By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: Well Giant fans, the 2020 season is finally here as the Giants will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night football for the season opener. With all the obstacles and distractions from COVID-19, it’s hard to gauge just how prepared teams will be the first week of the season.
It’s expected that there will be a little rust on both sides of the ball and injuries could also be a possibility. The Giants will face a Steelers team that is well balanced and this should be a strong indication on where the Giants stand in terms of their competition level. Currently, the Steelers are favored by 4.5 points, but I expect that to change before game time. Let’s take a look at my top 4 matchups:
*Ben Roethlisberger-vs-Daniel Jones: Big Ben is fully healthy after missing all but two games in 2019. The future Hall of Famer is entering his 17th year with the Steelers and many predict that the Steelers should be one of the top teams in the AFC conference. Roethisberger is only a year removed (2018) from passing for over 5,000 yards (5,129) with a QBR (quarterback rating) of 96.5. In contrast, 2nd-year starter Daniel Jones had a solid rookie campaign in 2019, with a little over 3,000 yards (3,027) and a two to one touchdown to interception ratio (24/12). New Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett believes Jones is ready to elevate his game and going against a talented Steelers defense is certainly going to be a test for the 2nd year quarterback. Advantage-Ben Rosthlisberger.
*Steelers Defensive front 7-vs-Giants Offensive line: This matchup could eventually be the difference-maker if the Giants newly formed (3 new starters in 2020) offensive line are not up for the task of at the very least keeping the Steelers from causing major damage. The Steelers have playmakers within their defensive front 7 with Bud Dupree, Devin Bush, TJ Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt. So it’s up to the Giants offensive line to keep Daniel Jones on his feet and give running back Saquon Barkley a little daylight. Advantage- Steelers defensive front 7.
*Daniel Jones-vs-The Steelers Secondary: If there’s any weakness in the Steelers defense it has to be in the secondary; which should have corners Joe Haden and Steven Nelson to start the season, along with safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. Not a bad group, but compared to their front 7 it’s not even close. The million-dollar question here will be: will Daniel Jones have enough time to throw the ball and be effective enough to make a difference? In all probability, the Steelers will be focusing on #26 for the Giants most of the time, so it would up to Jones to make a difference. Advantage – Even.
*Red Zone Efficiency: This category has been a nemesis for the Giants for a while now and until they can be more productive in this area of the field, we shouldn’t expect many wins in 2020. In 2019, the Giants ranked 17th in the league with a 57.14% and the Steelers finished dead last with a 35% ratio. However; keep in mind that Roethlisberger only played two games in 2019. In 2018, the Steelers lead the league in red-zone efficiency with a 73.47% rating. Converting touchdowns instead of field goals could be the deciding factor for the Giants; not only in their opener but throughout the season to determine their total wins in 2020. Advantage – Steelers.
Final Thoughts: Like all opening day games, expect this game to have a lot of emotion early with both teams showing high energy. I do expect a little rust from both teams early in the game, but as the game wears on, both teams will find their groove. The Giants offense will show some big play potential lead by Jones and Barkley as the defense will also showcase some defensive highlights. Roethlisberger might not duplicate his 2018 production, but I believe his experience will outshine Jones just enough to make a difference for the Steelers offensively.
On Defense, Steelers will make plays; the only question will be how many? If Jones is sacked 3+ times and hit/hurries numerous more times; the score could be more lopsided than my final prediction outcome. Therefore; I’m expecting the Giants offensive line to bend and not break against a very talented defensive front 7. In the end, I think this will be a fun game to watch as both teams will showcase a few highlighted moments, the Giants will show us a lot in terms of attitude, discipline, and overall hustle. However; eventually the Steelers have too much experience and more importantly; too much talent and will pull away in the end.