The Buccaneers’ offense will be a tougher challenge than their defense on Sunday.
John Schmeelk: Fiction – This is really close because I do worry about their very talented wide receiver corps. How the Giants cover Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will be a key in this game. With that said, the Buccaneers defense has played far better than the offense so far this season. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has turned the struggling unit around with a blitz heavy (highest percentage in the league) and man-to-man approach. Given the Giants will be starting a rookie quarterback, handling those pressures will be of the utmost importance. The Bucs also have one of the best run defenses, allowing only 2.69 yards per rush play (2nd best in the NFL). Second-year player Vita Vea is a massive fixture in the middle of the defense, which held Christian McCaffrey to only 37 rushing and 16 receiving yards last week.
Dan Salomone: Fact – Jameis Winston has thrown the more interceptions than any other quarterback since he came into the league, but in that span he is also averaging 259 yards per game, the same as Aaron Rodgers. Winston also tends to do well against the Giants. He nearly led the Buccaneers to a comeback victory in last year’s meeting, scoring touchdowns on four consecutive drives after taking over for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the third quarter.
Lance Medow: Fiction – Like the Bills, I think the Bucs’ defense is extremely underrated. Through the first two games, Tampa Bay has surrendered just one touchdown and has yet to allow an opponent to score in the red zone. New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has orchestrated quite a turnaround for this group, which struggled across the board in 2018. The Bucs have several players they rotate up front, including Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, William Gholston and Beau Allen, along with a versatile group of linebackers led by Shaq Barrett, who already has four sacks. Tampa’s offense includes a handful of playmakers, highlighted by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in the passing game, and the Giants defense is still finding its footing, but the edge goes to the Tampa Bay defense because of how stingy it has been thus far.
Daniel Jones will have more than five rushing attempts in his NFL debut.
Schmeelk: Fiction – Daniel Jones’ mobility is not going to transform the Giants offense into something no one recognizes. In his preseason snaps, Jones had no rushing attempts and didn’t complete one pass outside the pocket. It is true that he is more mobile than Eli Manning, but he is still a pocket passer. I don’t foresee many designed runs, so the only way he gets above five is if he runs out of pressure. Jones, however, is someone that will look to throw off of scrambles rather than run it. This will ultimately come down to game flow and how much the Giants have to pass based on the score of the game.
Salomone: Fact – For various reasons, the youth movement at quarterback continues around the NFL. And what gets an inexperienced signal-caller out of a jam? His feet. Jones rushed for 17 touchdowns in his Duke career, and the Giants won’t shy away from using those skills to provide a spark for the team. Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is also blitzing more than anyone this season, so there will be some lanes for Jones to take off if he can avoid the initial pressure.
Medow: Fiction – While Daniel Jones brings a mobile skillset to the table, I don’t think Pat Shurmur wants to expose him to unnecessary hits in his debut. That’s why I’d be surprised if he has more than five rushing attempts, plus the Giants have a pretty dangerous runner in Saquon Barkley. If Jones has more than five rushing attempts, it won’t be by design but more because of looks the defense presents.
Saquon Barkley will have more yards receiving than rushing vs. Tampa.
Schmeelk: Fact – The Bucs rushing defense is excellent, and given how much man defense they play, I think it is time to unleash Saquon Barkley as a mismatch receiving threat. They can use him on routes out of the backfield, but I think they would be better off motioning him into the slot or out wide to expose mismatches against opposing linebackers or safeties. The Bucs rush defense is excellent, and Bowles will instruct his players to stop Barkley on the ground at all costs. They won’t be able to through the air.
Salomone: Fact – Barkley is a 16-year veteran quarterback’s best friend, so you can imagine what he means to a rookie. Barkley has yet to catch more than four passes in a game this season, and I think that changes on Sunday as a safety valve in Jones’ first start.
Medow: Fiction – Last Thursday night, the Bucs faced Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey and did a nice job keeping him in check, limiting him to just 53 total yards on 18 touches. He finished with more rushing yards (37) than receiving yards (16) and part of the reason for that is because Tampa Bay, like Buffalo, is very effective in batting balls at the line of scrimmage and defending screens. In the first two games of the season, Saquon Barkley has had more yards on the ground than through the air. I don’t see that trend ending Sunday.
The Giants will force their first turnover of the season in Week 3.
Schmeelk: Fact – Jameis Winston still hasn’t solved his turnover problems. He already has two fumbles and three interceptions. There have been three other passes that have hit defenders in the hands that they haven’t caught. The Bucs downfield passing game will have Winston holding the ball a long time in the pocket, and with the Bucs struggling offensive tackles (LT Donovan Smith and RT Demar Dotson), the Giants should have the opportunity to get to him. Winston can make awe-inspiring throws one moment, and then unthinkable ones the next. The Giants hope there will be more of the latter on Sunday.
Salomone: Fact – Winston is dangerous, but he is also prone to turnovers. Like I mentioned before, his 61 interceptions are the most in the NFL since 2015. As a team, Tampa Bay has 121 turnovers in that span, second-most behind the Cleveland Browns. The Giants get on the board in Week 3.
Medow: Fiction – I’m going with the fiction sweep. Last week, the Giants faced one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in Josh Allen, who coughed up the football four times the previous week, and wound up with no takeaways. They are once again facing a quarterback who has had issues with protecting the ball. Jameis Winston had three passes intercepted in Week 1 but none last Thursday night against the Panthers. While it may be an attractive matchup given Winston’s turnover problems, until the Giants’ defense or special teams make those opportunistic plays, it’s hard to predict that they’ll come through this week.