There are plenty of reasons to fear the Giants, as lousy as they are this year, but there’s only one top reason. That reason is Saquon Barkley.
As good as this Giants receiving corps is—and Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepherd and tight end Evan Engram are all very dangerous—they have a putty-armed junior Manning tossing them the ball. I’m not saying there is no chance that Manning could hurt the Falcons—this is their 2018 defense we’re talking about—but I am suggesting that he is one of the least dangerous quarterbacks Atlanta will face this year. The Giants can also get heat on Matt Ryan, though not to the extent of some other teams Atlanta has played, and their secondary is okay but not great outside of the stellar Landon Collins at safety.
The big question, again, is whether the team can stop Saquon Barkley.
Barkley’s problematic for two reasons. The first is that he is a big, fast, powerful runner, which means a missed tackle or two is going to enable him to pick up massive yardage. The second is that because Manning no longer throws the ball downfield if he can help it, and Barkley’s a plenty capable receiver near the line of scrimmage. If this defense was fully healthy, they might be able to hold Barkley in check, but this is a defense that just was destroyed by James Conner two weeks ago. I’m very worried.
Atlanta’s saving grace is that the Giants have been behind so often that they’re not really running the ball with Barkley all that often. He’s got just 84 carries in six games, or an average of 14 carries, and has only had two really huge games on the ground. He does have 40 receptions in just six games, however, and either way the Falcons still need to tackle him.
Whether they can do so probably depends on discipline, how far they’ve gotten over the last few weeks in terms of their tackling (it hasn’t been as far as any of us would like), and whether they roll out some of their weakest run defenders against New York or not. I’m almost certain their success or failure in this regard will determine whether they win or lose the game.