BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.- The New York Giants’ come-from-behind victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football was reminiscent of the “good ol’ days” for Big Blue. Eli Manning engineered his 41st (including the postseason) game-winning drive, the offensive line allowed only one sack, and Odell Beckham, Jr. found his dance moves in the end zone twice (tying his season total entering week 10). After the game, Head Coach Pat Shurmur told the media: “I think… the combination of having more time to throw the ball along with being a little bit more accurate on some throws, the results were much better.” All is well (at least temporarily) in Giants Nation.
Personally I left so much out on the field today that I’ll never get back. But MOREE IMPORTANTLY We competed, we stuck together and got the dub. That’s all that matters. To our fans, it’s allll LUV… #1down— Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) November 13, 2018
The 2-7 Giants will take their new “undefeated-in-the-second-half” mentality to the 3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at 1pm in New Jersey. There is, at least, one player on the Bucs depth chart that has had this game circled on his calendar: defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. He was dealt from the Giants to the Buccaneers in March of this year and was particularly irked that he only received phone calls from Manning and general manager Dave Gettleman. No member of Mara family called Pierre-Paul upon his departure from New York- perhaps they were still annoyed that, after mangling his hand in a fireworks incident, Pierre-Paul did not allow them past the waiting room of his Florida hospital during his recovery.
GIANTS KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Turnovers: Entering play, the Buccaneers are last in the league, having turned the ball over 25 times! They are second-to-last in the league in takeaways (6). Manning is on pace for only eleven interceptions this season, the second-lowest total during his illustrious career. Together, this means that Giants need to have an aggressive offensive game plan and need to capitalize on points-off-turnovers. They should win the turnover battle, but it does not matter if they cannot capitalize off the positive defensive play.
2. Cover the Tight End: For years, it has been no secret that the Giants struggle to cover the tight end, and this year is no exception to that rule. This season, the Giants allow and average of 11.64 yards per catch to opposing teams’ tight ends and 56.89 average total yards per game to the position. Strong safety Landon Collins and linebacker Alec Ogletree hold most of the responsibility of covering the middle of the field. Last week, 49ers tight end George Kittle was targeted 10 times and hauled in nine receptions for 83 yards. Per Pro Football Focus, though, Kittle was only targeted once while being covered by Collins — a play that resulted in an 18-yard gain.
The Buccaneers’ O.J. Howard, athletic at 6’6″ and 242 pounds, will be a matchup nightmare for the 6’0″, 216-pound Collins and the 6’3″, 232 Ogletree. Purely based on size, Howard figures to be the go-to-receiver on third down and in the red zone. All but one of his five touchdown receptions came from at or closer than the 10 yard-line.
Giants defensive coordinator James 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. That’s one thing he’s built to do.”
3. Giants’ Passing Offense: Sure, Manning had a great game against the 49ers last week: 19 for 31, 188 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 110.7. Besides having thrown three touchdowns, those statistics were not his best of the season. What changed?
Another game-winning drive for Eli! pic.twitter.com/ezYGjgCZjC— New York Giants (@Giants) November 13, 2018
The offensive line held its own. It only allowed Manning to be sacked once for a loss of eight yards – a season low. That gave Manning a renewed sense of confidence in the pocket that will be sustained through week eleven action, Giants Nation is hoping. Actually, there is a great possibility of that happening, if the Giants could stave off pressure from Jason Pierre-Paul and the defensive front long enough. The Bucs’ passing defense is not that good. Opposing quarterbacks post an average rating of 122.3 against it (best rating in the league), it is 25th in yards allowed per completion, it is 29th in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and it is 30th in yards allowed per pass attempt.
BUCCANEERS’ KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Buccaneers are the NFL’s #1 offense…really: Tampa Bay is first in offensive yards per game (452.8)… more yards per game than the Rams, the Chiefs, Steelers, and Saints – all considered playoff teams. Tampa Bay is first in passing yards per game, again, over the Falcons, Steelers, Chiefs, and Rams. This is a quintessential case of misleading statistics because the Buccaneers, though, are only twelfth in scoring. Case-in-point: last week against the Redskins, the Bucs put up 501 yards and only a meager three points.
2. Red Zone Efficiency: The Buccaneers are not too efficient in the red zone, which is directly correlated to their wins.. In 2018, in the red zone, they are able to put 6 on the board only 54.29% of the time (although that percentage rises to 60% in road games). Furthermore, Tampa Bay’s former kicker, Chandler Catanzaro, has been less-then-spectacular, to say the least. Catanzaro had a bad 2018 extra point kicking percentage: 85.2% (30th in the league). His field goal kicking percentage was even worse: 73.3% (27th in the league). There were only two games (out of nine) that he had connected on 100% of his extra points and 100% of his field goal attempts (weeks 3 and 4). Catanzaro was waived on Monday.
“Consistency is really what describes me the best. I’m just going to come in and be myself and help the team heal the wounds that have been created.”— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 15, 2018
🗣 » K @cairosantos19 #GoBucshttps://t.co/QE54jVj93e
As a result, Tampa Bay signed former Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos. This season, he was 5 for 6 on field goal attempts and 5 for 6 on extra point attempts for the Los Angeles Rams. Already, he has better numbers than Catanzaro- the Bucs are hoping those numbers can translate to their team.
3. Pressure on Eli Manning: “Honestly, I had this game checked off since I left there, so emotions running big,” Pierre-Paul said on a conference call with Giants reporters. “I’m coming, man. I’m bringing the house down.”
On the season, Pierre-Paul has 8 sacks. The entire Giants defense has 10. Furthermore, through the first eight weeks of this season, Manning was sacked more times than all of last year. After a bye week, the Giants only allowed one sack in week ten action. So, was the Giants’ offensive line’s performance in San Francisco a fluke? Or, did they finally turn their rubik’s cube to the correct combination in the signing of Jamon Brown (Rams)? Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers’ defensive line will be as good a test as any.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Giants, in 2018, are 0-4 at home and have been outscored 107-59. They are coming off their best, most complete team-win against the San Francisco 49ers on the national stage. Sunday will be Big Blue’s first victory in front of the home crowd. Sunday, the home crowd will have a reason to stay in their seats until the end of the game and will have one more opportunity to cheer on their longest-tenured quarterback: Manning.
Final Score: Giants 21, Buccaneers 10