DABOLL'S RETURN TO BUFFALO
When the NFL first released the 2023 schedule back in May, many people immediately circled the Week 6 primetime matchup between the Giants and Bills as one to watch. Of course, this will be the first trip back to Buffalo for head coach Brian Daboll, general manager Joe Schoen and many other members of the team. Daboll served as the offensive coordinator for the Bills from 2018-21, while Schoen was Buffalo's assistant general manager from 2017-21.
"Look, it's the next game," Daboll said Monday about returning to Buffalo. "Been in this league a long time, played against a lot of different teams that I've worked for or players that I've coached. Tremendous amount of respect for the Buffalo Bills organization, (Bills Owner/CEO/President) Terry Pegula, (Bills General Manager) Brandon Beane, (Bills Head Coach) Sean McDermott, all their coaches and players. But our focus is always on us, first and foremost, getting ready to play a game. They're a really good team. So, we'll have our work cut out for us."
The connections with the Bills run deeper than the two top decision-makers. The other Giants coaches who previously worked in Buffalo include director of coaching operations Laura Young (2015-21), inside linebackers coach John Egorugwu (2017-20), offensive line coach Bobby Johnson (2010-11, 2019-21) and quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney (2018-21). Additionally, quarterback Tyrod Taylor (2015-17), wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins (2020-22), running back Matt Breida (2021), cornerback Nick McCloud (2021) and outside linebacker Boogie Basham (2021-22) all previously called Buffalo home, as well.
"It's an electric environment," the head coach said about playing in Orchard Park. "They'll be going all day, getting ready for the game. It's loud. It's an unbelievable atmosphere. It's hard to hear. Been on the other side of it, too, when I was with the Patriots, the Dolphins and the Jets. And they have a fantastic team. You know they are one of the only two teams that are top five in points on offense and defense, the other team being San Francisco, so they are a great team, and their fans will be ready, they are loud. It's a loud environment."
The New York Giants take on the Buffalo Bills in Highmark Stadium for their fourth primetime matchup of the season on Sunday, Oct. 15. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
The Giants look to tie the regular-season series with the Bills, holding a 6-7 record in 13 contests. The teams have also met once in the postseason, when the Giants defeated Buffalo, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV. The Bills won the most recent meeting, 28-14, on Sept. 15, 2019 in MetLife Stadium.
The Giants have won their last three games in Buffalo in 1999, 2007 and 2015. They last played in Buffalo on Oct. 4, 2015, when QB Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes in a 24-10 Giants victory.
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 6 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Out: QB Daniel Jones (neck), OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle), OT Matt Peart (shoulder), C John Michael Schmitz (shoulder), LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring)
Questionable: RB Saquon Barkley (ankle), RB Gary Brightwell (ankle), DL D.J. Davidson (knee), OL Shane Lemieux (groin), ILB Micah McFadden (ankle), OT Evan Neal (ankle), TE Darren Waller (groin)
Questionable: CB Dane Jackson (foot), TE Dalton Kincaid (concussion), TE Dawson Knox (wrist)
GIANTS CONFIDENT IN TYROD
Starting quarterback Daniel Jones has been ruled out for Week 6, which means Tyrod Taylor will start Sunday night. After filling in last week once Jones departed with a neck injury, Taylor completed nine of 12 passes (75 percent) for 86 yards and a 94.4 passer rating. The veteran quarterback also added three rushing attempts for an additional 14 yards.
Taylor has yet to start a game for the Giants, but the 34-year-old has plenty of experience in that department from his previous stops, including his time with the Bills. Taylor spent three seasons as Buffalo's starter from 2015-17 and led the team to a 23-20 record in his starts. During that time, he completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 8,857 yards, 51 touchdowns and 16 interceptions along with 1,575 yards and 14 scores on the ground. Taylor last started a game as a member of the Houston Texans back in 2021.
"Tyrod has a done great job since he's been here," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. "He's a veteran guy, like you said. I have a lot of confidence in him and all the guys on our offense really to go out there and execute… Tyrod is a veteran player. He controls the huddle. I think he does a great job of, obviously, getting the ball out. He can make plays outside the pocket as well. He's done that his whole career."
"Tyrod's a pro," Daboll added. "He comes out every day and approaches it the right way in the backup situation, but he always approaches it as if he's the starter, so he's had a good week, he's prepared well but he does that every week."
Additionally, the Giants elevated quarterback Tommy DeVito from the practice squad for the Week 6 matchup. DeVito will serve as Taylor's backup in Buffalo.
The Bills' defense has played well against the pass this year, ranking eighth in yards and third in touchdowns allowed. Additionally, their eight interceptions are tied for the most in the NFL. However, the Bills lost No. 1 cornerback Tre'Davious White to a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 4 and have seen its pass defense take a hit ever since. After averaging 142.3 passing yards allowed per game in the first three weeks, Buffalo is allowing an average of 264.5 passing yards in the last two games.
LATEST ON SAQUON
The Giants have been without starting running back Saquon Barkley for the last three games, so it should not come as a surprise that the run game has taken a bit of a hit during that stretch. In the last three weeks, Giants running backs Matt Breida, Eric Gray and Gary Brightwell have combined for just 107 yards on 47 carries, an average of 2.3 yards per carry. Prior to injuring his ankle, Barkley took 29 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown while adding nine receptions for 41 yards and an additional score.
Barkley was a limited participant in practice all week. While his ankle is improving, he was not ready to commit to playing when speaking to the media Thursday. Barkley is listed as questionable on the final injury report.
"I feel like I'm trending every week," the running back said. "I felt better last Wednesday and last Thursday, this Thursday, Wednesday, than last Wednesday and Thursday. But when you have injuries, sometimes it takes time. Like I said, just been listening to the trainers, coming in here and try to do everything I can, and taking it day by day...
"It sucks, because as a competitor, you want to be out there. It's not like more of the mindset of I want to be out there, it's going to change something. More of the mindset of just seeing your guys fight and you can do nothing about it. It's hard to lead. It's hard to have a presence when you're on a sideline in a hat and a hoodie in street clothes. So, I think it's important for me to get back out there, especially where we are at in the season, and I feel like I can make an impact and hopefully I'm able to show that."
Buffalo has struggled against the run this year. The Bills rank 30th in yards and 31st in touchdowns allowed on the ground, and have surrendered an average of 169 rushing yards over the last two outings.
WHERE DO THINGS STAND WITH THE O-LINE?
No position group has been hit with more injuries this season than the offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Thomas has missed four consecutive games due to a hamstring injury, while starting center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder) and backup guard Shane Lemieux (groin) were also sidelined for Sunday's game in Miami. To make matters worse, starting right guard Marcus McKethan was forced out of the Week 5 contest because of a knee injury and was unable to return. This thrust practice squad call-up Jalen Mayfield into a prominent role (45 snaps) against the Dolphins.
It remains to be seen which linemen will be able to suit up for Sunday's game in Buffalo. Thomas, Schmitz and Matt Peart (shoulder) were ruled out Friday after being unable to get on the practice field all week. Lemieux and Evan Neal (ankle) are both listed as questionable, while McKethan was not listed on the final injury report.
The Giants signed Mayfield to the active roster on Saturday and elevated Justin Pugh from the practice squad.
"You want all your players out there but next man up mentality, so we've got to do a good job of coaching it and we've got to do a good job of executing," Daboll said about the injuries along the offensive line.
Through the first five weeks of the season, the Giants have allowed a league-high 30 sacks, as they have surrendered a sack on 15.3 percent of quarterback dropbacks. Against the Dolphins, the line allowed 28 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
PUGH BECOMING FAMILIAR WITH THE OFFENSE
The Giants brought back a familiar face last week when they signed offensive lineman Justin Pugh to the practice squad. The veteran lineman was a first-round pick of the Giants back in 2013 and spent his first five seasons with the franchise before playing the next five years with the Arizona Cardinals.
Pugh tore his ACL during Week 6 of last season and has been working his way back ever since. The 33-year-old has been with the team for just over a week now, and on Saturday, the team elevated the veteran from the practice squad for the matchup against the Bills.
"He'll do more than he did last week, so we'll try to get him involved," Daboll said about Pugh. "He took some reps the last practice and we'll get him some more reps today... We'll get him out here and see what he can do this week. He'll obviously do a lot more than he did last week. We were ramping him up and see how he does."
"Justin has done a nice job stepping in here in the last week or so and trying to get familiarity as much as he can with the offense," Kafka added. "He's a good worker. I know he's had a little bit of a past here, so he has some familiarity with the organization, he's been great to talk with and one of those veteran guys that you look at that has played in some games."
The Giants also added veteran tackle Yodny Cajuste to the practice squad.
"We've got to get him out here and see where he's at," the head coach added about Cajuste. "Anything's on the table relative to what happens or transpires the next couple of days with the guys that are not practicing."
OKEREKE 'STARTING TO REALLY TAKE OFF'
Inside linebacker Bobby Okereke is starting to become the anchor in the middle of the defense. After totaling five tackles in the season opener, Okereke has seen his production increase each week. In the four games since, the veteran linebacker has averaged over nine tackles per game, including double-digit tackles in each of the last two outings. The defense also picked up their first two interceptions of the season against the Dolphins, both of which Okereke was largely responsible for. He recorded an interception himself, his first since 2021, and tipped another pass by Tua Tagovailoa, which resulted in safety Jason Pinnock's 102-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"I just think that he is seeing things better as the middle linebacker," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said Thursday. "He's put in the extra work. He's doubled down on playing well, and doing what he has to do to play well. I love his leadership, his communication skills. He's really on the cusp of starting to really take off. And he's been good anyway. I'm just saying he's playing better. You're seeing more plays; you're seeing him coming downhill and hitting people down in the redzone and things like that. It's really starting to show out."
Okereke has also been consistent against the run, picking up 15 defensive stops this season, including four in each of the last two games. The defense will need another strong performance from the veteran linebacker Sunday night against the Bills.
BREAKING DOWN JOSH ALLEN
Despite picking up their second loss of the season in Week 5, the Bills have been one of the most well-rounded teams in the league this year. Their offense enters this matchup ranking third in points and fourth in yards, and the biggest reason for those rankings has been the performance of Josh Allen. The sixth-year quarterback leads the NFL with his 73.1 completion percentage to go with 1,407 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions, good for a passer rating of 105.6.
"Josh Allen is an unbelievable player, one of the best in the league," Daboll told reporters. "You can put him in probably any offense and he's going to produce. You know, I missed him as a person, we are close, but as a player, he's a heck of a player. Put on any tape, he's exceptional at everything. He can run, but he can throw it and he can throw it wherever he needs to throw it, 80 yards down the field, drop a dime, on the move to the right put it back across his body, scramble, back up, scramble around, throw it out, throw it on time...
"He's a special player. He's one of the best in the league. And he makes you better as a playcaller, too, so he's one of a kind."
Allen has also continued to be a force on the ground, adding 120 rushing yards on 20 carries (6.0 avg.) and three additional scores. Allen has lead the Bills' offense to an average of 35.8 points per game over their last four outings.
"(Quarterback Dan) Marino's arm, (running back Derrick) Henry's legs, and Curry's mindset, Steph Curry's mindset," Martindale said when asked to describe Allen. "He thinks he can hit it anywhere on the court, and that's the same way Josh is. He's just an unbelievably elite quarterback in finding extra time to hit the open receiver in tight windows, and he's got one of the strongest arms in the league."
SCOUTING THE REST OF THE BILLS
The biggest benefactor of Allen's success has been No. 1 wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The veteran receiver ranks among the league leaders in numerous categories with his 39 receptions for 520 yards and five touchdowns. His 520 yards puts him on pace to break his previous career-best of 1,535 yards set in 2020, his first year in Buffalo.
"He's like those guys that sell a lot of jerseys," Martindale told the media. "I mean, you can talk about all of them, as far as the guys who want the ball in game-winning situations, and he's one of those guys. He makes a lot of plays, has great hands, runs routes, sometimes runs his own routes. I've talked to the defense about plaster coverage because the combination of those two with Josh and Diggs, I mean, it turns into, like, when you're growing up playing football at recess. The play breaks down and you've got to defend the second play, the third play, and like I said, Josh is elite at avoiding the rush, buying time, and he can put the ball wherever he wants."
Gabe Davis is second on the team with 18 receptions for 320 yards and four touchdowns, and has found the end zone in each of the last four games. Buffalo has two talented tight ends in Dawson Knox and rookie Dalton Kincaid, but both are currently dealing with injuries.
James Cook has recorded the most rushing attempts on the team with 61, which he has taken for 292 yards and a touchdown. Cook has also caught 14 passes for another 140 yards. However, the Bills like to use multiple backs as both Latavius Murray and Damien Harris have combined for 41 carries for 176 yards (4.3 avg.) and three touchdowns.
Despite losing cornerback Tre'Davious White (achilles), linebacker Matt Milano (leg) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (pectoral) to likely season-ending injuries over the last two weeks, the Bills still sport the league's No. 5 scoring defense. Buffalo has a league-high with 21 sacks through five games. Defensive end Leonard Floyd leads the way with 5.5, while defensive tackle Ed Oliver is right behind him with four. Defensive ends A.J. Epenesa and Gregory Rousseau have also registered three sacks apiece.
Sean McDermott's defense has also racked up an NFL-leading 13 turnovers, including eight interceptions. Milano, linebacker Terrel Bernard and safety Micah Hyde have picked off two passes each, while cornerback Taron Johnson has forced two fumbles.
Buffalo has allowed a touchdown on just seven of 15 trips inside the red zone (46.7 percent), good for the eighth-best mark in the league.
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills.