Previewing Pats at Giants – Week 10

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We all know the well documented history between the Patriots and Giants.

The Giants have beaten the Pats 3 straight times. Twice in the Super Bowl, and once in a regular season matchup in Week 9 of 2011. No team in the Belichick era has beaten the Pats in four straight games.

Also, Giants coach Tom Coughlin is 5-1 in his coaching career against Bill Belichick, with the best win percentage of any head coach going head-to-head with BB.

Having said that, the Patriots enter the Week 10 showdown as one of two teams in the NFL to rank in the top 10 in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, and total defense (Arizona Cardinals) to go with their 8-0 record.

Let’s take a look at some of the keys to victory for the Patriots:

On Offense

Get Gronk and Edelman Involved: Obviously Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski are always a huge part of the Patriots offense, but last week the Redskins were able to hold the lethal combinations to a respectable 102 receiving yards combined. The Giants give up all sorts of yards through the air (ranked 31st), and just gave up 7 touchdown passes to Drew Brees two weeks ago. The Giants struggle against tight ends and shifty receivers like Edelman. In fact, the Giants have given up the most receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns to slot receivers this season. The middle of the field should be open for Gronk, Edelman, and the Pats.

Who’s Replacing Dion Lewis?: The Giants defense has struggled so far this season, so this is a good place to start life without Dion Lewis. Dion Lewis was such a huge part of what the Pats were doing offensively as I illustrated in my review of the Redskins game. Everyone will be looking to see who gets Lewis’ snaps as the receiving back. Will it be Brandon Bolden or James White? Either guy needs to be able to win matchups against linebackers in coverage.

Protect Brady: This is a key each and every week, but it’s even more so this week with the matchup against the Giants. We all know how the Giants have slowed down the Pats offense in the past, and that is by getting to Brady. Most would tell you that the Giants do it by rushing just four and dropping seven in coverage, and that their talent on the defensive line allows them to get to Brady anyways. The Giants have had very talented defensive lineman, but have also blitzed Brady 13 times a game in their last four matchups. That’s a decent amount. If the Patriots want to avoid losing four in a row to the G Men they will have to keep Brady upright with this banged up offensive line.

On Defense

How Do You Stop OBJ?: The Patriots will face arguably the league’s best receiver on Sunday in Giants standout Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ is on a historic pace in just his second year in the league. He is both the fastest receiver to 150 career receptions and to 2,000 receiving yards. His 19 receiving touchdowns is the fourth most in a player’s first 21 games. So how will the Patriots slow down Beckham? Well, they can go one of two directions illustrated by matchups against elite receivers earlier in the season. In Week 1, the Patriots opted to let top corner Malcolm Butler shadow Antonio Brown, and lived with the consequences (9 rec, 133 yds, TD). This allowed the Patriots to limit the Steelers other receiving options. In Week 7 against the Jets, the Patriots took a different approach. They doubled Jets top wideout Brandon Marshall with Logan Ryan and Devin McCourty over the top, and held Marshall down to one of his lowest outputs of the season. How the Patriots approach slowing down OBJ is the biggest key to this game defensively.

Get To Eli: Since Eli Manning entered the league in 2004, no quarterback in the NFL has thrown more interceptions. Having said that, he has also thrown the fourth most touchdowns in that span, and has the fifth most wins as a starter. Manning has a passer rating of 96.7 his four matchups with Tom Brady and the Pats. His numbers aren’t stellar against the Pats, but he obviously has done enough to win. The Giants offensive line has improved over the past two seasons, but the key to slowing down any elite quarterback is applying pressure. Based on what I’ve seen of this Giants offensive line, the Patriots front can have their way on Sunday.

“Stop The Run, Then Have Some Fun”: Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones was quoted saying the phrase earlier in the week. It’s a great quote, but it’s also a great way to approach each game. The Giants don’t run the ball well (ranked 24th), so making the Giants one dimensional should be a focus on Sunday.