After a shootout in New Orleans didn’t go the New York Giants’ way, they’ll look to regain their footing versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Bucs are a rebuilding team for sure, but they aren’t to be taken too lightly. Considering that they are 3-4 on the season and upset the Atlanta Falcons on the road recently, Tampa Bay is coming into this game hot and the Giants are coming in cold. Who will win Sunday? Stay tuned for Overtime’s comprehensive game preview.
The Tampa Bay Bucs made a splash earlier this year with their selection of Jameis Winston from nearby Florida State University first overall in the draft. Winston has been predictably sheltered this year, but when he has thrown the ball he has been good enough. An 85.6 passer rating, 1,648 yards, and a 10-7 TD-INT rate may not seem like superb statistics, but considering his rookie status, the Bucs will certainly take it. Winston has also scored 2 rushing touchdowns. For the Giants, Eli Manning is having arguably the best year of his career in year 1 of his 4 year, $84 million contract. Eli boasts a 99.9 passer rating, 2,126 yards and a 66% completion rate to go nicely with his league-best 17-4 TD-INT rate. With Winston still a bit precocious in the pocket, Manning’s Giants have a big edge.
For the Bucs, it’s all about Doug Martin once again. After Martin had a stellar rookie campaign in 2012, Martin had two down years before returning to prominence in 2015. Martin is a small 5’9″, but has shiftiness on his side and is a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. His main backup is power back Charles Sims. The Giants don’t have a weapon like Doug Martin but do have something the Bucs don’t: depth. While the Bucs only feature two running backs and their quarterback Winston as rushing threats, the Giants can roll with any of Rashad Jennings, Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen, or Andre Williams depending on the game’s flow and context. New York’s depth and Tampa Bay’s explosiveness make for an even rushing attack.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
While it may seem like the Giants don’t have any receiving depth, just take a look at the Buccaneers’ roster and stats and you’ll feel much better about Big Blue’s wideouts. While the Bucs have big Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson as bona fide number 1 receivers, Jackson is injured and there is no one behind them. Seriously. The Bucs’ next wide receiver on the depth chart has 5 receptions on the season. And with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins questionable for Sunday, the Bucs will be even more limited in the passing game. But it’s not all joy on the Giants’ side either. While Odell Beckham Jr. is having another outstanding season (50 catches for 654 yards and 7 touchdowns) and Rueben Randle has been serviceable (31 catches for 384 yards and 2 scores), the absence of Victor Cruz hurts the Giants’ depth. Dwayne Harris has stepped up in a big way (3 touchdowns), and with Larry Donnell likely out, undrafted rookie Will Tye will have to play a large role come Sunday. Both teams are hobbled, but the Giants have just a bit more depth than the Buccaneers.
The Bucs last year had the worst offensive line in the entire NFL, but it has improved so far this year. Rookie left tackle Donovan Smith has been up and down, quite similar to the Giants’ Ereck Flowers. On the interior, ex-Patriots Pro Bowler Logan Mankins, Evan Smith, and Ali Marpet are a solid tandem when healthy, again much like the Giants’ interior of Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz. And at right tackle, the Bucs have 6’8″ beast of a man Gosder Cherilus while the Giants counter with career backup Marshall Newhouse. Overall, the Giants’ and Buccaneers’ O-Lines look similar, and both have bright futures.
For the first time all year, it has quite possible that the Giants will be able to deploy pass-rushing monster Jason Pierre-Paul. It would be fitting if he came back in Tampa Bay, only an hour or so away from his offseason home in South Florida where his NFL career almost ended. If JPP returns, the Giants have a guy who instantly makes their D-Line respectable. Robert Ayers Jr. and Kerry Wynn will also play large roles in stopping the run and getting after the quarterback, as will interior linemen Jonathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, and Jay Bromley. The Bucs are able to get at the quarterback themselves though. Gerald McCoy is the quintessential pass rushing DT in the middle (5.0 sacks), and teammates Jacquies Smith (5.0), Howard Jones (3.0), and Henry Melton (1.0) have combined for 8.0 sacks. The Bucs also like to blitz with their linebackers, which could make for a tough day for Eli Manning.
It’s becoming quite obvious that the Giants can’t depend on MIKE linebacker and captain Jon Beason anymore. While he is a gamer and has talent to burn, he simply cannot make it through a game healthy anymore; he will likely miss his second straight game and fourth of the season. In his stead, Devon Kennard and Uani ‘Unga will be the every down linebackers; they have performed well this season. J.T. Thomas III and Jonathan Casillas are the speedy nickel linebackers. The Buccaneers depend heavily on star LaVonte David. David has 58 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble so far this year, leading the Bucs. Rookie Kwon Alexander is the middle linebacker and Danny Lansanah is the SAM. Each of the Bucs’ linebackers has a sack on the year. The Giants don’t have the LaVonte David-type playmaker among their linebackers, which hurts them here.
Neither the Buccaneers nor the Giants have a top-notch secondary, as evidenced by their high points per game against totals. The Giants’ shutdown CB is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, he has 3 interceptions and has stopped the run well for a corner. Prince Amukamara could be back this week; the Giants desperately need his return to rejuvenate the flimsy secondary. If he can’t go, Jayron Hosley, Trumaine McBride, and Trevin Wade will be counted on heavily, which could get ugly. Safeties Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather stop the run well but have been susceptible to large gains through the air. The Bucs counter with their own weak secondary. Alterraun Verner has not played up to expectations in his second season with the Bucs and veteran Charles “Peanut” Tillman is running out of gas. Mike Jenkins and Jonathan Banks are relatively unknown corners that the Bucs count on heavily. Safeties Bradley McDougald and Chris Conte have a high number of tackles but no interceptions; look for the Giants to try to go over the top on Sunday.
Edge: Giants (ever so slightly)
The Giants finally have strong special teams that are worth writing about. Between electric return man Dwayne Harris, solid coverage units, and the ultra-consistent kicking tandem of kicker Josh Brown, punter Brad Wing, and snapper Zak DeOssie, the Giants have special teams that others envy (for once). But the Bucs are a good special teams squad as well. Kicker Connor Barth hasn’t missed a kick in his return to Tampa Bay, rookie punter Jacob Schum doesn’t have a touchback yet and has nailed 30% of his kicks inside the 20, and Rutgers graduate Andrew DePaola is a mainstay on special teams. Return man Bobby Rainey is dangerous, as he is averaging almost 30 yards per kickoff return and 12.8 on punts. The Giants will have to watch out for Rainey on Sunday.
This is a game that the Giants simply should win. The Bucs are a bad football team and they shouldn’t present much of a challenge to a team with such stars as the Giants. Still, the Giants have a tendency to cough up games they should win, so they shouldn’t take the Bucs too lightly.
Prediction: 27-17 Giants (Record picking Giants games: 6-2)