Chris Pflum and I rotate between offensive and defensive previews each week -- just to keep things interesting -- and after a couple of weeks going back and forward, I decided to look forward in the schedule to see which sides landed on my to-do list. I cringed when I saw this week. It's up to me to preview an undefeated team with an indisputably great quarterback face off against a pass-defense that is on the verge to set a record for being the worst in the history of the NFL. That's fine. I'll handle that.
So here we are. There will be no talk of spoiling undefeated teams here. No throwbacks to the magic of 2007 when the New York Giants ruined the New England Patriots' chances of a perfect season. Unfortunately, what I have for you all today is some good old fashioned truth. Get an ice-pack ready, because it hurts.
Stats At A Glance
|Total Yards||Rushing Yards||Passing Yards||Points|
|New England Patriots Offense||420.3 (2nd)||94.8(26th)||325.5 (3rd)||34.5 (1st)|
|New York Giants Defense||422.6 (32nd)||114.8 (22nd)||307.8 (31st)||25.1 (19th)|
The Injury Gods giveth, the Injury Gods taketh away. In the same game that saw franchise pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul return from injury, defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins tore his pectoral muscle and was promptly announced as being done for the year. This team is spiritually restricted from having nice things. The Giants didn't even get one full game with a full-strength line, and now it looks like Markus Kuhn's job is safer than ever.
The only upside for this is that their opponents seem to be having similar problems. The Patriots' offensive line is a shambles right now, and they just lost their star running back, Dion Lewis, to injury. They have been without Nate Solder since Week 5, but this week's injury report has three questionable linemen -- Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon and Tre Jackson.
So, could this be the week where things swing in favor of the Giants? Unlikely. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are too smart to allow an opposing team to pick on such an obvious deficiency as a weak offensive line. They will have a hard time stopping Pierre-Paul and company on every play, but it won't be the bloodbath that a trio of injured linemen would normally signify.
Do I have to write this section? Can't I just copy and paste "GRONK GONNA GRONK" over and over until I hit an acceptable word-count? Because, if I'm honest, there isn't much else to this section. Rob Gronkowski will eventually get matched up with a linebacker and he will destroy him. It's the most predictable and devastating thing the Patriots do to any team, and with the Giants, they're going to make sure it hurts real nice.
Keep in mind that the last three throws to Gronkowski against the Giants were an interception, a 6-yard gain, and an incomplete pass on the final play of the Super Bowl. I am terrified of what may happen if Gronkowski draws Uani Unga or Devon Kennard in coverage.
I know that linebackers have other responsibilities too. They're gonna blitz some -- because they have to cover for the guys up front not getting the job done -- and they'll need to maintain precise gap control -- because we all know what happens to teams who let the Patriots both run and pass with ease. I can't predict that they will complete either task particularly well, though perhaps Kennard has a shot at getting a sack if everything breaks his way.
The Giants likely won't have Prince Amukamara until after the bye week, so who will be the Prince Charming instead? Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can't do everything himself. He needs the other guys to pick up the slack, and right now, they simply are not doing that.
Jayron Hosley has been okay at best, and will likely be covering Brandon LaFell for most of this game, so that's a reasonably fair match-up, but cast your eyes towards the slot battle and it's a grim sight altogether. The Patriots effectively have two slot receivers -- Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman -- and they're somewhat interchangeable on the field. That's a problem, because the nickel cornerbacks aren't of the same caliber.
Trevin Wade has been decent, but the team has favored Trumaine McBride in this role. If it's McBride versus Amendola or Edelman for multiple plays at a time, that's going to be a long day. Wade is better than the Patriots' fourth receiver, Aaron Dobson, but who cares about a shutout performance in a dime-set? Especially when the Patriots would prefer to have Gronkowski out there instead, in which case, Wade is done for and it's another issue.
Then we have the safeties. Brady is going to go after Landon Collins like a cruel older brother laying down the law against a kid playing Madden for the first time. This isn't going to be pretty. At this stage, it's on the coaching staff to develop a gameplan that works around Collins' limitations rather than simply rolling him out there and hoping for improvement. What he does well, he does great, but he's a rookie with some pretty serious deficiencies.
When you look at the big picture, there are too many holes for the Giants to cover without a little luck going their way. This isn't a defense with the firepower to stop the Patriots. It just isn't. What do you do if the offense rolls out three receivers, Gronkowski and a running back? That's a nickel package right? Okay, so then the Patriots line up five-wide and you have a linebacker and a safety against a running back and a Hulk-shaped thing.
This is what Belichick dreams about while he's keeping all the other coaches up at night. In an old Cleveland Browns t-shirt and sweatpants, he awakes from slumber and wanders downstairs at 3am to get a glass of water before noticing something out of the corner of his eye. He smiles to himself as he spots a note stuck to the fridge. In blood, it reads: "KILL ALL GIANTS ... also, buy new pajamas".
I might seem a little negative on the Giants defense this week, but really, what have they shown us to suggest that they're capable of even moderately slowing down the Patriots? They have an impressive amount of turnovers, but this isn't a team that's turns over the ball. The Giants won't be able to rely on their defense to get a win this week. In order to have some semblance of a chance, this game needs to be similar to the New Orleans Saints game two weeks ago, and given the potential for Belichickian revenge on Sunday, even that would be a huge ask.