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Fact or Fiction: Predictions for Tampa Bay


The staff debates Big Blue topics heading into Sunday's game:

The Giants will grab their first interception of the season against Jameis Winston.

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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - The Bucs want to push the ball down the field, and they have a quarterback who is not afraid to take chances by squeezing the ball into very tight windows. Jameis Winston threw three interceptions against the Vikings last week. He had zero against the Bears in Week 2, but Chicago had a couple of chances to grab one. If you watched Hard Knocks, Dirk Koetter is trying desperately to get him to be more careful with the football. Was the Vikings game a wakeup call for him or a sign of things to come? Winston takes more chances when he is behind a couple of scores, so getting a lead would help the Giants in this category.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - I wrote about it earlier this week. You don't become the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy and then go on to be the youngest player in NFL history to throw 50 touchdowns without being aggressive. And the Giants want to take advantage of that fact this week with Jameis Winston. The Buccaneers quarterback has thrown 36 interceptions since coming into the league in 2015, tied for the second-most in that span.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -Jameis Winston has thrown at least one interception in four of his last five games and nine total.  Those numbers suggest the Giants will be in position to pick him off at least once.  You could have said the same thing in Week 2 when the Giants played the Lions and Matthew Stafford, who doesn't shy away from airing it out, but that never came to fruition.  Takeaways are fluky.  Yes, you can help create them with an aggressive approach, but more often than not, they are about being in the right place at the right time.  They are also more likely to happen when the opposing quarterback is forced to throw the ball, but that hasn't been the case as the Giants have played from behind in each of their first three games, and all three opponents have been able to lean on their run games.  Dak Prescott, Stafford and Carson Wentz each attempted less than 40 passes with Stafford only throwing the ball 21 times.  Until that trend changes, it's going to be difficult for the interceptions to pile up.

Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are the best receiver duo on the schedule this year.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - There are two other combinations that come close. The Raiders have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and the Broncos have Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. All three sets of receivers have wideouts with contrasting styles, but I think Evans and Jackson are the best pair. Evans is bigger than any of the receivers in the group, and Jackson is the fastest. They are a dynamic pair that won't be easy to cover.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I'm going with Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who both reached 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons despite some moving pieces at quarterback. They will be a tough test in Week 6 on the road on Sunday night.

*LANCE MEDOW: Fact - *The Bucs showcase a great deal of versatility in their receiving corps, primarily because of Mike Evans (6-5) and DeSean Jackson (5-10).  Both receivers present different challenges given their disparity in height and skillsets.  Evans is the tough possession receiver who also has the ability to take you deep, while Jackson's specialty is blazing speed in the vertical game, something the Giants are well aware of having faced Jackson consistently when he was in the NFC East with the Eagles and Redskins.  The Raiders' Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are second on my list, but based on production and experience, I think Evans and Jackson have created some distance between themselves and the rest of the competition.

A look at the expected starters for the Buccaneers on Sunday

The Giants will hold the Buccaneers to less than 100 yards on the ground.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - The Giants are facing another sub-par rushing attack, which is also missing their number one running back in Doug Martin. The Bucs are only averaging 71.5 yards per game, seventh-worst in the NFL. Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims are splitting snaps nearly evenly, even though Rodgers has six times the carries. Rodgers is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. However, he has bounce and can challenge the edges, where the Giants need to clean up a lot of their issues.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -  I'm sure the Giants' front is sick of hearing stats about how the rushing defense is down through the first three weeks. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said tackling was the first thing he talked to his unit about this week, and he didn't really have to go much further than that. It all starts there.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The Bucs ran for 117 yards in their season opener against the Bears but just 26 last week in Minnesota.  Keep in mind, they only ran the ball nine times against the Vikings.  Through the first three weeks of the season, the Giants have the worst run defense in the league, surrendering 153 yards per game.  Entering Week 3, the Eagles were averaging 83 rushing yards per game, yet they managed to pile up 193 against the Giants, so at this point in the year, averages aren't necessarily indicative of what's going to happen in the upcoming game.  Since the Bucs' first game of the season was postponed due to Hurricane Irma, running back Doug Martin still has to serve one more game to complete his four-game suspension dating back to last season.  While Tampa Bay may not have a workhorse like the Eagles, it has a variety of different backs and a mobile quarterback in Jameis Winston, who are more than capable of combining for 100 yards.

The 2014 draft class is the best since Eli Manning's in 2004.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - There are a lot of great names in the 2014 draft class (Jadeveon Clowney, Mike Evans, Khalil Mack, Odell Beckham Jr, Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald and Zack Martin), but I'll take the 2011 class. Look at this list: Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan, Muhammad Wilkerson, Justin Houston, DeMarco Murray and Richard Sherman. Give me 2011, but if the 2014 class continues to improve and do their thing, it will be an interesting conversation to have in a few years. 

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Just look at the names in that class. John mentioned them, so I won't do it again. But, man, 10 of the top 17 picks have made the Pro Bowl. And that was after only three seasons in the league. They are also doing some historic things. Odell Beckham Jr., as we know, just became the fastest in NFL history to 300 receptions. Oakland's Khalil Mack not only is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but he is also the first player to be named first-team All-Pro at two different positions in the same season. Two. That's just incredible.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -For this question I'll focus on the Giants' draft picks only. Five players (Odell Beckham, Weston Richburg, Jay Bromley, Nat Berhe, Devon Kennard) from the 2014 draft class are still on the Giants roster.  While they'll all have opportunities to contribute this season, given some of the injuries a few of the players have had to deal with and limited playing time, I think the jury is still out on this class.  That's why I'm sticking with the 2007 class as the best one since 2004 and it's not just about that team going on to win Super Bowl 42.  It's about the depth and production.  Corner Aaron Ross (first round) went on to become a key member of the secondary and special teams for three of the next four seasons, wide receiver Steve Smith (second round) set a franchise record for receptions in a single season in 2009, long snapper Zak DeOssie (fourth round) is now in his 11th season with the team, tight end Kevin Boss (fifth round) served as a starter for three more seasons before signing with the Raiders, and running back Ahmad Bradshaw (seventh round) helped the team win a pair of Super Bowls and is one of the toughest backs in franchise history.

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