The New York Giants will play their second Monday night game of the season this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Big Blue was set to face Tampa Bay since both teams finished third in their respective divisions last year. The purpose of this scheduling mechanism is to pit teams of similar quality against each other to promote parity. Judging from disparity of this matchup, it’s a terribly flawed idea.
New York enters this matchup with a 1-6 record, firmly entrenched in the bottom tier of NFL teams. They’ve recovered somewhat from their nadir in Week 3, when they lost 36-9 at home to the San Francisco 49ers. Over the last four weeks, they’ve beaten the Washington Football Team and lost tightly contested games to the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, and Philadelphia Eagles. While the Giants have shown slight improvements recently, it’s a testament to their low-grade status that close losses are seen as reasons for optimism.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is making a case to be the NFL’s best. They beat the Las Vegas Raiders 45-20 last week, which followed them destroying their fellow NFC contender Green Bay Packers the week prior. Football Outsiders ranks them first in defensive DVOA and sixth in offensive DVOA. The Buccaneers high-end talent on both sides of the ball makes this the least favorable matchup New York has had thus far.
Latest Giants News
There are two ancillary storylines to to watch heading into Monday night’s game. The first is left guard Will Hernandez‘s placement on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. A test Hernandez took on Wednesday came back positive. After having to miss practice on Thursday, seven other Giants who were believed to have been in close contact with Hernandez submitted multiple negative tests and will be available against the Buccaneers. Hernandez claims to be completely asymptomatic, so hopefully the big lineman can return as soon as possible.
Hernandez will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Shane Lemieux. A fifth-round pick out of Oregon, Lemieux is reputed to be a strong, aggressive run blocker. The Giants hope he can be future fixture of their offensive line, so they’ll get a glimpse of what he can do in game action Monday night.
The second storyline is Tuesday’s impending trade deadline. The Giants have already shipped Markus Golden to the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round pick. With New York positioned as sellers, veterans such as Golden Tate, Kevin Zeitler, and Evan Engram could be moved for more draft capital before this Buccaneers game is even played.
Here’s an overview of everything you need to know ahead of Monday night’s game, followed by a prediction for the final score.
Where and When
MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Monday at 8:15 p.m. EST/5:15 p.m. PST
Tampa Bay: WR Chris Godwin (Out)
Most Concerning Matchup: EDGE Shaquil Barrett vs. OT Andrew Thomas
Barrett broke out with 19.5 sacks in his first year as a Buccaneer last season. He’s gotten off to a slower start this year, registering just three sacks in seven games. He still makes an impact, though, each and every game. Barrett already has 19 quarterback pressures this year according to Pro Football Reference despite his meager sack production.
Thomas, the tackle Barrett will be largely rushing against, has sent Giants fans into a full-fledged panic with his poor play. The rookie out of Georgia is Pro Football Focus’ lowest rated tackle in pass protection this season. Thomas consistently gets beaten by inside moves and has surrendered plenty of pressure on quarterback Daniel Jones. Barrett’s burst and ability to convert speed to power could give Thomas fits all game. With right tackle Cameron Fleming in tough against Jason Pierre-Paul on the other side, it could be a long day for Jones in the pocket.
Most Promising Matchup: CB James Bradberry vs. WR Mike Evans
As a former player in the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers, Bradberry is used to covering Evans. Bradberry held the big Tampa Bay wideout to under 100 yards and no touchdowns in both matchups last year. The new Giant has elevated his game this year, performing like one of the best cornerbacks in football.
If Bradberry can shut down or sufficiently limit Evans, quarterback Tom Brady will be at a loss for other explosive weapons in the passing game. His number-two receiver Godwin will miss this game with an injured finger, and the newly signed Antonio Brown won’t be available until next week. That leaves second-year sixth-round pick Scotty MIller, rookie fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson, and the unretired tight end Rob Gronkowski as Brady’s other targets. None of those players should scare New York down the field. The Giants should be able to limit the Buccaneers’ big plays if Bradberry can take out Evans.
Keys to Victory
Giants fans watched Big Blue beat the New England Patriots in two Super Bowls. They have a pretty good idea of what it takes to defeat Brady. Generating pressure is vital in making him uncomfortable and throwing him off his game. New York doesn’t exactly have a fearsome pass rush anymore, but defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has to fugure out a way to get to Brady one way or another. Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Kyler Fackrell, and Oshane Ximines will need to have strong games getting into the offensive backfield.
On offense, running the ball will be difficult against Tampa Bay’s stout front seven. Hitting a couple early shots to deep threat Darius Slayton could help loosen up the middle of the field, where Jones can work the ball to Engram and Sterling Shepard.
Final Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27 – Giants 17
New York is catching Tampa Bay at just the wrong time. The Buccaneers have really hit their stride the last couple weeks. Brady is starting to look supremely comfortable in this offense. Throw in Tampa Bay’s league-best defense, and the Giants will be hard-pressed to find an edge they can exploit Monday night. New York should keep this one relatively close as they usually do, but the talent disparity between these teams will show itself in the end.