NFL

New York Giants 2023 NFL Season Preview and Picks

By Scott Kacsmar

Not only did the New York Giants end their playoff drought in 2022, but they won their first playoff game since Super Bowl 46 over a decade ago. But Brian Daboll, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, still has his work cut out for him in a division with two clear heavyweights in Philadelphia and Dallas that are still expected to be better than the Giants.

The 38-7 playoff loss in Philadelphia showed that the Giants are a work in progress, and despite some steps forward and a new contract for quarterback Daniel Jones, we are still not sure if the Giants have their long-time answer at the most important position.

With an over/under of only 7.5 wins in a weak conference, the Giants are not favored to return to the playoffs this season. Are the sportsbooks onto something, or are we missing something with this team?

We look back at the Giants’ tale of two seasons in 2022, the offseason changes that could help the team, the close-game regression that could sink them, and what the best Giants bets are for 2023.

2022 Season Recap: Tale of Two Seasons  

If there were any expectations for the Giants in 2022, it was because of what looked like a favorable schedule, and the addition of Brian Daboll, a coach who helped develop Josh Allen into a top-tier quarterback in Buffalo. Perhaps he could get a breakout season out of Daniel Jones, who has some strong athletic ability but has never really put it together since the Giants drafted him in 2019.

What Daboll ended up doing was dialing the passing game back, featuring running back Saquon Barkley in his best season since his rookie year in 2018, and being aggressive in close games that turned into a lot of early-season wins for the Giants, who were 6-1 and 7-2 to start 2022.

You could see the formula at work in Week 1 when the Giants came back from a 13-0 halftime deficit in Tennessee to win 21-20 after Daboll had the offense go for a 2-point conversion with 1:06 left. Jones only passed for 188 yards, but he was good in the clutch and efficient with 17-of-21 passes completed. Barkley rushed for 164 yards and hit the big play (68 yards). Then the Giants caught a break with the Titans missing a 47-yard field goal on the final play.

This became the team’s formula for the first half of the season. Jones was only averaging 177.3 passing yards per game during the 7-2 start, but he had 8 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, and he delivered in crunch time most of the time. In that same span, Barkley averaged 103.4 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry.

New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who came over from Baltimore, was not afraid to crank up the pressure as the Giants blitzed on 39.7% of plays, higher than any other defense in the NFL by over 5 percentage points according to Pro Football Reference.

By starting 7-2, Daboll was all but locking up the Coach of the Year award for himself. But the Giants did not finish the season in a good manner after the schedule got tougher. That 7-2 start turned into a 2-5-1 finish.

In Week 11 against Detroit, Jones doubled his interception total for the season with a pair of picks as he had to pass for a season-high 344 yards in an attempt to bring the team back. But the Giants lost 31-18 at home. They lost again in Dallas on Thanksgiving, they blew a very winnable game with Washington by having to settle for an overtime tie. The Eagles blew them out for the first win in a 3-game sweep by Philly. The Giants did end up winning the rematch with Washington, which saved the season. The only other win down the stretch was 38-10 against Jeff Saturday’s Colts, a team that was mailing it in to end their miserable season.

Then the Giants rested starters in Week 18 with the wild card spot secure, and the Eagles led 19-0 before hanging on for a 22-16 win.

In that second half of the season, Jones was up to averaging 229.9 passing yards per game, but the close wins were not there now. No one seems to want to point out that Barkley failed to rush for 65 yards in 7-of-9 games to end the season (playoffs included). Over the last 7 regular-season games, Barkley averaged just 54.4 rushing yards and 3.93 yards per carry.

The highlight of the Giants’ season was the 31-24 wild card win in Minnesota. Jones passed for 334 yards against Minnesota in a close loss in Week 16, but that defense was perfect for him to shred. Jones passed for 301 yards in the playoff game, and he also carried the ball 17 times for 78 yards. With the score tied in the fourth quarter, Jones led the game-winning touchdown drive where Barkley scored from 2 yards out, and the defense later stopped Kirk Cousins on the final drive.

But all that hype over the playoff win died quickly a week later when the Giants nosedived in Philadelphia, falling behind 28-0 in the first half and losing 38-7 in a game that was never really competitive. Jones only passed for 135 yards, and those late-blooming receivers like Isaiah Hodgins (1 catch for 3 yards) and Richie James (7 catches for 51 yards) were shut down by a real secondary. Jones was sacked 5 times by the Eagles, an elite pass rush.

It was arguably the most exciting season the Giants have had since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, but the way the team finished last year was not encouraging for the future. But 2023 will bring a refreshed roster and another chance to get better.

Offseason Review

The Giants had a big decision on Jones’ future, and they made the bold move of giving him a 4-year extension worth $160 million. Now that Daboll is hitching his cart to the one they call Vanilla Vick, the Giants needed to find him better receivers for 2023. Last year, the Giants saw multiple receivers suffer season-ending injuries, including their best one in Sterling Shepard. We also know their free-agent signings and high draft picks have failed miserably in the past, including Detroit’s Kenny Golladay and the high selection of Kadarius Toney, who was traded to the Chiefs last year.

Jones is in one of the league’s biggest catch-22 situations. Does he not throw much because the receivers are always disappointing and injured, or would he still struggle to pass even if the receivers were good?

New York’s main solution to this appears to be acquiring tight end Darren Waller from the Raiders. Waller has nice speed and decent hands, and he is an immediate upgrade over anyone the Giants have had at the position for a long time. He should fit in well provided he can stay healthy and not fall victim to that MetLife field surface.

But the other moves the Giants have made at wide receiver are very curious. They have tried signing just about every marginal slot receiver you can think of, including Parris Campbell, Jamison Crowder, and Cole Beasley. Keep in mind Sterling Shepard is coming back and usually plays in the slot too.

On the outside, the Giants need to see more from Wan’Dale Robinson, their 2022 2nd-round pick who also suffered a season-ending injury last year. They drafted Jalin Hyatt from Tennessee in the 3rd round this season, and he is a speedy deep threat. But those players are hard to find success with as rookies.

Hodgins is also still in the mix for Jones, though he failed to crack 45 yards in every game that was not against the Minnesota secondary, a unit he torched for 89 and 105 yards in two games.

Jones certainly has more options this year, but he may be throwing short passes to the slot receiver more than anything else. This offense could feature Waller if it wants to, but he has only played 20 of a possible 34 games the last two seasons.

Defensively, the Giants threw another dart at corner in the first round with the selection of Deonte Banks (Maryland). He could be a Week 1 starter, but the player to watch for this unit is Kayvon Thibodeaux, who only had 18 pressures and 4.0 sacks as a rookie after the Giants used the No. 5 pick on him. He will have to be much more impactful in 2023 for this defense to get to the level it wants to be, which can help pick up the offense on the down days.

This Year’s Area of Interest: Close-Game Regression

With the way the Giants played in 2022, there was almost no margin for error. This is what happens when your team does not score many points and relies on so many close games that can come down to one drive or even one play.

While Daboll did what he could for Jones and Barkley in 2022, it still did not produce a great or explosive offense. In fact, the Giants were one of the most consistently mediocre offenses in NFL history last year.

The 2022 Giants scored between 16-to-27 points in 15-of-17 regular season games. That is 2 more such games than any team in NFL history in one season. The only team the Giants scored more than 27 points against in the regular season was Jeff Saturday’s Colts (38).

In 2022, the Giants were 8-0-1 when allowing fewer than 21 points and 2-8 when allowing more than 21 points. This team needed the defense to keep the score down.

If we are just being honest, the Vikings and Giants playing each other in the wild card was perfect, because they were literally the only teams in the NFC playoff field that the other could be trusted to beat. Both relied on close wins and were not as good as their record suggested with more points allowed than points scored. The Giants were 1-1 against the Vikings and 0-6 against the other NFC playoff teams (Cowboys, Eagles, and Seahawks).

Jones became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead 5 game-winning drives in his team’s first 7 games. He would not pull off another until the Minnesota playoff win, but keep in mind Jones began the 2022 season with a 3-14 (.176) record at game-winning drive opportunities, one of the worst records in history.

  • When trailing by 7+ points in the fourth quarter, the 2022 Giants were 3-1 (.750) thru Week 6
  • When trailing by 7+ points in the fourth quarter in 2012-2021 combined, the Giants were 3-78 (.037)

Teams like this have regression in close games written all over them the following season. It is just not a sustainable way to succeed in the NFL, especially if you lack a Hall of Fame quarterback. The Giants are still hoping they have a good one at that position.

Best Bets for the 2023 Giants

The last 9 playoff teams with a negative scoring differential all missed the playoffs the following year. Since 2002, the only wild card teams with a negative scoring differential who made the playoffs the next year were the 2012-13 Colts (Andrew Luck) and the 2006-07 Giants.

So, hey, there is a positive for Giants fans. But with the Eagles and Cowboys still looking good in the NFC East, it is a tough sell for this team again. The easiest way to stay relevant is for Jones to take a big leap forward in Year 2 under Daboll, but that is hardly a guarantee. It is not like adding Waller and a ton of slot machines is the kind of gold you might get from adding A.J. Brown in Philadelphia, Tyreek Hill in Miami, or Stefon Diggs in Buffalo.

The Giants have 8 games on their schedule against teams who made the playoffs last year, and that does not include what should be an improved Jets team with Aaron Rodgers, or a trip to New Orleans late in the year against a team that has a jaw-droppingly easy schedule. Even teams like the Rams and Packers, who had down years in 2022, could be back on track this year with coaches who win a high rate of their games.

Tease it to under 8.5 wins if you must (-200 at FanDuel), but I think under 7.5 wins is the right call on the Giants. It is easy to see this team regressing by a couple games, and you already saw the poor performance down the stretch last year after the close wins dried up.

But one player prop to like here is Daboll realizing he needs to unleash Jones more as a runner. Jones rushed for 708 yards last year and 102 more in the playoffs. His over/under in rushing is set to 550.5 yards, and that looks like a good over to pounce on. In his last year coaching Josh Allen in Buffalo, Daboll got 763 yards out of him on the ground. Throw in Barkley’s contract dissatisfaction, and the Giants should run Jones more as that is a huge strength in his game.

The passing prowess is still to be determined going into Year 5, and that is why the outlook on the 2023 Giants is lukewarm at best.

NFL Pick: New York Giants under 7.5 wins (-114 at FanDuel)

NFL Pick: Daniel Jones Over 550.5 Rushing Yards (-112 at FanDuel)

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