RCL Exclusive

Under the Helmet Week 1: Previewing Giants/Jaguars with a Pro Handicapper

Dave Michaels of SportsInformationTraders helps us analyze one of this week’s best matchups.

Sports By

On Sunday at 1 p.m., two NFL teams that had completely different 2017s will get their 2018 seasons started at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The hosts, the New York Giants, went 3-13 last year in a season that saw them lose star wideout Odell Beckham to a brutal ankle injury and former head coach Ben McAdoo to the firing line.

Coming off a draft that saw the club take explosive running back Saquon Barkley second overall, New York’s offense should be solidified. Factor in that veteran quarterback Eli Manning is back under center as a starter, and expectations for Big Blue are, er, giant.

On the other side of the field are the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars, a club that fell just shy of a Super Bowl berth who also enter this year with high hopes of gridiron glory.

Anchored by a stout defense that was almost able to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro in the AFC title game, the Jags have a revamped wide receiving core and are hoping this is the season quarterback Blake Bortles will live up to his pedigree and his contract.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – AUGUST 24: New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) during warm ups prior to the National Football League game between the New York Jets and the New York Giants on August 24, 2018, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Despite their uneven records last season, Vegas sees the game as a close one and has installed the Jaguars as a slight favorite at -3. Since the home team usually gets a three-point bump in the odds from simply playing at home, that means New York is looked at as being about six points worse than the Jags by oddsmakers.

Like his Vegas cohorts, Dave Michaels of SportsInformationTraders sees Sunday’s tilt as a close one.

“Coming off a very successful season, falling one game shy of a Super Bowl, expectations are high for the Jaguars this year,”  Michaels told RealClearSports. “They face a fairly tough opening test in MetLife Stadium with a Giants team looking to improve from last season on both sides of the ball.”

As Michaels sees it, even though Manning looked very comfortable running new head coach Pat Shurmur’s revamped offense in Week 3 of the preseason with New York’s first-stringers, the Jaguars defense – which boasts playmakers Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye – may be too tough for the home team to overcome.

JACKSONVILLE, FL – JANUARY 07: Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) watches a replay of his game-saving interception during the AFC Wild Card game between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 7, 2018 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Manning has a few nice options to work with, but the fact is the Jaguars will once again have one of the NFL’s best and most complete defenses this season,” Michaels said. “Look for them to overwhelm the Giants offensive line, which looks like it could be a problem again all season despite a few additions.”

On the other side of the ball, Michaels believes the Jaguars will stick to the ground game behind bruising back Leonard Fournette and look to take advantage of a thin New York defense that still has several question marks heading into the season.

“They will slow the game down, keeping Manning, Beckham, and Barkley off the field,” he said. “I see this game staying close for a few series before Jacksonville imposes their will.”

And that will is sizable enough that Michaels thinks the three-point cushion for the G-Men isn’t enough to justify betting on them this Sunday. “There is just too much value to pass on the Jaguars laying only 3 this week,” Michaels said.

And, if you’re looking for a pro tip on the final score in tonight’s game between the Super Bowl champ Eagles and Atlanta Falcons in Philly, SportsInformationTraders has one: Falcons by four.