NFL 2017 Week 4: New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers preview and prediction

The Giants look for their first win of the season against the Bucs, who are smarting after an ugly loss a week ago.

The Giants watched as what could have been a thrilling comeback victory turned into a backbreaking 27-24 loss to the division rival Eagles. New York, now 0-3, blundered their way to a 14-0 deficit after three quarters. But Eli Manning caught fire in the fourth quarter, with back-to-back touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. followed by a go-ahead bomb to Sterling Shepard. The Eagles tied it twice and then won it on a stunning 61-yard field goal at the final gun by rookie kicker Jake Elliott that just made it over the crossbar.

Tampa Bay followed up a season-opening win with an ugly 34-17 loss to Minnesota. The Buccaneers seemed helpless to stop the passing attack of Minnesota backup quarterback Case Keenum, who hurled for 369 yards and three touchdowns. As for the Buccaneers offense, they failed to dredge up any kind of a running game, managing just 26 yards on 15 carries. Meanwhile Jameis Winston ended up throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns, but he also tossed three interceptions to an opportunistic Viking defense.

Winston’s winging

For Jameis Winston to be counted among the finest quarterbacks in the NFL, he has to prove he can overcome tough defenses. He couldn’t get that done against the Vikings, although his own defense put them in a hole. He’ll have to prove he can do it against the Giants, who are hungry for a win and just about back to full strength in the secondary. In particular, he’ll need to get Mike Evans untracked against Janoris Jenkins, which won’t be easy.

Trying everybody

The Giants running game is so much an afterthought at this point that opposing defenses barely even give it any thought. That Eli Manning is able to complete any passes at all is almost miraculous. It’s looking more and more certain that Paul Perkins isn’t the answer, but alternatives Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen are both iffy to play with injuries. Perhaps Wayne Gallman, a fourth-round pick, will be up to the challenge.

Missing defensive playmakers

The Buccaneers are coming off an ugly defensive performance against Minnesota, but were outstanding in their opening win against Chicago. The problem might be mounting injuries. And things might not get better this week, as linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, the team’s top two playmakers on defense, are both likely sitting with injury. That doesn’t bode well for their chances of slowing down Manning.

Matchup to Watch: Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. vs Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves

When the Bucs drafted Hargreaves in the first round, they likely envisioned him stepping up in matchups like this one. Beckham returned to full health last week, which meant the usual circus-catch touchdowns and controversial end-zone celebrations. This one should be filled with a lot of theatrics and more than a big play or two.

Fantasy Football Tip: Buccaneers RB Jacquizz Rodgers

Rodgers hasn’t had much running room in the first two weeks of the season, and its likely that he’ll be coming off the bench again next week once Doug Martin returns from suspension. But he might just be able to go out with a bang, as Philadelphia ran all over the Giants a week ago. Plus a solid running game should help take pressure off Winston.

Betting Tip: Giants (-3)

An 0-3 team giving three points on the road to a 1-1 team that won nine games a year ago. It doesn’t make much sense, but the Giants will cover nonetheless.

Prediction: New York Giants 26-21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Giants should get off the mat in this one, taking advantage of a Tampa Bay defense that’s hurting pretty badly.

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