Welcome back to LazyBets NFL picks and parlays. The NFL is back! Get your gambling engines started, because it's time to bet on America's favorite sport once again. We'll be bringing you our free picks and analysis all season long.
One of our favorite games of this opening weekend takes place in MetLife Stadium, where the New York Giants will look to defend their home field against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are fresh off of their best season in years.
We'll be betting on the point spread in this one - let's dive into the matchup to see why.
NFL Pick of the Day:
Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye form the strongest cornerback duo in the NFL
The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants ended last season virtually opposite of how many expected them to heading into the season, with the Giants being one of the league’s worst teams and the Jags making a conference championship game. This year, both teams are expected to compete in their respective conferences, but only one can come out on top in what should be a fascinating game featuring contrasting styles.
On the Jaguars side, the preferred style is to simply smother teams with their defense. Last year, the Jaguars combined a strong defensive front with some of the best defensive backs in the game to create a defense that did a better job of mauling opponents than a team of 11 real jaguars.
At the forefront of that Jaguars defense is Jalen Ramsey, who has made headlines all offseason for his criticisms of some of the league’s most high-profile offensive players. His critiques of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan were as heated as the heat in Duval County, and it wouldn’t be much of a leap to suggest that he doesn’t think highly of Eli Manning either.
Ramsey is joined in the secondary by AJ Bouye, who might be the best number two corner in football. Bouye racked up six interceptions last season, a career high, as teams had to pick their poison when it came to throwing to the side of the field occupied by either Ramsey or Bouye. Given those options, picking an honest-to-goodness poison may have been the least harmful to an NFL offense.
Jacksonville was in the top-10 in the NFL in DVOA defensively against both the number one and number two receivers in the NFL in 2017. Only Baltimore, Minnesota, and Philadelphia were able to claim the same, as the Ramsey-Bouye duo made it clear that they were not to be tested, no matter how good the opposing team’s passing attack was.
All of those defensive superlatives are great news for Jacksonville, who still haven’t figured things out offensively with Blake Bortles at quarterback. This is a big year for Bortles, who will need to prove himself to avoid losing his starting job in the future. Expect him to play like he has something to prove against a Giants defense that has struggled to remain consistent in recent seasons.
Eli Manning has had a rough go the last couple seasons
Of course, the Jaguars take on a Giants team that loves to put the ball in the air, which makes this a very interesting clash of styles on the field. The Giants offense is still led by Eli Manning, as the team elected to draft Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft rather than draft a quarterback prospect like Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen.
Taking things a step further, the Giants got rid of backup quarterback Davis Webb, who the team praised on a regular basis prior to getting rid of him. This act of doubling down could look like a blackjack player doubling down with a six while the dealer showed a face card if Manning can’t find the fountain of youth and play better than he has over the last two seasons.
Fortunately for Manning, the skill position players around him look especially potent heading into 2018. Saquon Barkley should help rejuvenate a running game that has been lifeless since Ahmad Bradshaw left town, while Odell Beckham Jr. is healthy and has been made one of the highest paid wide receivers of all-time. The problem with all of that is that skill position players don’t matter against a team as good on defense as the Jaguars.
Beckham may be a rich man now, but both he and Sterling Shepard are in for a long day against the aforementioned duo of Ramsey and Bouye. And given the Giants issues on the offensive line, the entire offense of Big Blue might end up looking anything but big after Week One.
The Giants’ refusal to address the offensive line as a whole was baffling this offseason. They rid themselves of the turnstile known as Ereck Flowers, replacing him at left tackle with Nate Solder. But the addition of a past-his-prime Solder and a rookie guard in Will Hernandez won’t make up for the losses of Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh, let alone make the Giants a decent blocking team as a whole.
NFL Free Pick:
The Jaguars defense should carry them to a 1-0 start
Believe it or not, this game being played in New York might help the Jaguars, who get to play a game outside of the South Florida heat in September. A prohibitive heat gassing out the Jaguars defense could have rescued the Giants, but a more temperate climate will keep the Jags fresh on defense to tee off on Manning and the Giants' skill position stars.
As far as this contest is concerned, the simple fact is that the Jacksonville Jaguars match up very well against the New York Giants. The Jaguars are too strong defensively for a Giants team that hasn’t proven it can block anybody, while the Giants’ porous defense of the last few years has made quarterbacks worse than Blake Bortles look competent on many occasions. Drafting a shiny new toy in Saquon Barkley will make the Giants an even more exciting team, but excitement does not equal quality in today’s NFL.
The only concern that exists in this game with regards to the spread is whether or not the Giants can pick up a late touchdown in garbage time to secure a late cover. Eli Manning has proven that he is good at moving the ball down the field late in games, but the Jaguars should have enough defensively to put the game out of reach before Manning can make a heroic drive to cover the spread for those betting the underdog.