The return of Jason Pierre-Paul
This has been the big story line all week. Former first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul, traded to the Bucs by new GM Dave Gettleman during the offseason, coming back to MetLife Stadium for the first time against the Giants and promising that he will be “bringing the house down.”
Coming off their best game of the season, the Giants’ offensive line knows a motivated Pierre-Paul will be a handful on Sunday.
The job of controlling Pierre-Paul will likely fall mostly on the $62 million shoulders of left tackle Nate Solder.
“He’s playing well. He’s got tremendous talent and ability. He plays within the system. They’re putting him in a place to be successful. He can run around guys, he can run through guys, he’s got both of those qualities,” Solder said.
There are sub-plots. Pierre-Paul having 8 sacks while the Giants as a team have only 10. Pierre-Paul saying he was disappointed no one from ownership contacted him when he was traded.
The story on Sunday will simply be this — can the Giants block him or not?
Both of the Giants’ victories this season have been on the road, where they are 2-3. At home the Giants are 0-4 and have been outscored 107-59. MetLife Stadium crowds are getting used to exiting games long before they are over, often in the third quarter.
Can the Giants finally win a game at home? Or, at least keep fans in their seats until the end?
“That’ll be big, just the momentum for our team of getting two in a row and getting one in front of our fans,” Saquon Barkley said. “We got two this year, and we haven’t got it done at home. So, that’ll be big for us to get a win at home, and definitely need it.
Tampa Bay managed the seemingly impossible feat last week of generating more than 500 yards in total offense (501 to be exact) and yet getting only a field goal in a 16-3 loss to the Washington Redskins.
How is that even possible?
Well, when you turn the ball over four times and fail to generate any takeaways of your own it certainly goes a long way toward making it happen.
The Buccaneers, in fact, have been horrid in the turnover department all season.
Bucs have gone six full games without a defensive takeaway -- only time that's ever happened in any six-game stretch for any NFL team. They're minus-18 in turnover margin during that span.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) November 15, 2018
Tampa Bay is a league-worst -19 in the takeaway/giveaway category. The Bucs are last in the league in giveaways with 25, and 31st in takeaways with only 6.
The Giants are 22nd in that category at -2 overall. They have 11 giveaways and 9 takeaways.
Eli Manning has thrown six interceptions this season. He’s on pace for 11 interceptions, second-lowest total of his career and his interception rate of 1.7 percent is a career low. Check downs often don’t get you first downs or points, but the flip side is that punts are better than interceptions.
Let’s see if the Giants can win the turnover battle on Sunday.
Handling all those receivers
Mike Evans (50 receptions, Chris Godwin (37), Adam Humphries (37 and Giant-killer DeSean Jackson (33) at wide receiver. O.J. Howard (29 receptions) and Cameron Brate (15) at wide receiver.
The Buccaneers have a ton of weapons to choose from in the passing game, which is a big reason why they lead the NFL in passing yards and total yards gained.
How are the Giants going to handle all of that on Sunday?
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher was asked about all those receivers on Thursday. His answer included a whole lot of coach-speak gobbledygook but amounted to him saying the Giants would try but he wasn’t really sure.
“Going through and watching every pass in the whole season, you see everything everyone’s tried to do to find a way to slow them down, maybe double a guy, to play coverage, to bring pressure, and I think it’s that good balance of the mix of finding downs in places where you can bring extra guys and speed up the process, create some one on ones and win those one on ones,” Bettcher said. “Then in the back end, you can play zone or you can play man, there’s going to be a lot of times in one on ones you’ve got to win them, and I think all that said, it’s play fundamentally sound football and play fast. That’s really a point of emphasis for us.”
One thing we are likely to see is more of Landon Collins, playing more of a pseudo-linebacker role close to the line of scrimmage lately, matched up against Howard. The Giants tried to do that Monday night against George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers, but Kittle wound up with nine receptions in 10 targets. Per Pro Football Focus, though, Kittle was only targeted once while being covered by Collins — a play that resulted in an 18-yard gain.
Bettcher insisted on Thursday that Collins vs. tight ends is a matchup that favors the Giants.
“I love the matchup with him on great tight ends, I really do,” Bettcher said. “That’s one thing he’s built to do.”
Stopping the pass is the number one goal of defensive coordinators each week in today's NFL.#DaBears #RavensFlock #Browns #GoBills #ChiefsKingdom #Jets #Seahawks #GoPats #GoBucs #OnePride #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/7DxaSqvFbh— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) November 12, 2018
Taking advantage of Tampa Bay’s secondary
Earlier in the week Chris detailed the weakness of the Buccaneers’ secondary. Statistically, the Bucs are 29th in the league in passing yards allowed per game, 30th in yards allowed per pass attempt, 25th in yards allowed per completion, last in the league in opponents’ completion percentage, 28th in completions allowed per game and last in the league in opponents’ passer rating.
With Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley the Giants should be able to take advantage of that Tampa Bay weakness. If they can protect Manning from JPP and Co.
3 major things allow a QB's pass catcher to pick up Yards After the Catch:— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) November 14, 2018
1. Accuracy of throw
3. Playmaking ability of the pass catchers#HereWeGo #ChiefsKingdom #LARams #GoPats #RaiderNation #InBrotherhood #GoPackGo #GiantsPride #GoSaints #OnePride pic.twitter.com/IVtAW1rbIx