The Patriots (5-2) are coming off of a 25-17 road loss to the Steelers, and are back in action on Sunday to face the New York Giants (5-2) at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live today on WFXT-TV Channel 25 at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The Giants are coming off of a 20-17 home victory against the Miami Dolphins. They are currently in 1st place in the NFC East, and are two games ahead in that division. They have been playing well on both sides of the ball, and will be a challenge to the Patriots on Sunday.

On defense, the Giants are still known for their pass rush as they lead the NFL in sacks. The strength is their defensive line. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is a force, and leads the Giants with 8.5 sacks. He is questionable for the game, and if he cannot play, it would be a huge loss. However, they still have Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora to pick up the slack.

The linebackers are solid with Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka leading the charge at the outside linebacker positions. Kiwanuka already has 3.5 sacks this season.

The weakness of this unit, is their secondary. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster are average cornerbacks at best. The safeties as well are nothing special, and it will be up to Tom Brady to exploit this secondary.

On offense, the leader is again quarterback Eli Manning who is having a great season so far. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes, and only has 5 interceptions. When he is on his game, Manning can be dangerous.

The Giants have weapons on offense, but the question will be the health of some of their star players. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is a great back, but is listed as doubtful for this game. If he cannot play, you will probably see Brandon Jacobs at lead back.

The wide receiver corps is led by Hakeem Nicks, but he is as well listed as doubtful. He is the real deep threat for this unit. However, Victor Cruz has established himself as a quality receiver, and you cannot forget about Mario Manningham.

The Giants offense is a solid unit, but as mentioned prior,injuries could really change the effectiveness of their play on Sunday. I guess we will have to wait and see who will be playing for the Giants.

I do think the Giants will be a real challenge to the Patriots, but the injuries on offense could be too much for New York to overcome. I like Tom Brady and the Patriots offense bouncing back in this game. I also feel the Patriots defense will do enough to ensure the victory.

Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.

1. The offensive line needs to step up against a great defensive line. The Patriots offensive line has struggled for 3 weeks in a row, and has become a serious concern. Sebastian Vollmer was really the weak link against the Steelers. The Giants lead the league in sacks, and will come after Brady in this game. The line will continue to be a key until they fix their problems protecting the quarterback.

 


Hopefully we’ll see BenJarvus Green-Ellis get the running game going today for New England. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

2. The running game needs to be established against the Giants. With teams starting to play more man coverage on the Patriots receivers, one way to open up the passing lanes is to run the ball. Also, the Giants are ranked 28th in the league against the run right now, giving up over 130 yards per game on the ground.

I am hoping we see the combination of Benjarvus Green-Ellis, and Stevan Ridley get a good amount of carries in this game. If they are getting their yards, you could see play-action open up in the middle of the field.

3. The third down defense needs to seriously improve against the Giants. The Patriots just could not get off the field against the Steelers. The game before, the Patriots defense did a nice job on third down against the Cowboys. To beat the Giants, they are going to have to get off the field at a decent rate on third down.

4. The pass rush needs to step up against Eli Manning. The secondary right now is really struggling. To take pressure off of that unit, the front seven needs to get heat on Manning. Andre Carter has been a threat often to get to the quarterback. The question will be, who else can get to the quarterback? Candidates to get to the quarterback include Mark Anderson, Albert Haynesworth, Vince Wilfork, and Brandon Spikes. Someone else has to step up.

5. Jerod Mayo has to control the defense. Mayo has been hurt, and the Patriots really miss his constant presence in the middle of the defense. When he is in, he usually has the green dot, and calls the defense.

He did play in the last game, but he had a limited role. The Patriots could use his talent and leadership in this game.

The Patriots rarely lose 2 games in a row, and I don’t expect it to happen this week against the Giants. Brady will eventually have his moments in this game, and pull the Patriots away in the second half. I am predicting a 34-21 victory for the Patriots against the Giants.

What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.