After a tough loss in the season opener to the Dallas Cowboys, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants seek to bounce back with a big win at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants enter the game as 7.5-point favorites, but the Bucs are not a team to be overlooked.
With former quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan now calling the shots as Tampa’s offensive coordinator, the Giants must be wary of any knowledge he may have handed over to head coach Greg Schiano and that Bucs defense The Giants are aware of that, however, as Tom Coughlin noted to reporters this week, and will come prepared.
Of course, the Giants will have a pretty good understanding of the Bucs offense as well, and the Bucs’ defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan, is no stranger either to Big Blue—he worked as a linebackers coach from 2005-2008, then defensive coordinator in 2009.
Ultimately, it will be the players on the field who decide the outcome, and this matchup has the potential to be a very entertaining game from start to finish. The Buccaneers are abundant in young talent capable of putting on a dominant show. Tampa Bay is riding high off an impressive 16-10 divisional win against the Carolina Panthers and will look to keep that momentum going as they roll into MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Here are 5 players the Giants must contain should they hope to come out victorious against the Buccaneers and their familiar coaching staff:
1. Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson
Of course, the third-year quarterback could be a lethal factor in the passing game against the Giants’ banged up secondary. Freeman did not have a very big game against the Panthers, but he was efficient, finishing the game with a 95.5 passer rating.
Against the Giants, however, the pass game should be a larger focus, if only to set up the run game. Playing opposite a defense struggling as much as New York’s, it will be vital that Freeman finds a way to connect with Vincent Jackson often and utilize his size and speed to their advantage. The Giants’ secondary is in shambles right now, and even a mediocre passing attack could be successful exposing its huge holes.
2. Doug Martin, RB
Perhaps what was more surprising in the Giants’ Week 1 loss to the Cowboys was just how terrible their run defense was. The Giants were unable to slow down the fierce rushing ability of DeMarco Murray, allowing the Cowboys back to carry the football 20 times for 131 yards (6.6 yards per carry).
Martin is coming off a game in which he had similar success, tallying 95 yards and 24 carries behind a young, but exceptional offensive line. The rookie running back is similar to Murray in some regards, featuring a well-balanced combination of power and speed when carrying the football.
The Giants will need to buckle down in an attempt to stuff the run and force the Buccaneers to be one-dimensional. If they can, the Bucs will be forced to pass the football—a positive when considering the shape the Giants’ secondary is in, but a negative when factoring in that formidable pass rush.
3. Michael Bennett, DE
You can expect Michael Bennett to continue to be a key contributor in Bill Sheridan’s defensive scheme, in which he has already recorded one sack on the season. Coming into a game against one of the NFL’s most questionable offensive lines, Bennett could be in line to add another to his young resume.
Bennett will likely line up opposite struggling right tackle David Diehl, an advantage in itself for the fourth-year defensive end. Diehl has become something of a subway turnstile on the right side of a battered and broken Giants offensive line in desperate need of help. There’s no reason to expect Sheridan, Bennett and the Bucs defense will not try to expose such a weakness for the Giants.
4. Ronde Barber, FS
It would be much to the pleasure of twin brother Tiki should Ronde Barber be able to have a big game against the Giants in New York. Barber, who is playing free safety after 15 seasons as a cornerback for the Buccaneers, could be a threat on throws down the field—he has tallied 44 interceptions in his NFL career.
He has never picked a pass off in two meetings with Eli Manning and the Giants, but Manning loves to take a few chances down the field every game and the ball hawk Barber should find himself in position to make a play on the football. Barber may be too old to play cornerback anymore, but his presence continues to be felt on defense and could prove to be a key factor in Sunday’s game. Manning and the Giants offense would be wise not to underestimate Barber’s capabilities at his new position.