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NFL forecast: Manning, McAdoo in middle of Giant mess

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

September 23, 2017 09:17 PM
Eli Manning and the winless New York Giants are desperate and should be dangerous as 6-point underdogs at Philadelphia.
© USA Today Sports Images

After his team fell to 0-2, Ben McAdoo did exactly what no great coaches do. He started pointing fingers and searching for players to throw under the bus.

McAdoo’s primary target was Eli Manning, the emotionally fragile quarterback who tends to slump his shoulders at the slightest hint of adversity. Manning, to his credit, accepted blame for his role in the New York Giants’ early-season predicament.

The Giants’ playoff hopes are shrinking. With another loss Sunday at Philadelphia, McAdoo and Manning would be in the middle of a super-sized mess.

With their backs to the wall, the Giants will either come out fighting or put on blindfolds and wait for the firing squad. This might prove to be foolish, but the bet here is the Giants give the Eagles their best shot.

One matchup favors Philadelphia in a big way. The Eagles’ relentless defensive front figures to wreak havoc on a weak New York offensive line and put intense heat on Manning. But if Manning finds time to throw, he should be able to find some open receivers.

The Eagles will be soft in the secondary with Ronald Darby, Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins out with injuries. Their backups can be exploited by Odell Beckham Jr., who is so valuable that McAdoo and Manning owe him a portion of their paychecks. If Beckham is injured and off the field, the Giants are hopeless. But Beckham is back, and his presence makes Manning and everyone else around him more of a threat.

“A lot of people are counting us out,” McAdoo said this week, and he was not exaggerating.

It’s not difficult to count the points the Giants are putting on the scoreboard. Aside from his new hairstyle, nothing about McAdoo is slick. His offense stinks. The Giants have scored 19 points or fewer in eight straight games.

But with Philadelphia as a 6-point favorite, there is value in an inflated number. If Manning can muster some offense, New York’s defense — still among the league’s elite — can control Carson Wentz enough to keep it close in the fourth quarter. If it’s not close, McAdoo might be put on the next bus out of town.

When an underachieving team is counted out in the NFL, that’s usually a prime time to buy in. Take the points with the Giants, and here are four more picks for Week 3 (home team in CAPS):

* JETS (plus-6) over Dolphins: Jay Cutler got the job done and won his debut with the Dolphins. But the result was a little deceiving, because the Los Angeles Chargers outgained Miami 6.8 yards per play to 4.9. And it’s a lot to ask of Cutler to get it done two weeks in a row. The Jets are the definition of ugly underdogs, but Josh McCown and a respectable defense should give New York a rare shot to win. The Jets are 5-1-1 against the spread in the past seven against the Dolphins.

* Saints (plus-5½) over PANTHERS: The loss of tight end Greg Olsen will further hamper Cam Newton, who has not been an accurate passer (59.6 percent). An awful New Orleans pass defense could be exactly what Newton needs to get going. Still, Drew Brees is getting points in what should be another tight game between these teams. The Saints covered the past four meetings with Carolina, with each of the past three games decided by exactly three points.

* REDSKINS (plus-3) over Raiders: Oakland’s offense is capable of setting a fast pace Kirk Cousins cannot match. Derek Carr has completed 75 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions, and Marshawn Lynch spearheads a solid ground attack behind a powerful line. The Raiders have morphed into road warriors with a 7-2 record in their past nine. Cousins occasionally steps up with a big game, however, and this is a chance to make a statement. This line could hit 3½ close to kickoff, so wait to bet on Washington if you dare take this gamble.

* Cowboys (-3) over CARDINALS: Without running back David Johnson, Arizona’s offense is crippled in the hands of aging quarterback Carson Palmer. This play is mainly based on Dallas bouncing back from an embarrassing loss at Denver. Dak Prescott played his worst game as an NFL starter, and Ezekiel Elliott was shamed for his lack of effort. Similar to the Giants, it’s time for the Cowboys to give their best effort.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread

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