How NFL bettors are taking notice of Giants’ fast start

The last time the Giants started an NFL season with a 2-0 record, Eli Manning was coming off a Pro Bowl season and Ben McAdoo was in his first year as a head coach. Needless to say, it has been a while.

Six years later, the Giants are once again undefeated through the first two weeks. And the betting market is taking notice.

The Giants entered the season as +750 long shots to win the NFC East for the first time since 2011. Now, after a pair of close wins over the Titans and Panthers, they’re priced at +550 to win the division at BetMGM — tied with the preseason-favorite Cowboys. They’re also Sneaky long shots in the title market, dealing at 66/1 to win the Super Bowl and 30/1 to win the NFC.

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Is all of this deserved? That depends both on your expectations for this group and your impressions of the first two opponents.

Relative to expectations, this has already been a Smashing success for first-time head Coach Brian Daboll, who has seemingly injected some life into an offense that ranked 31st in yards and points each of the past two seasons. We’ve already seen a marked improvement: The Giants rank 15th in points per game (20) and have turned the ball over just twice in two games after leading the league in turnovers (30) in 2021.

The key to that has been the resurgence of star running back Saquon Barkley, who leads the NFL in rushing yards (236) after an injury-shortened 2020 season and lackluster 2021 campaign. Daniel Jones is also currently on pace for career bests in completion rate (70.9 percent), touchdown rate (5.5 percent) and interception rate (1.8 percent), and his two game-winning drives thus far are already tied for his most in a season since he was drafted sixth overall in 2019.

Brian Daboll
Brian Daboll
USA TODAY Sports

While the offense has been the biggest X-factor this season, the Giants’ defense has carried this team with a pair of impressive performances through Week 2. They are one of nine teams to allow 20 or fewer points in each of the first two games , and while they have yet to register a takeaway this year, their defense ranks fourth in opponent three-and-outs per drive (.364) and third in opponent punts per drive (.545).

To be fair, the competition hasn’t been the stiffest. A win over the Titans, who earned the AFC’s top seed a year ago, felt a little more impressive before the Bills blew their doors off Tennessee on Monday night. And the Panthers, while flush with young talent, appear lifeless on offense in what could be Matt Rhule’s final season as their head coach.

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Still, the Giants are all too familiar with losing games like that in recent years, under McAdoo, Steve Spagnuolo, Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge, who combined for a 22-59 record (27.2 percent) over the past five seasons. The Giants lost double-digit games in each of those five seasons and only once came close to sniffing an NFC East title in 2020, when Washington (7-9) won one of the most pitiful division races in NFL history.

This year feels different, both for the Giants and for the division. The Eagles are flying high with a 2-0 record, also for the first time since 2016, but the G-Men are right there beside them atop the NFC East. The Giants also are favored to win their Week 3 Clash Monday with the Cowboys, which would spell their first 3-0 start since 2009.

Even without that result, this group is already halfway to its win total (4) from 2021, and its betting total has risen to 8.5 wins — up from a preseason total of seven wins. There’s still a ways to go before penciling in the Giants as division champs, but for the first time in a half-decade, this feels like a team worth betting on.

And that alone is progress.

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