The New York Giants face a familiar foe this Sunday when they host the New England Patriots. These often turn into some of the best games of the season and have very nearly the feel of a division game.
The ties between these two teams run deep, and only seem to get deeper. Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick know each other very well, having faced each other many times after coaching together under Bill Parcells. Both of the Giants' latest two Super Bowl wins have been over the Patriots, after playing them in the regular season, and regularly playing them in the preseason.
And now, the Giants go into the game with a pair of former Patriots on their roster, and playing big roles. Those would be, of course, running back Shane Vereen and linebacker Jonathan Casillas. We don't know what the impact of having potential insight into the Patriots' offense and defense could bring, but we can look at how these two teams match up.
Stats At A Glance
|Total Yards||Rushing Yards||Passing Yards||Points|
|New York Giants Offense||349.7 (21st)||96.7 (26th)||253.0 (14th)||27.4 (5th)|
|New England Patriots Defense||344.0 (8th)||89.2 (3rd)||244.8 (16th)||17.9 (5th)|
The Patriots' offense gets all of the attention. Tom Brady is playing great and Gronk is Gronk. However, the New England defense has quietly been good. Their stats might be a bit skewed by some of who they have faced: The Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cowboys fielding Brandon Weeden and no Dez Bryant, the Miami Dolphins, and the Washington Redskins. Of the four, Jacksonville was the toughest test, putting up 17 points.
However, their defense has been solid.
In addition to the pressure their high-powered offense puts on opposing teams, their run defense has only gotten better As rookie Malcom Brown and second year man Dom Easley improve on their defensive line. However the big matchup problem for the Giants will be defensive end Chandler Jones. Again, he is aided by the offense constantly forcing opposing offenses to throw to keep up, but he is currently leading the league with 9.5 sacks.
The Giants could, should, be getting some good news on the offensive line in the form of Will Beatty. As of this writing he has been practicing for roughly two and a half weeks. He hasn't been activated from the PUP list yet, but much like with Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants will likely use every second available to practice with a roster-exempt player before making a roster move. Delaying the decision could also throw a wrench into Belichick's game-planning machinations if he not only doesn't know for certain if Beatty is playing, or where he will play.
When the Patriots plan for an offense, they plan to take away what you do best and attack what you don't do well. Identifying those areas are pretty simple against the Giants. As usual it will fall to Eli Manning to dissect the defense and come up with the match-ups. The pass protection on the edges is an issue, however Eli Manning is absolutely deadly against the blitz, so it seems likely that Belichick will try to get pressure with four, dropping seven into coverage.
The two biggest issues facing Manning will be identifying the defense, which secondary options are open, and getting the ball to them efficiently. The Giants' offense was sloppy against the Buccaneers and, like everything, that starts with Eli. He will need to clean up his play against the Patriots.
"This is still a Cruz-and-Nicks game. I know we're right on them. It's tight, but those are still the guys. Make them go to Manningham, make them go to [Bear] Pascoe. Let's make sure we get Cruz and Nicks."
That was Bill Belichick in the fourth quarter of a game played on Feb. 5, 2012. And even though none of those Giants mentioned will be on the field -- only Cruz is even still on the team -- the philosophy hasn't changed.
The obvious goals of the Patriots' defense will be to try to get pressure with just four (or fewer) rushers, while taking away quick passes, and Beckham and Vereen specifically. Of course, that last bit is easier said than done. While the constant barrage of injuries has kept the Giants' offense from living up to its explosive potential, they still have enough weapons and options to make a defense pay if they concentrate too much on one or two players. As Alex pointed out in this week's Blue Data, despite being hampered by leg injuries Rueben Randle has been a very reliable option for Eli. And, as Richard Sherman will attest, stopping Odell Beckham is easier said than done.
The Giants will continue to work Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham into their offense. Ben McAdoo clearly likes the H-Back's athleticism and body-types. What they lack in blocking ability they can make up in forcing match-up issues.
And finally, don't look now, but the Giants very quietly have grown a running game. While no one player has had a stand-out rushing performance to date -- Vereen has had a career year as a receiver, though -- the unit has totaled more than 100 yards on the ground in two of the last three weeks. The four running backs get their touches by series, and each brings a different dynamic.
Vereen is a dangerous scatback, Andre Williams is a very powerful runner who can punish defenses as long as the offensive line can get him past the line of scrimmage, Orleans Darkwa is explosive through the hole and looks good out of the Giants base shotgun set, and Rashad Jennings' well-rounded, hard running style has earned him the job of "closer". The chess match in utilizing -- or defending -- the Giants' running backs could be one of the biggest under the radar aspects of this game.
The Giants will want to try to control the time of possession, score touchdowns, and keep Tom Brady off the field. Having something like a successful running game will go a long way to accomplishing that.
The Giants face an uphill battle.
However, one of the big twitch-inducing aspects of this Giants team is that they don't seem to have any unwinnable games. They can put up points with the best offenses in the game. But they also don't have any games they can't lose, either. You never know which Giants team is going to show up, or even which part of which Giants team is going to show up.