The only team that has had sustained success against the New England Patriots during the Bill Belichick era has been the New York Giants, beating the Patriots in two Super Bowls as well as during the 2011 regular season; but as the Patriots come in 8-0 while the Giants are struggling to stay ahead in the NFC East, will it be fourth time lucky for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? The Patriots are one of three undefeated teams heading into Week 10. No one has looked capable of stopping them, and they already have victories over all three of their AFC East rivals. Tom Brady is having another MVP calibre season and the Patriots continue to have an answer for anything their opponents throw at them. The Giants are currently on top of the NFC East, but need every win they can get to stay ahead of Philadelphia. The defense has struggled against several opponents, but the offense has been fairly strong. But will it be enough for another win over New England?
Three Keys to the Game:
Can the Giants cover Gronk?
Perhaps the most important missing piece in 2011’s Super Bowl was a healthy Rob Gronkowski. The unstoppable Gronk could’ve turned the tide in that game, but the tight end’s play was severely limited by a high ankle sprain. This time around, Gronk could be the deciding factor. The Giants have struggled to stop teams from passing and scoring this season, allowing an average of 307.8 yards per game, 31st in the league. The Giants don’t have many players who could cover Gronk one-on-one. Rookie safety Landon Collins hasn’t been impressive, and their linebacker corps doesn’t really have anyone who can drop back and cover the tight end. Even if they somehow manage to cover Gronk, that will take away resources the Giants could use to stop tight end Scott Chandler.
New England’s offensive line
Tom Brady’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries this season, and the Patriots are virtually down to their 4th and 5th string tackles. Last week against Washington, the Patriots had to use a tight end as their fifth offensive lineman. But Brady still wasn’t sacked by the Redskins, and has been sacked just 18 times this year. The Giants have struggled to generate a pass rush this season. Even with Jason Pierre-Paul back after injuring his hand in a July fireworks incident, they will struggle against Brady and his quick release. JPP isn’t back to 100% yet, and may not be able to provide much of an impact against the Patriots. Belichick will likely utilise his tight ends as blockers alongside the offensive line, as both Gronk and Chandler are good blockers.
Can the Giants protect Eli?
New York has protected Eli Manning well this season, allowing just 12 sacks, but the Giants have not faced a truly dominant pass rush so far this season. The Patriots are tied for second-most sacks in the league with 27, averaging 3.4 sacks per game. With Jamie Collins out and Jabaal Sheard listed as questionable after limited participation in practice, the Patriots’ pass rush is a little depleted. But they still have the league’s current sack leader in Chandler Jones as well as Rob Ninkovich, Dominique Easley and Dont’a Hightower. It will be a long evening for Eli Manning.
Matchup to watch
Malcolm Butler vs Odell Beckham Jr.
The hero of Super Bowl XLIX faces off against one of the league’s most electrifying young receivers. Butler has impressed this season after taking over the number one corner role that Darelle Revis vacated. He has covered number one receivers like Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton and Brandon Marshall well, but faces a new challenge in Beckham. Odell Beckham has impressed again in his second season. Despite facing more double teams than usual, Beckham has 59 catches for 759 yards and seven touchdowns so far. Beckham is Manning’s best weapon, but Belichick has a history of taking away an opponent’s strongest asset. Will Beckham be able to make an impact against the Patriots?
The Patriots are a much better team than the Giants. New York’s defense has been a sieve against the pass. Tom Brady is averaging 325.5 yards per game and leads the league’s number one scoring offense, averaging 34.5 points per game. With Belichick likely having a plan to take away Beckham, the Giants may not have an answer for the Patriots this time around.