Every week is a game of chess in the NFL, but what happens when both sides know each other's moves?
We'll find out Sunday.
For an interconference matchup, Giants (4-7) vs. Dolphins (5-7) will be as familiar as any divisional battle that occurs at least twice per season. It starts at the top. Joe Judge and Brian Flores came up through the ranks together in New England, and the connection permeates their respective staffs.
"I think some of the tightest relationships you have in this business are the relationships you have when you're broke, grinding with somebody," Judge said. "Brian came into this league the same as I did in kind of a bottom of the totem pole type of position. We were given the opportunity to work and had the opportunity to work our way up. He certainly did that and I had the opportunity as well to do that. I think it's when you're kind of grinding through those long hours and stressful times and going through some adversity together is when you really form strong bonds with people."
Judge admitted that he roots for Flores and other past colleagues outside of the conference … but not this weekend. Here are three things the Giants need to do for a victory in Miami:
Handle the pressure
Flores, who spent his final eight seasons with the Patriots coaching defense and was the team's defensive play-caller for their 2018 championship run, has a mindset of blitz, blitz, and then blitz some more. They are averaging four sacks and only 11.5 points allowed over their current four-game winning streak. With backup Mike Glennon taking the snaps in place of the injured Daniel Jones, the Giants must be prepared for the pressure.
"We used to joke a lot all the time – we'd call offense and defense against each other at New England at different times and Flo was always going heavy with the pressure and we would kind of laugh about it," Judge said. "[Current Giants quarterbacks coach] Jerry Schuplinski would always kind of poke at him and say, 'Alright Flo, when you're in charge, you better be calling all those blitz zeroes then, too.' We were laughing about it the other day like, he sure is. That's just kind of his personality and what he believes in."
Keep forcing turnovers
The Giants have at least one takeaway in 13 consecutive games dating back to last season, tying them with the Indianapolis Colts for the NFL's longest active streak. If the Giants get an interception Sunday in Miami, they will have their first nine-game streak since 2000. The takeaways are the tip of the iceberg of the Giants' surge on defense. The Giants allowed 29.5 points, 401.3 yards, and 1.3 takeaways per game over their 1-5 start to the season. Since Week 7, the Giants have averaged 15.2 points and 335.6 yards allowed as they won three of their past five games.
Don't give them the "option"
Second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ranks second among qualifying passers with a 70.5 completion percentage this season (Kyler Murray leads with 72.7). He has been getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers, namely rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who leads Miami with 77 receptions (fifth in NFL) for 759 yards this season. The Dolphins have 552 yards after catch during their four-game winning streak, the sixth-most in the league during that span.
"They're using that RPO [run-pass option] game of really kind of creating one-on-one matchups and getting that thing going," Judge said. "Waddle's obviously an explosive athlete and they've got a relationship in the past, as well. But, he's really getting the ball in the hands of the guys who can make plays for them. You saw some explosive plays from Waddle the other day in the game against Carolina. Really, talking about Tua specifically though, his decision-making as a young quarterback in the league, you see him every week just gaining more experience, getting more comfortable, playing more aggressive. The decision-making, the accuracy, just distributing the ball around the field has been very good."
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins