On Sunday, the Giants take on the Buccaneers, who enter the week at 3-6. Based solely on yardage, Tampa Bay has one of the best offenses, but also one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Here's what the Giants should be ready for:
When The Buccaneers Have The Ball…
The Spotlight: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick started the first four games of the season before being replaced by Jameis Winston after the latter returned from suspension. When Winston struggled with turnovers, Fitzpatrick returned to the starting lineup.
Fitzpatrick is a dangerous quarterback. He processes quickly and knows where to go with the ball. He is more than willing to throw the ball down the field into small windows, regardless of risk. He doesn't have the strongest or most accurate arm but gets it where it needs to go. He picks up big chunks of yardage and has been very productive in moving the Bucs offense up and down the field.
The flip side of that aggression and confidence is mistakes. Often times, Fitzpatrick will try to put the ball where there is no space. His missed throws often lead to turnovers. He has nine interceptions and four fumbles in seven games this season.
Fitzpatrick isn't overly fast, but he is mobile enough to escape the rush and run for yards when the pocket breaks down. He will hold the football to try to make plays down the field, and will give opposing pass rushers opportunities to get to him if they can curtail his movement. Pressure will cause him to force risky throws.
Inside the Numbers: Fitzpatrick is averaging the fourth-most passing yards per game (314.1) of any quarterback in the league. He has 8 passes of 40 yards or more, tied for sixth most in the league, despite only playing 24 quarters of football. His 33 passes of 20 or more yards is tied for ninth most in the league.
He has confidence in his arm and in his ability to get the ball down field and he has confidence in his receivers to catch the ball, any kind of ball he throws, so when you have that, it’s just kind of throw it up there and see what happens. Safety Landon Collins
The Matchup: Wide Receiver Mike Evans vs Cornerback Janoris Jenkins
At 6-5 and 231 pounds, Evans is one of the most physical receivers in the NFL. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he uses his big frame and enormous catch radius to be an effective player. He is a big downfield target that the Bucs will go to often. He leads the team in targets with 81.
Tampa Bay will run him on a lot of deep in and out cuts, and on posts in the middle of the field. He will run double moves to get deep down the field off those routes. He is also a consistent target on back shoulder throws. His stature provides the Giants defense a big challenge in the middle of the field, an area where they have struggled this season. Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins typically does well against physical receivers, and he will have a chance to prove it again on Sunday.
Inside the Numbers: Evans has 50 catches for 837 yards and four touchdowns this season, but only has four catches for 67 yards in his last two games. So far, Evans has seven catches on 16 targets on passes that travel 20 yards or more in the air for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Evans does struggle with drops from time to time, and Pro Football Focus has him with five in his nine games this season.
Buccaneers Schemes and Tendencies
• The Bucs feature a dynamic down field passing attack. Whether in play action (which they use often) or straight drop backs, they will spread the field horizontally and vertically with go routes, posts, fades, and deep in or out cuts. The Bucs challenge opposing cornerbacks and safeties to cover on an every down basis and any mistakes could mean a big play.
Inside the Numbers: The Buccaneers are averaging more passing yards per game than any team in the NFL. Only two teams have more than Tampa's 44 completions of 20 or more yards, which explains why the Bucs are so good converting third and long situations. They are 5thbest in the NFL converting third downs of 10+ yards (26.5%), and 7thin the league on third downs of greater than six yards (31%).
• Their receivers have a good mix of skill sets. Evans possesses the physical size of the group. DeSean Jackson still has top perimeter speed. He will run posts and go routes, as well as stops and hitches to keep defenses honest. Jackson is averaging an absurd 21 yards per reception. Adam Humphries has emerged as a solid slot option on short and intermediate routes. Chris Godwin has had a bit of a breakout year with 483 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The Bucs might have the deepest receiver group in the NFL.
• In his second season, O.J. Howard has proven to be a top tight end in the league. He only has 29 catches but is averaging nearly 17 yards per catch for 487 receiving yards and five touchdowns. His yards per catch is second highest on the team after Jackson. His size (6-6, 251 pounds) and speed make him a dangerous threat on all levels of the defense in the middle of the field. He'll run down the seam and across the field to get separation from defenders. He also has the ability to break tackles for long runs after the catch. The Bucs also use their fair share of 12 personnel, bringing in Cameron Brate, another good tight end, to play along with Howard.
Two perimeter receivers who are extremely talented, (DeSean) Jackson and (Mike) Evans, a great tandem of guys, really complement each other’s skillsets. One guy can take the top off and get on top of you, the other guy is a very aggressive, powerful, sure-handed big receiver. Then at the tight end position, two guys that are really talented in (O.J.) Howard and (Cameron) Brate, and it’s going to be a great challenge for our guys. Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher
• With so many deep passes in their game plan, the offensive line is often asked to protect on five and seven-step drops. Left guard Ali Marpet and right tackle Demar Dotson have been their strongest protectors. Left tackle Donovan Smith has improved this year and according to Pro Football, he has allowed four sacks and five quarterback hits this season.
Inside the Numbers: Dotson is having a Pro Bowl caliber season as a pass blocker. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed just one sack and one quarterback hit in 459 pass block snaps.
• The Bucs running game has been anemic for most of the season, averaging just 91.6 rushing yards per game and 3.8 rushing yards per play. Both numbers place the Bucs in the bottom four of the league. Peyton Barber is their primary early down back with Jacquizz Rodgers coming in on third downs. Rodgers has some lateral quickness to his to game to make people miss in space. Barber can catch the ball and is more of a downhill back. They will incorporate read-options in their run game, with Fitzpatrick as a threat to keep it. Ronald Jones, their rookie second round pick, is their speed guy but has been out with a hamstring injury.
• Coach Dirk Koetter took over play-calling last week from Todd Monken, and the offense moved the ball just as well as in prior weeks. Koetter said he wanted to call plays because he thought it was important to get the running game going against the Redskins to keep the defense off the field. He did not say whether he would call plays versus the Giants. The offense moved the ball with 501 yards of offense but only scored three points due to red zone problems. The Bucs scored no touchdowns in five red zone trips, which included two turnovers.
Inside the Numbers: Despite leading the NFL in yards per game, the Bucs are only 12thin scoring at 25.8 points per game. Why? The Bucs are only converting 54% of their red zone possessions into touchdowns, ranking 21stin the NFL. The Bucs have six red zone giveaways this year, more than any other NFL team. Overall, the Buccaneers lead the league with 25 turnovers, five more than the next worst team. Their defense has only six takeaways, second fewest in the league. Their -19 turnover ratio is the worst in the NFL.
You take what you know. I wouldn’t say chances, but different route concepts that you know that they’ve run and know you can get a key in on, yeah you take your chance then. Other than just keep taking chances, no. You get beat then. Giants safety Landon Collins on whether he will take more chances given the Bucs propensity for turnovers
Keys for the Giants Defense
1. Pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick
2. Prevent Big Plays
3. Get Takeaways
When the Giants Have The Ball…
The Spotlight: Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
Gerald McCoy's production has taken a bit of a step back so far this season, but he is still one of the most disruptive defensive tackles in football. At 6-4 and 300 pounds, he still has a quick first step to get to the quarterback and the strength to support in the run game. He will mostly line up as a three technique in Tampa's defense.
He has been more consistent in the run game than he has been getting after the quarterback this season. He injured his calf against the Falcons in Week Six and missed two games, returning in Week 9. The Bucs will rotate him on and off the field in an attempt to keep him fresh. Will Hernandez and Jamon Brown will have their hands full.
Inside the Numbers: The NFL credits McCoy with just three sacks this season, but Pro Football Focus has him with four to go along with seven quarterback hits and seven more hurries. He only has 13 combined tackles, which would put him on pace for a career low, not counting the season he only played six games.
The Matchup: Defensive End Jason Pierre Paul vs LT Nate Solder
Jason Pierre-Paul leads the Buccaneers with eight sacks, giving him only .5 sack fewer than he had all last season for the Giants. The Bucs have moved him back to right defensive end on most downs, though he will move inside in passing situations with Carl Nassib has taking his spot at right end.
JPP has won this year by using his length with power more than he has with speed trying to bend the edge.
Inside the Numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, to go along with his eight sacks, JPP has six quarterback hits and 13 hurries in 326 pass rush snaps.
here’s plenty of people with length. I think it’s the quality of the player. He can move great, he understands football, he plays really well, he has great ability, absolutely. He’s playing well. He’s got tremendous talent and ability. He plays within the system. They’re putting him in a place to be successful. He can run around guys, he can run through guys, he’s got both of those qualities. Giants left tackle Nate Solder
Bucs Scheme and Tendencies
• The Bucs are into their second defensive coordinator of the year, having replaced Mike Smith with linebackers coach Mark Duffner on October 15. They run a traditional 4-3 defense with four down linemen and three linebackers. With all their struggles, the Bucs have tried a number of different coverage concepts, rotating between single and two high safety looks and between zone and man defense. Nothing much has worked for them this year as they search for answers on that side of the ball. I think the Giants will see more two high safety looks this week than they have seen in quite some time.
Inside the Numbers: The Bucs' struggles on defense start on first down. The 6.68 yards they allow on first down is tops in the NFL. Their pass defense has been a big source of the problem, allowing a 128.7 opposing quarterback rating, the highest in football. Sixty-two (62) percent of opponents' passes on first down have gone for four or more yards, the second-highest rate in the league.
• The Buccaneers will blitz but that usually puts them in man to man situations, where they have struggled to cover opposing wide receivers. When the Bucs blitz, opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 131.89, the highest in the NFL versus the blitz. Given the talent of the Giants skill position players, it would be extremely risky for the Bucs to blitz often on Sunday.
• Lavonte David, the Bucs weakside linebacker, is a three down player and the best player in their back seven. He can stop the run and cover. He's a run and hit linebacker at 6-1 and 233 pounds, and if the Giants want Saquon Barkley to have a big day, they are going to have to figure out a way to get him blocked.
• Aside from veteran cornerback Brent Grimes, the Buccaneers have gone young at cornerback this season, giving a ton of snaps to two rookie second round picks, Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart. Davis and Grimes are their outside cornerbacks with Stewart taking most of his snaps in the slot. 2017 second round pick Justin Evans plays free safety next to either rookie 4th round pick Jordan Whitehead or 2016 undrafted free agent Isaiah Johnson. With so much youth in the secondary, it has been a struggle to cover consistently, whether in man or zone defense, and the group has been susceptible to big plays all season.
Inside the Numbers: Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 134.0 on passes that travel 21 or more yards in the air, the highest in football. Only one other team in the NFL has given up more than the Bucs' 48 plays of 20 yards or more.
• Aside from Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre Paul, the Bucs have not gotten consistent production up front. Rookie Vita Vea, a gigantic nose tackle, has only three tackles and one sack. According to Pro Football Focus, free agent addition Vinny Curry has just two sacks and three quarterback hits, while waiver wire pickup Carl Nassib has four sacks and one quarterback hit.
Inside the Numbers: Here are some general numbers that should have Giants offensive players salivating. The Bucs have allowed 32.3 points per game, the most in the NFL. They have allowed teams to score touchdowns in the red zone 87.5% (!!!!) of the time, the worst rate in the NFL. Their 6.45 yards allowed per play is better than just two other NFL teams. Their one interception is the fewest by any team in the NFL. No team has allowed more than Tampa Bay's 35 touchdown drives. The Giants offense should be licking their chops.
Keys For Giants Offense
1. Protect the QB
2. Throw the ball down the field
3. Score in the Red Zone
5 players to look to make an impact on Sunday