Our second Thursday Night Football game of the 2021 season pits two NFC East rivals coming off of ugly Week 1 losses.
In one corner, we have the Washington Football Team, who is picking up the pieces after losing new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip subluxation that’ll cost him at least three games. In the opposite corner, the New York Giants travel to FedEx Field coming off a disappointing effort at home against the Denver Broncos.
Which team should we back in this divisional showdown? Let’s break it down.
- Opening line: Washington -4.5
- Current line: Washington -3
- Total: 41
Washington turns to Heinicke after missed opportunity
You could argue that Washington should be 1-0. They led 16-13 with 12 minutes left in the game and had all the momentum after forcing a turnover deep in their own territory. However, the game flipped immediately after Justin Herbert’s red zone interception, as an Antonio Gibson fumble on the ensuing play gave L.A. the ball back on Washington’s 3-yard line. Three plays later, the Chargers took a 20-16 lead and never looked back.
The box score suggests Washington deserved to lose too. The Chargers held onto the ball for 36 minutes and outgained the Football Team, 424-259.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Washington was its third-down defense. A unit that was expected to be a big strength for Washington simply couldn’t get off the field, allowing Los Angeles to convert 14-of-19 third-down conversions. Even more concerning is the Washington front seven only generated six quarterback pressures and two sacks on 47 dropbacks.
Offensively, Washington found success running the ball, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Heinicke also wasn’t bad in relief of Fitzpatrick, completing 11-of-15 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown to Logan Thomas. The offense wasn’t inept. It just squandered opportunities to extend and protect the lead. Washington’s final three drives of the game: missed field goal, fumble, punt.
The good news is Heinicke isn’t new to this situation. In fact, he kept Washington in last year’s Wild Card loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions, throwing for 306 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 46 yards and another score. Heinicke should perform well with time to prepare as the starter.
Giants must find answers offensively
Nothing epitomizes Daniel Jones’ Giants career more than New York’s opening drive of the second half. After punting on three of their four first-half drives, the G-men finally have something going. They’re moving the ball. They’ve converted three third downs.
Then, disaster strikes. Jones drops back to pass, scrambles, runs to Denver’s 15-yard line and fumbles. The Broncos recover, kick a field goal to make it 20-7 and are never threatened again.
Jones wasn’t bad, throwing for 267 yards and a touchdown, but plays like that define why he probably isn’t a franchise quarterback. He’s just too careless with the ball.
It doesn’t help that New York’s offensive line couldn’t get a push whatsoever Sunday afternoon. We couldn’t really tell if Saquon Barkley had returned to normal because he rarely had room to run. Barkley rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries and the Giants posted 60 rushing yards on 20 carries as a team.
If there is one, the bright side is that New York’s offensive line surrendered only two sacks on 37 pass attempts against a formidable Denver front seven. Sterling Shepard also looked really good, reeling in seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Giants offered little resistance to Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos passing game. Bridgewater completed 28-of-36 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. The Denver offense went 7-of-15 on third downs and 3-of-3 on fourth down attempts. The unit collapsed as the game went on, allowing points their first three drives of the second half.
New York’s defense has plenty of talent. It just needs to do a better job of finishing drives. And given the offense’s struggles, it may need to create a couple of turnovers to keep games within reach.
Both of these teams are desperately trying to avoid an 0-2 start, but it’s the home team I trust more in this matchup. The Giants swept the season series in 2020, but both games were decided by a combined 4 points and came before Washington hit its stride at the end of the year.
Washington’s loaded front seven will have more success generating pressure against New York’s questionable offensive line. At the very least, they should be able to bottle up Barkley and force New York’s offense into plenty of third-and-long situations.
At this point, I trust Heinicke more than Jones. And I certainly trust Ron Rivera, Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner on a short week a lot more than I trust Joe Judge, Jason Garrett and Patrick Graham.
While I’d prefer you get this below a field goal, I am comfortable laying three points with Washington. I also lean toward the under but don’t see much value at 41 points.
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