Facing the Patriots defense right now is a tougher challenge than going against Tom Brady.
John Schmeelk: Fact – This is close because Tom Brady is a scary player to have to prepare for. He might be the best quarterback of all-time. With that said, the Patriots defense has been historically good this season.
New England has allowed only six runs of 10 yards or more, which is the best in the league. Opponents are averaging 4.07 yards per play, which is best in the league. The Patriots have 24 sacks, the most in the NFL. The Patriots have 12 takeaways, tied for the most in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 44.0, 0 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 54.2% completion rate. The Patriots have faced Colt McCoy, Luke Falk, Josh Rosen, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Allen, which likely inflates their stats a bit. I don't care. Their defense is scary and the bigger challenge.
Dan Salomone: Fiction – Not so fast. This is Tom Brady we're talking about. The Giants have allowed 24 passes of 20+ yards this season, most in the NFL, to Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, Jameis Winston, Dwayne Haskins and Kirk Cousins. The Patriots offense has 23 such plays this season, third-most in the league.
Lance Medow: Fact – Here's how good the Patriots defense has been thus far. It ranks number one in the NFL in total defense (238 yards), pass defense (160 yards), scoring defense (just four points per game), 3rd down defense (opponents converting just 13% of the time), sacks (24) and takeaways (12). If those numbers aren't impressive enough, here's how opposing quarterbacks have fared against the New England defense: 97/179 (54%), 0 TDs, 11 INT (2 pick 6). I rest my case.
Golden Tate is the X-factor for the Giants on Thursday night.
Schmeelk: Fiction – The X-Factor is Daniel Jones. He has to play well and beyond his years if the Giants want to beat the Patriots. With the struggles of the Giants defense, Tom Brady is going to put up some points and Jones is going to have to hang with him. He will be dealing with an extremely talented defense that is well coached and can look completely different from week to week. For the second straight week, Jones will be facing the best defense he has ever seen. It will be fun to see how he does.
Salomone: Fact – In addition to the quarterback, the Giants' healthy skill players are largely inexperienced, and they're going into a Thursday night game in Foxborough against an undefeated Patriots team for their first primetime game of the season. Tate, in his second game back from suspension, can steady the group. He is a 100-game starter and a Super Bowl champion. Additionally, he has averaged 16.4 yards per catch in three career games against the Patriots and has a reception of at least 25 yards in each of them with longs of 51 and 42 yards.
Medow: Fiction – With Sterling Shepard sidelined due to a concussion, it's easy to turn to Golden Tate as the answer here, but given how stingy the Patriots' pass defense has been, the X-factor will be the offensive line/run game. The Giants will need to find a way to run the ball consistently, milk the clock and wear down New England. When you play the Patriots, more often than not, the best way to contain Tom Brady is to keep him off the field and the way you do that is with the ground attack.
Daniel Jones will have his most active game running the ball.
Schmeelk: Fiction – No one is better at taking things away than Bill Belichick. He loves to blitz five and play man to man, which could take away any rushing lanes for Jones if Belichick spies the quarterback or assigns the fifth rusher to him. Belichick surely saw how the Vikings took away Jones' rushing ability last week and how it hurt his ability to convert on third down. I think he does the same thing and makes the Giants receivers beat his talented secondary down the field.
Salomone: Fact – Pat Shurmur used the entire village in the ground game last week. Two running backs, a wide receiver, a tight end, a fullback and, of course, a quarterback each had at least one carry vs. Minnesota. With Wayne Gallman dealing with a concussion and Saquon Barkley working back from his ankle injury, it could be that way again in New England. The Patriots own the best third down defense, which means the Giants need to stay ahead of the chains on first and second downs. Look for Jones to do so with his legs at times, whether it's a designed run or improvisation.
Medow: Fiction – Daniel Jones is always a threat to run the ball, as we saw through his first three starts, but the Giants aren't looking to expose him to additional hits. Despite the injuries at running back, the Giants will likely lean on Jon Hilliman and Eli Penny to do the heavy lifting. In their first five games of the season, the most mobile quarterback the Patriots faced was Buffalo's Josh Allen and he only ran five times for 26 yards. It wouldn't surprise me if New England takes a page out of Minnesota's playbook and has a linebacker shadow Jones.
The Giants' top priority is winning the turnover differential.
Schmeelk: Fact – It has to be. The Patriots lead the league with a +7 turnover differential through five weeks, and the Giants are -5, which is the second worst mark in the league. When playing an extremely well coached and talented team like the Patriots, it is almost impossible to lose the turnover battle and win the game. The Patriots do have five turnovers, three interceptions and two fumbles lost. The Giants will have to take it away and protect it on offense to have a chance to win.
Salomone: Fact – I'm looking at this more from the angle of needing takeaways as opposed to avoiding turnovers. You need game-changers on defense in games like this. Look at the Giants' last trip to Gillette Stadium, a 24-20 victory in 2011. Mathias Kiwanuka intercepted Tom Brady on the first play of the second quarter, and Deon Grant had a pick right after halftime. You have to do something above and beyond at a venue where the quarterback owns a 130-20 record.
Medow: Fact – The Giants are going to need to find a way to change field position and the best way to accomplish that is through special teams and takeaways. However, that's easier said than done. New England is tied for first in the NFL with a turnover differential of +7, while the Giants are on the opposite end of the spectrum at -5 (T-29th). The Giants also have yet to win the turnover battle this season, though they've tied in that category in each of the last two games.
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