STARTING SECOND HALF STRONG
From Weeks 4-9, each team the Giants played – other than the Chiefs – was at least .500 at kickoff. Big Blue was able to go 3-3 during this stretch, with wins over the Saints, Panthers and Raiders. With eight games remaining on the schedule, only three of the Giants' opponents currently own a record above .500. One of those matchups comes this week in the Buccaneers (6-3).
The Giants faced off against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on a Monday night last season and fell, 25-23. After producing a touchdown with 33 seconds left in the game, Daniel Jones couldn't connect with Dion Lewis on the two-point conversion when a Bucs penalty flag was picked up.
"It's going to be a solid build up for us this week," Coach Joe Judge said on Wednesday. "In terms of starting fast, it all comes down to just the preparation and, individually, it's the execution when you get to the game itself. To me, it's when that ball is kicked off on Monday night, we've got to be ready to go."
Monday will be the 25th overall meeting between the Giants and Buccaneers, and the 24th in the regular season. The teams first met back in 1977, with the Giants traveling to Tampa Bay and defeating the Bucs, 10-0. The one postseason game between the two clubs was in the 2007 NFC Wild Card Game, in which the Giants emerged with the 24-14 win which catapulted their run to a Super Bowl title. This will be the fifth consecutive season that the teams play each other after splitting the first four meetings.
Out: LB Lorenzo Carter (Illness/Ankle), DB Nate Ebner (Knee), DB Logan Ryan (Reserve/COVID-19), WR Sterling Shepard (Quad)
Questionable: RB Saquon Barkley (Ankle), RB Devontae Booker (Hip), FB Cullen Gillaspia (Calf), TE Kaden Smith (Knee)
Out: WR Antonio Brown (Ankle)
Doubtful: NT Vita Vea (Knee)
Questionable: CB Dee Delaney (Ankle/Concussion), TE Rob Gronkowski (Back), DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Ankle)
RETURN OF SAQUON, THOMAS?
The Giants have dealt with a plethora of injuries since the preseason, but it appears as if two of the team's key offensive players could be back on the field for Monday's game. Saquon Barkley and Andrew Thomas returned to practice this week, and while both still have a ways to go before they are cleared, Coach Judge expressed optimism about their chances of playing this week.
"I thought he had a positive day yesterday for us," Judge said before Friday's practice. "I wouldn't say that we've ruled anybody officially in or out but coming off the field yesterday, he had a good day for us."
In terms of Thomas, Judge said "I'd say in terms of movement-wise of being out there and moving around and staying on the field, I'd say seeing him physically go out there and compete does give you more confidence. With that being said, there's going to be some other measuring sticks over the next couple days we'll take a look at."
Barkley injured his ankle during the Week 5 game in Dallas, forcing him to miss the next four games. He has recorded 195 yards on 54 carries with two touchdowns on the year, adding 14 receptions for 130 yards and an additional score. Meanwhile, Thomas was playing well prior to hurting his foot against the Rams in Week 6, as his 76.4 pass block grade from Pro Football Focus ranks 14th among offensive tackles.
DJ'S TIME TO SHINE
Daniel Jones owns a 64.9 completion percentage - more than two points higher than his previous high-mark of 62.5 percent from last year. However, the young QB has thrown a mere eight touchdowns with two additional rushing scores. Jones has thrown for 2,059 yards while rushing for 258 on 50 carries (5.2 avg.).
"I think Daniel has done a good job just progressing in his career throughout the course of time," Judge told the media Monday. "Obviously, you've got to learn from mistakes and as he's made mistakes or had plays he wants to have back, you can't go back in a time machine, so you've just got to go ahead and carry it forward and make sure that you don't repeat those mistakes. He's done a good job of that for us."
Tampa Bay ranks 22nd in passing yards and 27th in passing touchdowns allowed this season. In last week's loss, Washington QB Taylor Heinicke completed over 81 percent of his passes for 256 yards and a touchdown, although he got sacked five times. The Bucs will be without starting corner Richard Sherman, who suffered a calf strain during warmups of last week's game.
"We certainly study the personnel and know who it is, know who the matchups are, the guys you're going against, what they're good at and how they play, so we'll factor that in," Jones said about facing the Bucs defense. "I think when you talk about their defense and who they are as a system and as a scheme, they've got guys who can make plays and they play well together as a group, so we'll certainly prepare for that."
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Monday night matchup against the Buccaneers.
O-LINE MUST STEP UP
Tampa Bay's defense has been getting after the quarterback a lot more in recent weeks. After registering just 12 sacks of their first six games, the Buccaneers pass rush has recorded 10 in the last three games. In last week's loss to Washington, the defense sacked Taylor Heinicke a whopping five times. This came just a few weeks after the unit took down Bears QB Justin Fields four times while forcing fumbles interceptions, two of which the Bucs recovered.
The Giants' offensive line is tied for 14th with 20 sacks allowed. In the Week 9 win over Las Vegas, the unit held the Raiders' talented defensive front to just two sacks. The O-line should benefit from the possible return of Thomas at left tackle, who last appeared in the Week 6 loss to Los Angeles.
"Football starts upfront in the run game and in the pass game," Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett said Thursday. "It's about offensive and defensive linemen. That's what it is. The best teams have built their teams that way. That goes back through history. The game is won on the line of scrimmage. We've had some guys, different combinations of guys playing and it's our job to try to create an environment where they can have some success. Again, I think those guys have embraced it. It applies to the run game. It applies to the pass game and that's what we try to do each week to give ourselves a chance against the team we're playing."
Shaquil Barrett leads the way for the Bucs with 5.5 sacks, followed by Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Ndamukong Suh at 3.0 sacks apiece. Jason Pierre-Paul has 2.5 sacks in seven games this year.
GOLLADAY, TONEY AT FULL HEALTH?
Kenny Golladay has dealt with injuries since the preseason, which has forced him to miss three full games and half of another. But when he's been on the field, the veteran receiver has played well. Golladay registered 64+ receiving yards in three of the first four games of the season, including a 6-catch, 116-yard outing against the Saints in Week 4. He returned in Week 9 against the Raiders after missing the previous three games. While he caught just two passes for 28 yards, one went for a key first down which helped the Giants secure the victory.
"Just a big fan of Kenny," Garrett told the media this week. "We were excited to bring him here and obviously he missed a lot of time in training camp, and he's missed time throughout the season, but his approach is outstanding. He's always working hard to get himself back and when he has an opportunity to practice, he practices hard and when he's been healthy, he's played really well for us and made a big impact. That's been the case with all of our guys…
"It's fun to get them all back and hopefully we'll get more and more healthy as a group as we go forward. I think when we do, I think those combinations of guys give us a good chance to have some success on offense."
Golladay was not listed on the injury report this week, nor was Kadarius Toney. The rookie receiver has also been dealing with injuries dating back to the summer, but showed his playmaking abilities in Weeks 4 and 5. In those two outings, Toney totaled 16 receptions for 267 yards. He has 352 receiving yards on the season, which currently leads the team, while Daniel Jones and Mike Glennon have a combined 109.8 passer rating when targeting him, the highest mark among all rookie receivers.
View rare photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Buccaneers ahead of their Week 11 Monday night matchup.
SLOWING DOWN TOM BRADY
Tom Brady, 44, is in his 22nd NFL season and leads the league with 318.9 passing yards per game and 27 touchdowns on the season, all while dealing with injuries to several of his playmakers. Brady has thrown for 4+ touchdowns in five of nine games this season.
"You get the opportunity to go against a player like Tom, who is obviously one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest, it makes you do everything you can to prepare and make sure you're giving your guys absolutely the best information possible, the best plan possible," Judge said. "Then, understanding that throughout the game, there's going to have to be a number of adjustments because this guy has seen it all. You're not going to go ahead and throw one thing at this guy and think that's going to work for 60 minutes. As a coach, you've got to look and think ahead and play ahead. That all sounds great, (but) you've got to get in the flow of the game, actually get out there and do it and execute it."
In the Buccaneers' last two contests, both losses, Brady threw an uncharacteristic two interceptions in each game. The future Hall of Famer had just three interceptions over his first seven games, and only one from Weeks 2-7. However, the veteran QB also threw for 595 yards and six touchdown passes in those games while completing 68.9 percent of his passes.
The Giants' pass defense has played well in recent weeks. In the win over the Raiders, the unit held Derek Carr to a 65.2 completion percentage, one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 72.4. This came just one week after the Big Blue defense contained Patrick Mahomes, limiting the former MVP to a 60.4 completion percentage, 275 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 74.6.
BRADBERRY VS. EVANS
Mike Evans ranks second in the NFL with nine receiving touchdowns, while compiling 41 receptions for 606 yards. Evans and James Bradberry know each other all too well from the latter's time with the Panthers in the NFC South. During those four seasons, Bradberry registered 201 coverage snaps lined up against Evans, which accounted for nearly 10 percent of the corner's total coverage snaps. On those plays, Evans caught 30 of 61 targets for 387 yards and one touchdown, while four passes were intercepted, according to ESPN's Mike Clay.
"He's a physical, big receiver, able to use his body well and he attacks the ball," Bradberry said about the Bucs wide receiver. "He has a huge catch radius. I think that's what made it so hard to play against him last year."
TAMPA BAY'S OTHER PLAYMAKERS
Joining Evans are Chris Godwin, the Buccaneers' leading receiver, and Antonio Brown. Godwin has racked up 57 receptions for 717 yards and four touchdowns in nine games; and Brown has caught 29 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns in just five games. Brown has been dealing with an ankle injury that has kept him out since Week 6, but he could return Monday.
The other notable Tampa Bay playmaker that's been dealing with an injury in recent weeks is all-time great tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk started his season off incredibly strong, catching two touchdown passes in each of the Bucs' first two games while totaling 12 receptions and 139 yards. But since then, he has only caught four passes for 55 yards while appearing in two games, as he has dealt with both rib and back injuries. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate round out the TE room, with the two combing for 27 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns this season.
The Buccaneers' backfield cannot be ignored, as Leonard Fournette is enjoying a solid season. The fifth-year back has carried the ball just 112 times this year, but has totaled 486 yards (4.3 avg.) and four touchdowns while adding 38 receptions for 284 yards. Behind him is Ronald Jones, who is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on 44 attempts.
"Obviously offensively, they're very, very balanced, they have a very good run game," Judge said about Tampa Bay's offense. "The screen game is also an extension of the run game, it's very effective in terms of keeping the ball moving, staying balanced. They've got explosive weapons all over the field. We all know the quarterback is a great player. They do a great job offensively with not just the explosive plays, but it's just staying balanced, staying ahead of the sticks and scoring points, obviously. There's a reason these guys are top of the league with scoring points and that's really the down in and down out execution."
Click through the history of the New York Giants facing legendary quarterback Tom Brady, a series that includes two meetings in the Super Bowl.