8:20 PM EST, FOX – Line: Patriots -16, Over/Under: 42
Two historic franchises with some truly palpable history with each other meet for a midweek clash, as the unbeaten New England Patriots play host to the New York Giants, from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The future is now for the Giants (2-3, 3rd in NFC East), who after weeks of mounting pressure, benched their longtime Starting Quarterback, Eli Manning (62.9%, 556 YDS, 5.97 NY/A, 2 TD 2 INT, 30.0 QBR), in favor of Daniel Jones (64.2%, 760 YDS, 5.94 NY/A, 4 TD, 3 INT, 68.8 QBR), whom the club selected with the No. 6 Overall Pick in this past Spring’s NFL Draft. This was a potentially monumental moment for the franchise, who has seen Manning captain their club for each of the last fourteen years, leading them to a pair of Super Bowl Championships in 2007 and 2011, which coincidentally came at the expense of their opponent tonight. However, the two-time Super Bowl MVP hasn’t necessarily aged well, going 8-23 as the Starter over the past two years, prompting many within the organization to search for his successor. Though they certainly have the benefit of hindsight, the fan base in Gotham City spent much of last season lamenting the decision not to draft his successor, punctuated by the plethora of quality Signal-Caller that were selected in the First Round. Initially derided by the analysts, General Manager, Dave Gettleman’s choice to draft the kid out of Duke, who had ironically been tutored by the same man that had coached Manning nearly two decades ago at Mississippi, David Cutcliffe, appeared to be a more natural fit after further review, which has only been validated by his play on the field thus far. At first, the Rookie’s inclusion in the Starting Lineup injected New York with a considerable amount of energy, as Jones went on to lead Big Blue to back-to-back victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (32-31), which featured an epic comeback, and struggling division rival, the Washington Redskins (24-3). In those two games, the youngster acquainted himself well enough, completing 68.7% of his Attempts for an average of 280.5 Yards on a stellar 8.04 Net Yards per Attempt, with Three Touchdowns in comparison to Two Interceptions, while rushing for another Sixty-One Yards and two scores, including the game-winner against the Bucs. The Offense really took to his presence as well, averaging 28.0 Points on 386.5 Total Yards in comparison to the 15.5 Points on 420.0 Total Yards helmed by his predecessor. However, things can change very quickly in the NFL, and that was the case for the Giants, who in that victory over the Redskins were dealt a critical blow, as reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Saquon Barkley (37 CAR, 237 YDS, 6.4 Y/A, 1 TD), suffered a high ankle sprain, sidelining him from anywhere between four to six weeks time. After accumulating a league-high 2,028 Yards from Scrimmage in 2018, the Sophomore Tailback was expected to carry the load offensively, particularly after the club traded away Odell Beckham Jr., with his absence creating a tremendous void in the Backfield, which clearly created a ripple effect on the Offense as a group, none more so than Jones. Sunday’s 10-28 loss at home to the Minnesota Vikings was a tough one to watch for fans of the home side, who stumbled throughout the affair, amassing just 211 Total Yards on Eighteen First Downs, including Sixty-Four Rushing Yards, and a very rough day for their young Quarterback. Jones completed a dismal 21-of-38 Passes for 182 Yards, with a Touchdown and an Interception, while suffering Four Sacks for a loss of Thirty-Five Yards, floundering over the final three drives which featured a pair of Turnovers on Downs and concluded with an Interception. With that said, their struggles last weekend didn’t end with the Offense, for the Defense was bludgeoned on this day, relinquishing 490 Total Yards, including 211 Yards against the Run, with the visitors averaging 6.2 Yards per Rush, and another 306 Yards versus the Pass. Defensive Coordinator, James Bettcher, watched as his troops were helpless against the league’s leading rusher, Dalvin Cook, who gashed them for 132 Yards on the ground, while reeling in another Eighty-Six Yards on Six Receptions, with Kirk Cousins, who was openly criticized by his Pro-Bowl Receiver, Adam Thielen, completing an efficient 22-of-27 for 306 Yards and Two Touchdowns. Thielen was huge, totaling 130 Receiving Yards and Two Touchdowns on Eight Catches.
Meanwhile, tonight’s meeting with the Giants will hold a great deal of significance for the Patriots (5-0, 1st in AFC East), or more particularly their future Hall of Fame Quarterback, Tom Brady (63.1%, 1,409 YDS, 6.99 NY/A, 10 TD, 2 INT, 61.6 QBR). Unless something miraculous happens and he plays for another four years, this is likely to be the final meeting between Brady and the team that has dealt him his two most crushing defeats, as heavily-favored New England fell to New York in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Of course, the first was arguably the one that stings the most; the Pats entered that affair unbeaten at 18-0, behind a record-setting Offense led by Brady, though struggled to gain much traction against the Giants’ staunch Defense, and thanks to some miraculous plays by their opponent, including one of the most inexplicable catches in history, narrowly met defeat. In fact, they’re one of just five teams that the two-time MVP doesn’t have a winning record against, and one of only three two have beaten on multiple occasions in the Postseason. With that said, it’ll be bitter sweet that this particular meeting won’t be against the aforementioned Manning, who started opposite of him in those two Super Bowls, and has built quite the legend as a result. Instead, it’ll be Daniel Jones making what will be just his fourth Start against arguably the top Defense in the league, which must have Bill Belichick smiling from ear to ear. Few coaches know how to craft a defensive game plan to vex a Rookie Quarterback like the 67-Year Old, who at this point is universally recognized as the game’s foremost defensive mastermind. This is the same architect of the blueprints that stopped the prolific Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, the Greatest Show on Turf nearly a decade later, confounded the great Peyton Manning on multiple occasions, and mot recently shut down the juggernaut Los Angeles Rams last February in Super Bowl LIII. Needless to say, his record against young Quarterbacks leans heavily in his favor, and with this particular incarnation of the Defense, there is no reason to think that dominance won’t continue tonight. It’s poetic that as he nears the end of his illustrious career, Brady will have the benefit of relying upon an elite Defense, much how he did throughout his earlier years before he became a master at his craft. Through five games, the Patriots sit atop the league in a slew of categories, including Points Allowed (6.8), Total Defense (238.4), Passing Defense (160.4), Net Yards per Attempt Allowed (4.0), Turnovers (12) and Sacks (24), along with both Third Down (12.7%) and Red Zone Defense (25.0%). Granted, they have certainly benefitted from playing against what is by far and away the easiest schedule in the NFL, particularly when you look at it from a defensive perspective. The cumulative record of their opponents thus far is a ridiculously poor 5-19, with three of those opponents, the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Washington Redskins, standing at a remarkable 0-14. When we last saw them, the Patriots were making light work of the Redskins in a 33-7 beatdown in the nation’s capital. Though things were relatively close in the First Half, with New England leading 13-6 at Halftime, the visitors pulled away over the final thirty minutes of play in which they scored twenty-one unanswered points. If not for a shocking 65-Yard Touchdown Run in the First Quarter, the hosts would have accumulated a scant 155 Yards of Total Offense on just Eleven First Downs, going a miserable 1-of-11 on Third Down, while committing a pair of Turnovers. Washington’s Colt McCoy, who made his first Start since breaking his leg back in early December of 2018, struggled mightily to complete just 18-of-27 Passes for 119 Yards and an Interception, suffering Six Sacks for a loss of Forty-Four Yards. The home side went on to Punt on five of their six drives in the Second Half before time expired on their final attempt, with only one series traveling over twenty-three yards. Offensively, New England eventually found their legs, with Brady completing a stellar 28-of-42 Attempts for 348 Yards, Three Touchdowns and an Interception, with Sophomore Tailback, Sony Michel (78 CAR, 262 YDS, 3.4 Y/C, 3 TD), rushing for Ninety-One Yards and a score on Sixteen Carries, and veteran Receiver, Julian Edelman (29 REC, 336 YDS, 11.6 Y/C, 2 TD), who did not practice much throughout the week with bruised ribs, looked just fine with Eight Receptions on Nine Targets for 110 Yards and a Touchdown.