ability will let them create magic. Giants fans have spent the last five years seeing how the “superstar and a prayer” offense isn’t consistent or sustainable.

Sitting here in May, I can’t say that the offense will improve and these things will happen. I need to see some proof.

I want to believe that the team’s performance in the second half of 2018 is a reason for optimism going forward. But considering the split in their games against back-ups vs. their games against starters, I need proof. The Giants averaged 21 points per game (with .25 interceptions per game) in the four games they played against starters, compared to 28.5 (2.5 interceptions per game, and 3 defensive touchdowns) against back-ups. I want to believe, but the Giants need to show me that those last eight weeks weren’t a mirage created by them feasting on bad quarterback play.

I’m not going to take the under, either.

If this is a binary choice between “over” and “under,” I would say that “under” is more likely.

So my particular coin is landing on edge and I’ll say “push” at six wins. That’s a disappointing outcome considering the talent still on the roster, but it is an improvement over last year — particularly if those wins come over starters.

Dan Pizzuta

There are a lot of factors that would suggest the Giants should be better in 2019. They underperformed their Pythagorean expectation (expected win total based on point differential) by two wins. Teams that undershoot one year are likely to improve the next. It’s still surprising to see this team finished the regular season ranked 15th in overall DVOA. In that sense, there is certainly a path to a step forward this season.

The question is how much of that expected regression gets canceled out by parting with three of the four best players from the previous year’s team?

Much of the offensive success came from big plays and those aren’t likely to be sustained at the rate they were last season, especially with the loss of Odell Beckham in the passing game. It’s hard to believe Saquon Barkley can up his rate of big gains over 2018, but there is a path for being more consistent on a play-to-play basis, which could help more.

On defense, the Giants were likely to improve their sack rate thanks to a high pressure rate in 2018, but they traded the player responsible for most of the defensive pressures. Now they’ll have to hope a rotation on the edge paired with a young secondary can click immediately to help convert those pressures into sacks.

One of the biggest potential issues is the overall depth. The Giants were one of the healthiest teams in the league last season according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost after being one of the most injury-plagued teams in 2017. The Giants made an effort to replace the starters they lost, but there isn’t much behind it. This is the case, especially on offense. One injury to any of Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, the entire starting offensive line would be a huge hit.

I probably wouldn’t put a bet on a line of 6 wins — that’s mostly where I see it and would prefer a half win one way or the other — but if I had to pick I’d probably go under. It’s not as easy an under as last year was at 6.5, but even with an easier schedule there’s a higher probability one or two things don’t go as planned that could force the under than the likelihood of everything that has to go right for the Giants to be around .500 in 2019.

Patricia Traina

I’m going with the over, but not by much.

In two offseasons, Dave Gettleman has molded this Giants team into the vision he and head coach Pat Shurmur share, which, to put it bluntly, is a vanilla-looking team devoid of flash and grossly bloated contracts that stand to choke the cap for years to come. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they’re hitching their wagon to players who at one time might have been capable of producing big numbers but who, be it due to age, skill or injury, are a bit of a gamble.

For example, we all know edge rusher Markus Golden is capable of producing double-digit sacks since he did it once before in his career, but as he continues to come back from a knee injury, has he been able to recapture that same quickness and explosion he had pre-injury?

And we know that receiver Golden Tate has been productive over his career, but does anyone remember what happened a few years ago when the Giants added another receiver who was extremely productive in his career named Brandon Marshall and what he ended up contributing to the mix?

As for quarterback Eli Manning, we’ve heard that he can still make all the throws and do what it takes to be a winning quarterback. But let’s be honest: He is not the same player he was in 2011, and that raises a question a to whether Manning in his twilight years is going to be good enough to get this team to double-digit wins.

On the plus side, I believe that the Giants are headed in the right direction, and they could very well sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team this year thanks to an easier schedule (which I suspect was a significant factor in why they made it into the playoffs in 2016).

But I still think the Giants have at least another year to go before we’re talking about them potentially becoming a powerhouse.

Joe DeLeone

For 2019 I’m taking the over, but with very little confidence.

Over the past few months Dave Gettleman pieced together his roster for the future with a plethora of young, promising talent. In an enormous rebuild he moved on from key veteran contributors to create opportunities for developmental players. Currently, the Giants have 79 players under the age of 30 on their 90-man roster, compared to 11 over 30.

While youth reflects promise, it also means inexperience. This team will struggle a lot in 2019. There will be many instances of confusion, frustration, and miscommunication next season. This is expected from players who lack serious playing time at the professional level.

It is very clear this team will not be a contender. They will not exceed .500 either. However, winning less than six games is very unrealistic for this Giants squad. There is potential to slightly do better than that and win at least seven games.

Even though youth can be a weakness, this team has a ton of unproven and talented players. Top level teams on the Giants schedule will easily exploit their young players. However, this team has the ability to perform well against all of their weaker opponents, just like they did last season.

The most promising aspect of this team that stands out to me is a more experienced offensive line without any clear limitations. If the Giants are more willing to commit to the legs of Saquon Barkley, they will win games solely on the ground. In the modern NFL you won’t make the playoffs with only a good run game, but you certainly have the potential to win seven.

Ed Valentine

Over or under six wins is a tricky proposition for me. I do believe the Giants are on a path toward improvement, that they are in a better place than they were when Dave Gettleman took over as GM at the end of the 2017 season.

Progress, though, has been slow and painful. In a league where we have seen teams make quick turnarounds, like the Jacksonville Jaguars going from 3-13 in 2016 to 10-6 and the AFC Conference Championship Game in 2017 the Giants don’t appear to be engineering that kind of build. I won’t say “rebuild,” simply because Gettleman hates the word and insists this isn’t one.

The thing about those quick turnarounds is sometimes they are Fool’s Gold. The Jaguars fell back to 5-11 in 2018, with 2017 making them believe something that wasn’t true — that Blake Bortles was a quarterback they could win with.

A similar thing happened to the Giants when they went 11-5 in 2016. They thought they had a coach and a defense they could win with. Neither held up over the long haul.

Gettleman could have done some things differently to perhaps bring about faster results in the win-loss column. As I try to assess where he’s going I think, though, that he is taking a longer view. Trying to build a foundation that will, once its roots take full hold, put the Giants in a position to be a consistent winner and not simply a team that makes the playoffs once every three or four years.

Back to what that means for this year.

It’s complicated. The defense has potential. It is, however, extremely young at cornerback and on the defensive line. There is potential for good, but also for critical mistakes. The Giants are gambling on unknowns at the edge. Can Markus Golden return to his 2016 form? Can Lorenzo Carter become a real pass-rushing force? Can Oshane Ximines transition from a small school and become an NFL success?

On offense, the hardest thing about predicting a win total is the Eli Manning-Daniel Jones dynamic. How much rope does Manning have? If the Giants start 1-7 like they did last year or 0-6 like they did in 2013, you figure Jones has to play. If they are realistically in playoff contention and Manning is healthy, he is probably still in the lineup.

Remember what happened in 2004. The Giants were 5-4 when Tom Coughlin pulled the plug on Kurt Warner and inserted Manning. It was the right long-term move, but the Giants went 1-6 the rest of the way as Manning struggled to get a grasp on playing quarterback in the NFL.

I am going to take the over, simply because I think the Giants are on a path toward a better future. A little bit like Joe and Patricia, though, mine is a “soft” vote for the over.