Just a few weeks ago, the Detroit Lions were 1-6 and fans were looking at the 6-1 Giants for guidance. How had this team, who had just changed their head coach and general manager back in January—and didn’t seem to have that much of a better roster than Detroit—already be so far ahead in their rebuild?
It was a fair question to ask then, and it’s still a fair question to ask now, even with Detroit rattling off a couple wins of their own.
Is this Giants team really that far ahead of Detroit? Are they overperforming? Or are they just a better-coached team? Let’s take a closer look in our Week 11 scouting report.
2022 New York Giants
2022 season thus far (7-2)
Week 1: Beat Titans, 21-20
Week 2: Beat Panthers, 19-16
Week 3: Lost to Cowboys, 16-23
Week 4: Beat Bears, 20-12
Week 5: Beat Packers, 27-22
Week 6: Beat Ravens, 24-20
Week 7: Beat Jaguars, 23-17
Week 8: Lost to Seahawks, 13-27
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Beat Texans, 24-16
- 22nd in points scored (20.8 PPG), 9th in points allowed (19.2 PPG)
- 19th in overall DVOA
- 15th in offensive DVOA (13th in pass DVOA, 13th in run DVOA)
- 24th in defensive DVOA (23rd in pass DVOA, 23rd in run DVOA)
The first thing that jumps out to you about this Giants team is that they have an incredible 7-1 record in one-score games, which is only second to the Minnesota Vikings’ ridiculous 7-0 record in one-score games. And as I pointed out in our game preview, five of the Giants’ seven wins have come when tied or trailing after three quarters
Like the Vikings, the Giants seem average at best both when looking at their roster and analyzing their advanced metrics. There isn’t a particular unit that is dominating, with each of the four main units (pass offense, run defense, etc.) all falling between 13th and 23rd. They’re just so plainly average.
But there are a few statistics that really highlight why they are in all of these games and win most of them. For one, they win the turnover battle consistently. Though they only have 12 takeaways on the season (t-15th), they have just eight turnovers on offense—the third-fewest in the NFL.
That’s because they play very conservatively on offense—or as I pejoratively put it in the title: cowardball. They play to not lose by running the ball a ton (third-most rushing attempts) and when they do rarely pass the ball (fourth fewest attempts), they do not push the ball downfield. Daniel Jones has the second-lowest intended air yards average in the NFL (6.4).
I’m not trying to be insulting. This is the Giants knowing who they are and what their strengths are. Saquon Barkley is their best offensive player and they lack consistent receivers. Daniel Jones threw 29 interceptions in his first three years, so why not give him easy passes to limit the risk (he only has two interceptions this year)?
Of course, if teams get the Giants out of their comfort zone and make them pass the ball, then the mistakes could come, but New York hasn’t allowed more than 27 points all season. How are they doing that with a below-average defense? Again, it comes down to playing to their own strengths.
With two interior menaces in Dexter Lawrence (91.1 PFF grade, 2nd among DI) and Leonard Williams (87.6, 8th), the Giants love to bring the heat on defense. Their 39.7 percent blitz rate is the highest in the NFL and it results in the third-best third-down defense in the league (32.7%). They’re also phenomenal in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 38.2 percent of red zone trips, good for second-best in the NFL.
So while their defense isn’t great overall, they can get off the field and third downs and stop you in the red zone.
But here’s where they’re vulnerable: run defense. Despite the strong interior presence, the Giants are giving up a league-high 5.5 yards per carry. If the Lions can stick with the run game—and see more success than they have recently—they can match the Giants with their own version of cowardball.
- IR/PUP/NFI: WR Sterling Shepard (IR), G Ben Bredeson (IR), DT Nick Williams (IR), LB Azeez Ojulari (IR), CB Aaron Robinson (IR), S Xavier McKinney (NFI)
- Other injuries: TE Daniel Bellinger (eye), OT Evan Neal (knee), WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), Wan’Dale Robinson (hamstring)
The biggest injury for the Giants occurred during their bye week when safety Xavier McKinney—their air-traffic controller of the secondary—after suffering an injury from an ATV accident. Rookie fourth-round pick Dane Belton took his place last week and promptly nabbed his first interception. And while that was certainly a feel-good moment for the rookie, he has a 29.5 PFF grade for the season and allowed 6-of-7 completions for 82 yards in last week’s game. He’s a liability right now.
Elsewhere, the Giants are hurting at wide receiver with Shepard on IR and Golladay and Robinson dealing with hamstring injuries. Both Golladay and Robinson were limited in practice on Wednesday, though, so they are trending toward playing.
The other big injury is to right tackle Evan Neal. He missed last week with a knee injury but was also limited on Wednesday. In his place, the Giants started Tyre Phillips, who earned the lowest PFF grade last week among the Giants offensive line starters (44.7).
Biggest strength: Defensive tackle
Dexter Lawrence may be the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in football next to Aaron Donald. Here are the two’s 2022 stats side-by-side (via PFF):
Lawrence: 5.0 sacks, 35 pressures, 2 batted passes, 91.6 pass rush grade
Donald: 5.0 sacks, 31 pressures, 2 batted passes, 90.0 pass rush grade
“I mean he doesn’t come off the field,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said of Lawrence. “That’s one thing. It’s rare that you get a player that is that type of ‘nose’ if you will, but that shows how productive he is and versatile. So, he can play with leverage. He does play with leverage, he’s stout, he’s strong, he can push the pocket, he can get an edge and get around you.”
Lawrence and Williams truly don’t come off the field. Lawrence has played 83.7 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and in games when he’s been healthy, Williams hasn’t dipped below 82 percent in a game.
Big challenge for Frank Ragnow (if healthy) and company.
Biggest weakness: Run defense
Despite the strong presence in the interior, the Giants can be beaten up the middle. The Giants are not only giving up the highest yards per carry mark in the NFL, but they also rank 29th in run stop win rate, 24th in run EPA allowed, but they are good in short-yardage situations, allowing conversion on just 60% of “power” situations (fourth-best, league average is 68%).
This, once again, proves that this Giants team is very opportunistic and plays well in critical situations—all signs of a well-coached team.
Vegas line for Sunday: Giants by 3