The Giants take on the 5-0 Patriots on Thursday night on a short week. New England has the second highest point differential (+121) through five games since 1970. They have been dominant against the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, Bills and Redskins. Here's what the Giants need to prepare for.
When the Patriots Have The Ball
The Spotlight: Quarterback Tom Brady
Tom Brady is 42 years old, and while he might not be as physically gifted as he was a decade ago, he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He is accurate and gets the ball out quickly. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he averages 2.37 seconds from snap until pass attempt or sack, which is the third fastest time of quarterbacks with more than 100 attempts.
Brady dominates the middle of the field. According to PFF, he is 16 of 21 for 274 yards on passes between the numbers that travel between 10 and 20 yards. He has also thrown the deep ball well this season, completing 7 of 16 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns on passes that travel 20 yards or more yards in the air.
Pressuring Brady is one of the only ways to slow him down. According to PFF, he is only 15 of 50 for 229 yards when pressured. Despite those numbers, blitzing Brady is risky business. Against the blitz, he has completed 34 of 63 passes for 538 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception. Mostly due to the fact he gets rid of the ball so quickly, Brady has only been pressured on 24% of his dropbacks, the fifth lowest rate in the league.
Quotebook -- Giants Linebacker Alec Ogletree: "He's a guy who's seen everything you could throw at him. He's obviously done it longer than most anybody on our team, and for us, it's just about executing, and they do a good job of doing that—executing, not making mistakes. We have to do the same, not make mistakes, be where we need to be, have great eyes, and play well."
The Matchup: Wide Receiver Julian Edelman
Edelman continues to be Brady's most consistent wide receiver. His quickness makes him nearly impossible to cover man to man in the slot, where he lines up 54% of the time. When he does set up inside, it will be Grant Haley's responsibility to cover him. After facing Minnesota's Adam Thielen last week and Trey Quinn of Washington the week prior, Edelman will be another challenge for Haley.
It is difficult to play man to man on Edelman, who the Patriots will run rub routes for to free him on crossers over the middle. It will be important for Giants defensive backs to tackle better than they did last week, and limit yards after the catch. Edelman has 123 yards after the catch, according to PFF. The Patriots use Edelman, once a college quarterback, on trick plays to throw the football.
Schemes and Tendencies
*The Patriots' other primary receiver is Josh Gordon, who they use as more of a traditional downfield threat. He is 6-3 and 225 pounds and averaging 14.7 yards per reception. Phillip Dorsett had emerged as the team's third wide receiver, but he is dealing with a hamstring injury and probably won't play. It will most likely be rookie Jakobi Meyers who would step in for Dorsett. Meyers is 6-2 and has four catches for 66 yards. If teams play zone, Brady will dink and dunk them up and down the field. The Patriots have 23 passes of 20 or more yards, which is the third most in the NFL.
*The Patriots are dealing with injuries on the offensive line. Starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn is on injured reserve with a toe injury, which has forced former Giants offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse into his role. According to PFF, Newhouse has allowed six hurries, three quarterback hits and two sacks in four games. Left guard Joe Thuney is the Patriots' best offensive lineman. He hasn't allowed a sack or quarterback hit all year.
*Known for great tight end play with Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have turned to former Giant Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo at the position. They have combined for seven catches and 138 yards. The Patriots have used a fullback on more than 100 snaps this season, splitting them between James Develin and Jakob Johnson.
*The Patriots still like to throw to their running backs. James White has the second most catches on the team with 22, despite only playing in four games. They like to run their running backs on wheel routes down the sideline after creating mismatches with opposing linebackers. Brandon Bolden caught a 29-yard touchdown on a wheel route against the Redskins last week.
*Sony Michel leads the Patriots running backs in snaps with 137 and rushing attempts with 78. He is only averaging 3.36 yards per carry. White has only 14 rushes, but he has played the second most snaps with 112. Rex Burkhead has 110 snaps, and has 24 carries for 112 yards. The Patriots run the ball 41% of the time, which is about the league average, but most of those rushes come in the second half when they have big leads. In the first half, they are running only 34% of the time, which is the seventh lowest rate in the league.
Keys For The Giants Defense
1. Force Brady to hold the ball by covering in the secondary
2. Pressure Brady with four guys
3. Tackle well to prevent yards after the catch
When the Giants Have the Ball
The Spotlight: Linebacker Jamie Collins Sr.
The Patriots are better than every other team in the league at understanding their players' strengths. Collins is a perfect example of that. They've used him as a blitzer on 56 snaps this season, and he has accumulated 4.5 sacks, a quarterback hit and five hurries. Collins also has three interceptions and plays the run well. He is an aggressive and freakishly athletic player. He'll be seen all over the field on Thursday night and the Giants are going to have to account for him.
The Matchup: Edge Rusher Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy will line up over right tackle Mike Remmers for most of the game, where he has accumulated three sacks, three quarterback hits and 12 hurries, according to PFF. He is the Patriots best pass rusher off the edge, and Remmers keeping him under control will be a huge key to the Giants success on offense. He rushes with a relentless effort that helps him work his way to the quarterback.
Schemes and Tendenies
*In addition to Collins and Van Noy, the Patriots rush the passer by committee. According to PFF, Michael Bennett has 2.5 sacks and a quarterback hit. Monstrous defensive tackle Danny Shelton has two sacks and a quarterback hit. Rookie edge rusher Chase Winovich has four sacks on just 74 pass rushing snaps. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower has two sacks. Edge rusher John Simon has two sacks and defensive lineman Adam Butler has 2.5.
*According to PFF, the Patriots have blitzed 67 times this year, tied for ninth most in the league. They pressure the opposing quarterback on 38% of dropbacks, the 10th highest rate in the league. When they blitz, opposing quarterbacks have a 44.1 passer rating, the best number in the league. No one has used stunts more than the Patriots to create pressure, using them on 95 of their pass rushing snaps. Between the Patriots blitzes and stunts, it will be essential for the Giants offensive line to communicate with one another. The Patriots lead the NFL in sacks with 24.
*The Patriots have one of the best secondaries in the league. They play man more than 60% of the time, with cover-one (single high safety and man to man) being deployed about half the time. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is their top cornerback and is often charged with playing the opponent's top receiver. He has allowed 18 completions on 34 targets for 239 yards, but he has not allowed a touchdown. Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson are the other cornerbacks.
*Safeties Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung rotate snaps in the back end and have five interceptions between them. McCourty has four. The Patriots are tied for the NFL lead in takeaways with 12. According to Next Gen Stats, on deep passes that travel 20 or more yards down the field, opponents have more interceptions (4) than completions (3).
Quotebook -- Head Coach Pat Shurmur: "They have all of the elements of what makes for a dominating defense. They're very sturdy against the run. When you drop back to pass, they get pressure, whether they're rushing with four or they choose to pressure. Then in the backend, they can play man-to-man coverage or in the case of zone, they do a good job of eliminating the big play. They have all of those elements, and that's why they've had success."
*The Patriots have played some struggling quarterbacks this season, but their defensive statistics are still staggering. They've allowed only six runs of 10 or more yards, the fewest in the league. Opponents are only averaging 4.07 yards per play, which is the lowest average in the league.
*The Patriots lead the NFL in third down defense, holding opponents to an absurd 12.7% conversion rate. On third downs of six yards or more, opponents are converting only 9.3% of their tries, best in the league. On third down and fewer than four yards, teams are converting only 23% of the time, which ranks second best in the league.
*It is difficult to predict what the Patriots will do on any given week because Bill Belichick alters his game plan based on the opponent. It will be interesting to see what he perceives to be the weaknesses of the Giants offense and how he tries to exploit them.
*Rookie quarterbacks are 0-11 in Foxboro during the Bill Belichick era.
Keys For The Giants Offense
1. Protect Daniel Jones
2. Protect the football
3. Have success on third downs
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