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Giants-Patriots Week 12 storylines: Tommy DeVito, Bill Belichick, draft order, more

What to pay attention to as Giants host New England

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
Bill Belichick
Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

The New York Giants host the New England Patriots on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. There have, as Giants fans know, been some titanic clashes between the two franchises. This isn’t one of them, with the Giants at 3-8, the Patriots at 2-8, and both teams limping toward the finish line of disappointing seasons.

Here are some of this week’s storylines.

Can Tommy do it again?

Tommy Devito is the toast of New York and New Jersey after playing the game of his life on Sunday to lead the Giants to an upset victory over the Washington Commanders. Was that DeVito’s 15 minutes of fame, or can he do it again this Sunday and show that perhaps he could become at least a viable NFL backup quarterback?

DeVito, an undrafted free agent who played collegiately at Syracuse and Illinois, has already done far more this season than expected. The Giants kept him on the practice squad thinking he might be useful to them in 2024, but injuries to Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor changed that plan.

“He can make a variety of the throws and he was a good young player to try to work with and develop and hopefully that we spend a year with him and he gets a little bit better so that maybe he can have something the following year, but things have sped up for him,” head coach Brian Daboll said earlier this week. “I know he’s had this opportunity and look, there’s plenty of things that he knows he needs to work on, and we need to work on with him that we can help him, but he’s got the right mindset, the right approach. He’s done a good job since he’s been here.”

DeVito’s 137.7 passer rating Sunday against Washington (18 of 26, 249 yards, 3 TDs) was the highest by a rookie free agent quarterback with 15+ attempts in common draft era (1967). He is the first undrafted rookie quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in his first two starts in the common draft era, and the first Giants quarterback since 1950 with at least five touchdown passes in his first two NFL starts.

So, he doesn’t have much to live up to Sunday against the Patriots.

Who’s at QB for New England?

We know DeVito willl be behind center for the Giants. We don’t know whether New England will start Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe. Jones has started all 10 of the Patriots’ games, but has been under fire as New England has scored just 14.1 points per game this season, better than only the Giants.

Zappe, a second-year player, took over for Jones last in New England’s last game, a 10-6 Week 10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Jones has now been benched in favor of Zappe three times this season.

Belichick, typically, isn’t offering any hints about Sunday’s quarterback.

“I’ve told all the players the same thing, be ready to go. So, hopefully they will be,” said Belichick.

In any event, the over/under for the game at DraftKings Sportsbook is 33.5. I would recommend the under, even though that is a really low number.

Bye-bye, Bill?

Belichick is the most accomplished head coach of all time, but all good things eventually have to come to an end — which New York Yankees fans likely wish someone would tell Hal Steinbrenner regarding GM Brian Cashman.

Anyway, Belichick’s reign in New England, which began in 2000, could be nearing its end. Belichick is 71, the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since 2018, they are headed for a third losing season in four years and perhaps their worst season ever with Belichick at the helm. There has been mounting speculation that the Patriots are ready to start over without the legendary coach.

Belichick’s Patriots of course hooked up with the Giants in two classic Super Bowls, both won by the Giants. Belichick coached with the Giants from 1979-1990, helping win two Super Bowls.

Sunday could be the final time we see Belichick coach against the Giants.

Does the loser actually win?

I am no fan of tanking. I don’t believe in it, and it’s certainly not fair to players putting their bodies and careers on the line and coaches who are trying to make a living. I have said consistently that I believe there is always value in winning. Tanking or not, though, the Giants and Patriots are losing a lot more than they are winning. Which means they are in the race for a top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Currently, the Patriots hold the No. 3 pick and the Giants hold the No. 5 pick.

The loser of the game on Sunday obviously gets a leg up on an earlier pick in the upcoming draft. Which, in the eyes of some, will actually make them the winner.

Offensive line settling down?

Despite DeVito having been sacked nine times vs. Washington, the offensive line did not play as poorly last Sunday as that number would indicate. Only two of those sacks were charged by Pro Football Focus to offensive linemen, with John Michael Schmitz and Justin Pugh each surrendering one. Saquon Barkley was also charged with one. The rest were either on DeVito, free runners or scramble situations where no offensive lineman was individually charged with a sack.

Andrew Thomas (82.8) and Tyre Philiips (80.8) had outstanding pass blocking grades, though Phillips (42.4) has the team’s worst run blocking grade.

Provided nothing changes between now and Sunday, this will mark the third straight week the Giants will start the Thomas, Justin Pugh, Schmitz, Ben Bredeson, Phillips line from left to right. It is Week 12 and that would be a first.