EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Odell Beckham Jr. is similar to millions of American football fans: he has conflicted feelings about the New England Patriots. He both admires and loathes the team and its achievements and championships.
"On one end, you respect everything they've done, and what they do year in and year out as far as being one of the top teams in the league and they get the job done and they win championships, the way they conduct themselves," Beckham said this week. "But on the other end, they've beaten all the teams I like. I remember seeing (Adam) Vinatieri kick a million field goals … (Tom) Brady beating the Rams, everybody. It's just been one of those teams like you hate them, because nobody was really beating them. And you love them because they're always, no matter what they go through, even after what they've gone through this year, to see how they've come out and they play football, it's something about it I admire. But like I said, it's still one of my least favorite-favorite teams of all time."
Beckham and his divergent emotions will confront the Patriots face-to-face for the first time on Sunday, when the Giants host New England in MetLife Stadium. The current edition of the Patriots is no different than any other. At 8-0, the defending Super Bowl champions are admired by everyone, loved by their fans, and loathed by those weary of seeing them at the top of the standings.
As always, Beckham will be the opposing defense's object of attention. The gifted receiver leads the Giants in catches (59, sixth in the NFL), receiving yards (759, fourth), and receiving touchdowns (seven, tied for first). This time, however, the architect of the defense trying to stifle Beckham is Bill Belichick, universally recognized as one of the finest defensive coaches in history.
This week, Belichick has been effusive – for him – in his praise of Beckham. At his Friday news conference in Foxboro, he was asked this question about the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year: "With the spectacular catches he's made, do you tell your guys that although he's under six-feet tall, he still plays like he's 6-5?"
Belichick delivered a detailed response.
"Yeah, absolutely, Beckham plays big," Belichick said. "He's not a big guy, but he plays big. He's tough. He plays bigger than guys that are taller and weigh a lot more than he does, but he's a tough guy, he competes for the ball, he's hard to tackle, and he plays like he's 6-5. He's got a great catching radius, great ball skills. His ability to get the balls and catch them is better than a lot of receivers that are probably six inches taller than him. Look, we try to evaluate every player's skills. Are the players aware of it? Sure."
And Beckham and the Giants are aware that the opposition will attempt to blanket Beckham, as it does every week.
"He's faced a bunch of those coverages designed to take him away," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's faced a lot of those. This is a team that is diversified in some of the ways that they go about it. But it will be a job for all of us recognition-wise, and then what we're going to do to adjust to it. We've done a pretty good job of moving him around and lining him up in a lot of spots, so hopefully that will help."
"I don't know what they're going to do, to be honest," Beckham said. "We go off of the film and what they do. You can see kind of what they did to (the Jets' Brandon) Marshall and the other receivers, as far as the doubling goes. You've seen them line up two guys over one guy as if you're about to run down on a punt. So you honestly don't know until you get out there on Sunday and you could fully see it firsthand."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the New England Patriots this Sunday
Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is mindful of not falling into the trap some teams find, of forgoing what they do best in an attempt to match up with what the Patriots are doing defensively. So he will neither force the ball to Beckham, nor ignore him.
"They seem to give some talented players some extra attention," McAdoo said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see that on Sunday. We'll see how it unfolds. I imagine they'll change it up as the game goes on and, based on their tendencies, try to change up who they're paying attention to.
"(We will) just come out and play our game and we can't chase anything. We have to let the game come to us. We have to have some patience with it. He'll have an opportunity during the course of the game at some point, and if you play with poise and take advantage of the opportunity when your number is called, that's all you can do."
Beckham hasn't had a spectacular catch this season to rival his peerless one-hander last season against Dallas – who has? – but he is one of the league's most productive and dangerous receivers. McAdoo is determined to see that remain true.
"He's being productive," McAdoo said. "He's having a productive year. He's getting a ton of targets, a lot of opportunities. I talk to Odell and I talk to Eli (Manning), you know we're throwing him the ball a bunch. But I'd like to see that completion percentage go up (it's currently at 65.9 percent). It's not high enough.
"It's going to be hard and challenging to get him the ball as the season goes on, and each and every week is going to be a challenge. He's going to get a lot of attention and rightfully so. We're going to have to cash in and be detailed with it and focus on the details and get our completion percentage up."
It's a challenge that Beckham relishes – especially this week.
"There's no better way I could ever really picture this," Beckham said. "Going into the league, you get to do all these things and this is one of those ones that's at the top of the list is playing against the Patriots and Belichick and Brady and everything that they have there. It's definitely exciting."
Playmakers on Patriot's first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike