EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will face one of their most daunting challenges this season on Thursday night, when they visit the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.
A loss last week to Minnesota dropped the Giants to 2-3, while the Patriots improved to 5-0 with a 33-7 rout of the Redskins in Washington. The Patriots lead the regular-season series, 6-4, including a 27-26 victory in their most recent meeting on Nov. 15, 2015. But the Giants defeated them in Super Bowls XLII (17-14) and XLVI (21-17).
What is the Patriots' biggest strength?
A defense that might be historically good. The unit returns nine starters from Super Bowl LIII and has more than 50 years of combined experience. The defense is stocked with numerous versatile, hybrid players at each level that allow the Patriots to disguise personnel and morph into different looks with the same people. New England ranks first in the NFL in nine significant statistical categories, including scoring defense (6.8 points allowed a game), total yardage (238.4 a game) and first downs allowed (13.2 per game). The Patriots' 34 total points allowed are the fewest points through a team's first five games since the 2005 Indianapolis Colts (29 points) and the fifth-fewest since 1970. One caveat: Four of their opponents – Pittsburgh, Miami, the Jets and Washington – have combined for one win and rank 29th, 31st, 32nd and 28th in the NFL in total offense. Twelfth-ranked Buffalo is an outlier, and the Bills are 26th in scoring.
Which player is key to the Patriots' offense?
Let's see, their quarterback has enjoyed some success in the league. Six Super Bowl victories in nine appearances, second on the NFL career list in touchdown passes (527) and third in passing yards (71,923). Name's Tom Brady. And he's still at the top of his game in his 20th season at age 42. Brady has the league's quickest release, he throws an accurate deep ball and spreads the ball around; 10 different receivers caught a pass in Washington. Brady quickly processes the defense, makes flawless checks at the line of scrimmage, and has rare vision and anticipation. No, he's not perfect – in the last two games he threw two red zone interceptions – but he is in total command.
What is the strength of the Patriots' offense?
The play-action pass, which Brady executes as well as anyone. When the opposing defense must be mindful of the Sony Michel and the rushing attack, Brady will fake a handoff and slice up the opposition. His go-to receiver is Julian Edelman, the MVP of Super Bowl LIII, who leads the Pats with 29 catches for 336 yards. Because Rob Gronkowski retired, Brady no longer has his security blanket at tight end. The starter there is former Giant Matt LaCosse, who has three receptions. And Phillip Dorsett, who has a team-high three touchdown catches, hurt his hamstring last week and won't play. But Brady will find someone to throw to, including the always-dangerous Josh Gordon.
Which player is key to the Patriots' defense?
Safety Devin McCourty, who has spent his entire 10-year career with the Patriots. The AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September, he leads the NFL with four interceptions (linebacker Jamie Collins is second with three, including one he returned 69 yards for a touchdown. No one else in the league has more than two). McCourty has tremendous instincts and anticipation and he is a reliable defender at the back of the defense. His twin brother Jason is the Patriots' left cornerback.
What is the strength of the Patriots' defense?
New England is the best in the NFL at getting off the field on third down. After Washington concerted just one of 11 opportunities last week, Patriots opponents are eight-for-63 this season. That's 12.7%, which is far and away the league's best. Dallas is second at 26.2%. The Giants will need to produce on first and second down to stay on the field.
Keep an eye on these five players when the Giants face the Patriots on Thursday Night Football.
Which player is key to the Patriots' special teams?
Rookie Jake Bailey is the first full-time right-footed punter New England has had in Bill Belichick's 20 seasons as coach. The Pats' last righty punter was Todd Sauerbrun in 2006 – for two games. Bailey's 43.4-yard net average is 10th in the league, and 12 of his 28 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line.
Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?
Pressure Bready as they did in their two Super Bowl victories, when they sacked him a total of seven times and hit him 13 times. If the Giants can get to him early and make him uncomfortable in the pocket, perhaps they can get him out of rhythm. As noted above, the Giants' best chance offensively is to produce on early downs.
Statistics you should know:
*The Patriots have won 18 consecutive home games, including three in the playoffs, since their last loss on Oct. 1, 2017 to Carolina.
*With 18 passing yards against the Giants, Brady will surpass Peyton Manning (71,940) for second place on the all-time list.
*The Patriots' defense this season has allowed two touchdowns and scored two. The other two touchdowns given up by the team were on an interception return and a muffed punt vs. the Jets.
*Michel rushed for a season-high 91 yards and a touchdown in Washington, improving the Patriots' record to 11-0 when he scores a touchdown.
*New England's plus-seven turnover differential ties it with Green Bay for the league's best The Giants are at minus-five.
*The Patriots are 96-1 when leading at halftime in the regular season in Gillette Stadium.
Giants vs. Patriots Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream.