EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will look to duplicate their Week 3 success of a year ago when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in Raymond James Stadium. In 2018, the 0-2 Giants traveled to Houston and earned their first victory of the season, 27-22.
The Giants have again lost their first two games and will try to get in the win column in rookie quarterback Daniel Jones' first NFL start. The Giants and Bucs will meet for the third year in row. In 2017, a last-play 34-yard field goal field goal by Nick Folk left the Giants with a 25-23 defeat in Tampa.
Last Nov. 18 in MetLife Stadium, Eli Manning completed 17 of 18 passes and Saquon Barkley scored three touchdowns – two rushing, one receiving - in a 38-35 Giants victory. The Giants lead the all-time series, 14-7, and are 1-0 in postseason play vs. Tampa Bay.
What is the Buccaneers' biggest strength?
A defense that has ben rejuvenated under new coordinator Todd Bowles, the former Jets head coach who is transitioning the unit to a 3-4. Bowles was a coordinator under new coach Bruce Arians in Arizona from 2013-15. Tampa Bay allowed just one offensive touchdown in its first two games (one victory) after finishing 31st in scoring defense last season, when it allowed 29 points a game. The Bucs have focused on acquiring defensive players in recent drafts, and that strategy is beginning to pay off. Standouts such as nose tackle Vita Vea, a former first-round choice, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and a pair of rookies – linebacker Devin White (this year's first rounder) and safety Mike Edwards – provide strength at all levels. The Bucs also have Ndamukong Suh, who is still disruptive at 32.
Get to know the Giants' Week 3 opponent
Which player is key to the Buccaneers' offense?
Tampa Bay's success – or lack thereof – often reflects quarterback Jameis Winston's performance. In the opener against San Francisco, two of his three interceptions were returned for touchdowns and the Bucs lost – by two touchdowns. In Thursday night's game at Carolina, Winston completed 16 of 25 passes, did not throw a pick, and the Bucs won a division road game. When the Bucs faced the Giants last season, Winston relieved Ryan Fitzpatrick with the Bucs trailing, 24-7, and almost pulled the game out. He led Tampa Bay on four consecutive touchdown drives and the Giants didn't secure their 38-35 victory until Winston was intercepted with 13 seconds left. Winston remained the starter and threw 13 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in the last seven games.
What is the strength of the Buccaneers' offense?
An outstanding group of skill players for Winston to connect with. Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans has outstanding deep receiving skills and strength and averaged 17.7 yards on his 86 catches last season. Third-year pro Chris Godwin is a dependable and physical slot receiver who leads the team with 11 receptions, including both of the Bucs' touchdown catches. Free agent acquisition Breshad Perriman has impressive straight-line speed and averaged 21.3 yards on 16 catches last season. Tampa Bay also has one of the NFL's top tight end combos in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, a favorite red zone target who had 20 touchdown catches the previous three seasons. Peyton Barber is a physical back who does his best work between the tackles. He rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown vs. the Giants last year.
Which player is key to the Buccaneers' defense?
It would be White, the outstanding linebacker selected fifth overall in the draft, just ahead of Jones. But he sprained his knee vs. the Panthers and might not play. So, we'll choose another backer, Shaquil Barrett, a free agent pickup from Denver. He is the Buccaneers' most disruptive edge player and has all four of the team's sacks, which is the league's second-highest total. He had three sacks last week vs. the Panthers and yesterday was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Barrett also leads the team with nine pressures.
What is the strength of the Buccaneers' defense?
A front seven that has been the catalyst in holding their first two opponents to 68.5 rushing yards per game. Vea is a massive space eater in the middle of the line who makes life miserable for opposing centers. Linebacker Lavonte David is a productive veteran. The Bucs lost defensive line standouts Gerald McCoy (now with Carolina) and former Giant Jason Pierre-Paul, who was injured in an auto accident, but are more dominant up front in Bowles' defense.
Which player is key to the Buccaneers' special teams?
Tampa Bay doesn't have a standout special teamer but is solid in all special teams. Bradley Pinion is a dependable punter and Matt Gay is a promising rookie kicker. Return specialists Bobo Wilson (punt) and T.J. Logan (kickoff) are capable of long runbacks.
Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?
Find a way to successfully run the ball against a defense that is tied for sixth in the league against the rush. The Giants will likely want to reduce the pressure on Jones to win the game by giving plenty of work to Saquon Barkley and try to gain chunks of yardage and take time off the clock on the ground. But that could be difficult, because last week the Bucs surrendered only 39 rushing yards at Carolina, including 37 on 16 carries by Christian McCaffrey, a second-team All-Pro last season.
Statistics you should know:
*The Buccaneers will have plenty of incentive to put on a good show in Tampa, because they won't play there again until Nov. 10. In the interim, they will play road games against the Rams, Saints, Titans and Seahawks, a game in London vs. the Panthers in which they will be the home team and have their bye.
*In his 57 career games, Winston has an NFL-high 76 turnovers, 58 interceptions and 18 fumbles lost.
*Evans can join Hall of Famer Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history to finish with 1,000 or more receiving yards in each of their first six seasons.
*The Bucs' defense has not allowed a touchdown in six red zone trips this season. They join New England and Green Bay as the only teams that have not given up a touchdown from inside the 20-yard line. The Packers and Patriots have a combined five defensive red zone possessions.