Line: New York Giants -2.5
Place: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J., 7pmET
The Cleveland Browns face the New York Giants in the first preseason for both teams on Thursday night. The Browns went 0-16 last season and will debut first-round pick Baker Mayfield on Thursday. The Giants (3-13 last season) trot out Eli Manning and new coach Pat Shurmur, who was the offensive coordinator with Minnesota last season.
Will the Mayfield era start in the opener?
Mayfield was drafted high for a reason. He’s there to energize an offense that ranked 24th in the NFL with 308.9 yards per game and finished 22nd in passing (201.8ypg). But the Browns also brought in veteran Tyrod Taylor, who’s a little bit more dynamic with his legs and about the same height (6-0ish). Taylor played it very cautious up in Buffalo where he led the league with an .095 interception percentage. He threw for 3,023 yards last season (89.7 rating), but recorded just 17 TD passes with six picks.
Cleveland needs to establish a running game to take pressure off of both quarterbacks. Carlos Hyde was brought in along with rookie second-round pick Nick Chubb to improve the ground game. Hyde is a power runner and a solid receiver, who caught 59 passes last season. Chubb is more shifty though he doesn’t have great speed. The receivers take a step up with the arrival of Jarvis Landry, who averaged 100 catches and 1,009 yards in four seasons with Miami. They don’t have a ton of depth and they are relying on Josh Gordon to stay healthy and out of trouble.
Defensively, the Browns were very good against the run last season, allowing just 97.9 yards per game. The pass defense needs some help though, as they gave up 230.2 yards per game (25t). Second-year defensive end Myles Garrett led the team with seven sacks, but more will be expected this season, assuming he can stay healthy. After trading away Danny Shelton, there is some concern on the interior of the defensive line. The secondary adds speedy corner Denzel Ward with the fourth pick in the draft and also added free agent T.J. Carrie from Oakland.
Is it time for Eli to move on?
The New York Giants added a new coach, new GM (Dave Gettleman) but kept their 37-year old quarterback. Manning went 3-12 as a starter last season, completing 61.6 percent of his passes for 3,468 yards, 19 TDs and 13 picks. He was sacked 31 times as he tended to check down early and often due to a shaky offensive line. Davis Webb and Kyle Laulette from FCS Richmond will compete for the backup spot. Odell Beckham Jr. caught just 25 passes last season in an injury-plagued season. He’s also looking for a contract extension though if he doesn’t play, the rest of the receivers are just decent.
The good news for the Giants is that their terrible season brought them a potential star in running back Saquon Barkley. The former Penn State star can do it all from running to receiving to scoring touchdowns. The running game was terrible last season as they ranked 26th in the league (96.8ypg), so this should be a major improvement. The offensive line was a disaster last season so they brought in LT Nate Solder, one of the best in the game with New England. Second-round pick Will Hernandez should jump in right away at right guard.
On defense, the Giants were horrendous as they finished a dreadful 31st in overall defense (373.2ypg), 27th against the run (120.8ypg) and 31st against the pass (252.4ypg). Rome wasn’t built in a day so new defensive coordinator James Bettcher has his work cut out for him with his 3-4 scheme. They traded for LB Alec Ogletree from the Rams, which should help the inside linebackers. OLB Kareem Martin from Arizona was added for his length. The corners could be very good if they can stay out of trouble. Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins both had suspensions and injury issues.
NY Giants are:
- 6-1 Under their last 7 overall.
- 9-3 Under their last 12 home games.
- 5-2 ATS last 7 Thursday games.
- 6-1 Under their last 7 Thursday games.