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10 things to watch for against the Patriots




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They meet as often as the United States elects presidents, but the Giants (5-4) and Patriots (8-0) are still seen as close rivals. That largely stems from the Big Blue's thrilling victories over New England in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, the reasons why Bill Belichick has four rings instead of six as the Patriots' head coach. The Giants, who have won three-straight games in the series, are the only NFL team the reigning Super Bowl champions have not defeated since 2008. But history doesn't score points or make tackles. Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium presents a whole new set of challenges as the Giants look to head into their bye week on a high note.

"I think for our team playing against their team, a very, very good team, it's exciting," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Let's face it, accomplished is the right word, but also remember, they are undefeated. In this day and age, being undefeated at this point of the season is quite an accomplishment in itself. We know the quality of the team. Excitement is a good word for us, energy in the room kind of thing, is a very positive thing for us. We simply have to take care of our process, our production, better than we've ever done it before. That's really what the challenge is for our players, both in the classroom and on the field."


Good things happen when Coughlin and the Giants play the AFC East. The last two times it came up in 2007 and 2011, the Giants went on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Since taking over the team in 2004, Coughlin is 10-1 against the AFC East, including playoffs. The only loss came in the 2007 regular-season finale when the Giants took the Patriots to the brink of ending their perfect season but ultimately lost 38-35.


Eli Manning and Tom Brady are just getting better with age. Both franchise quarterbacks are on pace for career seasons. If they keep it up, Manning would finish with 4,158 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, while Brady would have 5,418 yards, 44 touchdowns, and four interceptions.


It's no secret: make Brady uncomfortable and you'll be successful. The Giants, who are last in the NFL with nine sacks, are getting Jason Pierre-Paul back up to speed at the right time. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end played extensively in his 2015 debut last week in Tampa Bay, recording two tackles and two quarterback hits. While he's knocking rust off, though, the Giants have to replace starting defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who suffered a torn pec while forcing a tackle against the Buccaneers. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve.


Out: CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Larry Donnell (neck), LB J.T. Thomas III (ankle), LB Uani 'Unga (neck).

Questionable: CB Leon McFadden (groin).

Probable: LG Justin Pugh (illness), RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle).


Out: OL Marcus Cannon (toe), LB Jamie Collins (illness), OL Tre' Jackson (knee), OL Sebastian Vollmer (concussion).

Questionable: CB Justin Coleman (hand), WR Keshawn Martin (hamstring), OL Shaq Mason (knee), DE Jabaal Sheard (ankle).

Probable: WR Julian Edelman (knee), DB Duron Harmon (knee).


A matchup nightmare, tight end Rob Gronkowski has 68 receptions for 693 yards and seven touchdowns through eight games this season. While defenses are focused on the 6-foot-6, 265-pound All-Pro, receivers like Julian Edelman (57 catches, 639 yards, seven touchdowns) and Danny Amendola (30 catches, 324 yards, two touchdowns) make their living.

"Just sheer size makes it tough," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said of Gronkowski. "We don't have anybody with that kind of size, a lot of teams don't. We're thinking about borrowing some of our tight ends that are as big as him, put them up there. But no, you've got to fight in different, other ways. Try to get him at the line of scrimmage and put three guys on him, I don't know. Find a way to take him away, he's pretty good."


Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the New England Patriots this Sunday

Running back Dion Lewis, New England's second-leading rusher and third-leading receiver, suffered a torn ACL last week and is out for the season. That means LeGarrette Blount, a 6-foot, 250-pound downhill runner, will now carry the bulk of the load in the ground game.

"A lot of power runs with him," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "It's going to be a big difference without them having Dion Lewis in there. But LeGarrette Blount is a pretty good back, and his style is a lot different than what Lewis' was. So I expect them to come out and try to run a lot of power, straight, downhill runs with him, and this is his style and that's what he does well."


With middle linebacker and defensive captain Jon Beason on injured reserve, Devon Kennard took over on-field communication and relayed the signals from the sideline to the huddle in Tampa Bay. Along with Jasper Brinkley and Jonathan Casillas, all three linebackers are stepping up to fill the void left by Beason. Brinkley led the team last week with seven tackles (five solo) while recording both a forced fumble and fumble recovery.


The Giants aim for their fourth consecutive game with a return touchdown and fifth with at least two takeaways. Big Blue is currently in first place in the NFC East largely due to leading the NFL in both takeaways (21) and turnover differential (plus-12).

Playmakers on Patriot's first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

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