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Preview, predictions, what to watch for

by NYPost
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Preview, predictions, what to watch for

An inside look at Sunday’s Giants-Jaguars matchup in Jacksonville, Fla. 

Marquee matchup

Jaguars TE Evan Engram vs. Giants S Xavier McKinney

Last week, we also featured McKinney, going up against Ravens TE Mark Andrews. McKinney, and everyone else who tried to deal with Andrews, did not fare especially well. Andrews had seven catches for 106 yards and one touchdown when he shed CB Fabian Moreau at the line of scrimmage.

The Giants obviously know Engram, their first-round pick in 2017, very well. Engram has 24 receptions for 208 yards and is looking for his first touchdown with the Jaguars. He is increasingly becoming more of a focal point, with 16 targets and 11 catches the past two weeks. He is no star, but Engram is still a threat because of his size-speed metrics.

Evan Engram and Xavier McKinney
Evan Engram and Xavier McKinney
AP (2)

Paul’s pick

There is something about the Jaguars — maybe it is the still-untapped potential of Trevor Lawrence — that makes them seem better than their record. Are the Giants as good as their gaudy record? At some point, someone is going to shut down Saquon Barkley. If that happens, is there enough in the passing game to save the day? Jaguars definitely have weapons.

Jaguars 27, Giants 26

Four downs

Call security: One of the main reasons the Giants are winning close games is their lack of turnovers, and that sheds a bright light on Daniel Jones. His interceptions the past four seasons: 12, 10, 7 and 2 this season. His fumbles in that span: 19, 10, 7 and 2 this season. It has taken some time, and he is on his third coaching staff, but now Jones is a reliable player.

“Just trying to make quick decisions, trying to find the guy that’s open, go through my reads and if not, get out of the pocket, make a throw, or find an outlet,’’ Jones said. “I don’t think it’s any different. I think it’s just probably getting better at it, being quicker and more decisive in certain situations.’’

Max effort: At some point a player is entitled to wonder “What more do I have to do?’’ Last week, Trevor Lawrence completed 20 of 22 passes for 165 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and also rushed for two TDs. His quarterback rating was 113.1. Nevertheless, the Jaguars were beaten, 34-27, in Indianapolis. Lawrence became the first quarterback in NFL history to lose a game with 20-plus passing attempts, 90-plus completion percentage, three total touchdowns and no turnovers.

Combo plan: The Giants are the fourth-best running team in the league, averaging 163 yards per game — carried primarily by Saquon Barkley, the NFL rushing leader this season. The Jaguars are ninth-best in rushing at 136.7 yards per game, doing it with a three running back attack of James Robinson, Travis Etienne and JaMycal Hasty.

Etienne is the big hitter. In his past three games, he is averaging 6.75 yards per carry, ranking second in the NFL in that span. The Jaguars are No. 3 in run defense (89.3 yards per game allowed). The Giants are No. 28 (144.8 yards allowed).

The respect card: A head coach uses whatever works, but there was no strong sense that Brian Daboll harped on the Giants (winners of three straight) being installed as underdogs against the Jaguars (losers of three straight).

“When you really go into the question — does it catch our attention?’’ Barkley said. “We’re not blind to it. Obviously we see it, we see people talking about it and we get asked about it. Whether we’re the underdog or the favorite, we come in with the same mindset of just coming in, falling in love with the process, trusting each other.’’

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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