Giants head coach Joe Judge and his players swear they're not focused on the playoffs even though they are still mathematically alive for the final spot in the NFC tournament that's still too close to call.
But with an upset win over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, the Giants, who have the 12th easiest schedule remaining, could certainly use a win against a team that very few people think they can beat.
The oddsmakers don't exactly like the Giants' chances at an upset win--New York is a 10.5 point underdog, down a point from the original 11.5-point opening spread. The Giants are not only not very good coming out of a bye week (they're 17-23, which is 27th in the league), they're also not exactly a master of Monday Night Football, where they currently hold a 25-44-1 record overall and a 16-31-1 record on the road.
But despite going 0-2 so far this year in primetime games, the Giants came close to pulling off an upset over Washington on Thursday night and then a few weeks back against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Will the third time be a charm for New York? Let's see how it unfolds.
Why the Giants Will Win
Except for one significant blowout loss, the Giants have always managed to play Tom Brady tightly in close games. And with good reason--we're talking about a franchise that has figured out how to make Superman into a mere mortal.
One trick is to get pressure up the middle to make Brady uncomfortable. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady has completed 45.8 percent of his pass attempts when under pressure this year, throwing six touchdowns to three interceptions.
Giants defensive back Logan Ryan, who will miss this game due to being in the COVID-19 protocol, said deception is key.
"We did a good job of it last year, so I’m sure he’s studying that," Ryan said. "There’s some stuff we’ll use, there’s some stuff we’ll change, but he’s seen it all. We’ve said that, but you have to give him some false looks or it’ll be a long day."
Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has had the better part of two weeks to sit in his lab and develop new wrinkles to ensure Brady continues to experience frustration.
Offensively, the Giants are going to be as close as possible to full strength as they've been since their Week 4 upset of the new Orleans Saints. The only offensive play-maker not expected to be active is receiver Sterling Shepard, who was declared out with a quad ailment.
Otherwise, the Giants anticipate having a healthy Saquon Barkley back from a sprained ankle to go along with receivers Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay, who didn't look healthy in the Week 9 win over the Raiders but who have benefitted from the bye.
If the Giants get back left tackle Andrew Thomas off IR, which is a growing possibility, the needle goes up even more. Jones has averaged 285.2 passing yards per game with Thomas protecting his blind side and 158.25 without him. That's a big-time swing and a good indication of just how much Jones is comfortable with Thomas protecting his blindside.
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And if nothing else, consider the Bucs, who have been a turnover machine on offense in their last two losses, aren't quite at full strength.
They have injuries throughout their secondary, and their top defensive lineman, Vita Vea, is dealing with a knee injury. On offense, tight end Rob Gronkowski missed some time with cracked ribs but is expected to play. And slot receiver Chris Godwin has been slowed down by an ankle/foot injury. (Only receiver Antonio Brown has been ruled out of the game on offense.)
Why The Giants Will Lose
Something odd happened in the Dallas Cowboys' loss to the Chiefs. The play in the trenches, particularly on offense, failed to the tune of five sacks, eight quarterback hits, and a whole lot of pressure that made quarterback Dak Prescott look befuddled at times.
Why mention the Cowboys? Because that game serves as a recent reminder of how important the play in the trenches is.
The Bucs have a very good offensive line--one that's probably better than the Panthers and Raiders, two teams the Giants beat. If the Giants cannot penetrate that offensive line via slants and stunts, they're unlikely to get to Brady, who comes into this game averaging 2.36 seconds from dropback to release on his pass attempts.
That's lightning-fast, folks. Combine that with Brady's ability to process what he's being shown by the defense quicker than the fanciest of computers, and if the Giants don't find a way to match speed with speed in getting to Brady, it's going to be a long night for them.
Before I wrote this article, I had stated on my podcasts that I had doubts about the Giants pulling off the upset because I didn't think Brady would lose three games in a row for the second time in his career (he first did so in 2002, his first season as a full-time starter).
But the more I look at things, the more encouraged I am about the Giants snapping their seven-game primetime losing streak with quarterback Daniel Jones at the helm.
Fueling my growing optimism is the return of Saquon Barkley and the fact that receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, both of whom played against the Raiders in Week 9 but who didn't look close to being "right," are a lot more refreshed and are about to face a banged-up Bucs defensive secondary.
I also think defensive coordinator Patrick Graham's having had two weeks to cook up a game plan filled with new wrinkles is a plus, even though they will be missing safety Logan Ryan due to his testing positive for COVID-19.
I think it's going to be a tight game--the Giants games against Brady usually are--but in the end, I think the Giants might pull this one out even though conventional wisdom advises not to bet against Brady.
Prediction: Giants 27, Bucs 24
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