In reality, this is just another game against a non-conference opponent that consequently carries less significance in the standings than next week’s game against the Buffalo Bills. But whether or not we’d like to admit it, this isn’t just another game.
The Patriots are traveling to the Meadowlands, where they haven’t played since winning in Week 17 of 2007. That game, they went 16-0 for the first every 16 game undefeated regular season, and you know how that season ended in Arizona. In 2011, the Giants beat the Pats in Foxboro for Tom Brady’s first home regular season loss since 2006. Yes, the Pats went 8-0 at home in 2007, 2009, and 2010… and the Giants ended that streak. People forget that, even during the regular season, the Giants push back against the Patriots unstoppability (that’s totally a word) like no other team can. And then you know how the 2011 season ended in Indiana.
This time around, a much different Giants team will play New England. While the 2011 team did had a 7th ranked offense, compared to just 17th ranked on offense and 20th on defense this year, it’s clear that both the 2007 Giants and 2011 Giants’ best weapon against the Pats was their pass rush. The trio of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham was nice, but the trio of Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and all-10-fingered Jason Pierre-Paul was a little scarier for a Tom Brady-quarterbacked team. In 2007, the same was true with Michael Strahan, Umenyiora, and Tuck.
While Odell Beckham Jr. has to automatically scare you a little bit because he’s a human cheat code athletically, it’s comforting that the Giants’ best threat is a single amazing receiver. Bill Belichick is brilliant at either containing a team’s single great threat or at least making sure that that one guy’s production doesn’t spread to the rest of the team. Whether it’s T.Y. Hilton in last year’s playoffs or so many we’ve seen before, often times those guys disappear when coming to Foxboro. a fluky Ruben Randle or Larry Donnell game worries me because it’s the Giants, but if Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty can take OBJ this game, then I don’t see the Giants putting up a ton of points.
Most importantly, the Giants don’t have much of a pass rush. Sure, Jason Pierre-Paul is back, but he’s not 2011 JPP. Losing 2 fingers takes away some of your production, ya know? Even if JPP can turn back the clock for one game because, of course, they’re the Giants, the Pats should still be able to handle him.
Remember Super Bowl 49, the day that soothed so much of the pain that the Giants brought? In that game, there was a fellow by the name of Michael Bennett. Bennett was the MVP through 3 quarters of the game before Tom Brady turned into a legitimate super hero. In the 4th, Bennett was almost unheard of, and there are 2 reasons why, both of which bode well for today’s game against JPP if he turns into 2011 JPP.
The first was the number of quick plays that the Pats ran. They ran over 70 plays in total throughout that game, finally wearing the Seahawks and their pass rush down. If the Pats can control the tempo in today’s game, history could repeat itself. The second reason is even more encouraging. Cliff Avril got injured on the Bobby Wagner interception late in the 3rd, and the Seahawks only had one great pass rusher left. When the Pats could focus on stopping Bennett and not have to worry about Avril, they lit up the Legion of Boom like a Christmas Tree.
The Giants don’t have another pass rusher. The media and fans have been saying about last week’s game that “Jason Pierre-Paul provided the Giants with a pass rush against the Buccaneers that they didn’t have before,” but how good is your pass rush when it can be improved significantly by the return of an 8-fingered dude? The Pats should be able to contain JPP if he’s the only great pass rusher the Giants have, and JPP is no Michael Bennett. The Giants won’t be able to repeat 2007 or 2011.
I’m sure that the Giants will give the Pats a scare. They play to their competition no matter who it is, and their fans will be insane. I’ll bet they even have a lead through late in the 2nd quarter. But I doubt they’ll end the game on the winning end. You know how an underdog often gets that “back door cover” to win against the spread but still lose the game? I bet you the Pats do the opposite of that. They’ll be up 7 midway through the 4th, and they’ll grind their way to a field goal to make it a 10 point game and cover the 7.5 spread. It’ll be a hard fought game, but the Giants can’t attack the Pats the way they could 4 and 8 years ago. 27-17 Pats.