The Patriots return to action from the bye week for a matchup with the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Interestingly enough, the Patriots have only played the G-Men there once in 2015. And won on a last-second 54-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
But now, the fortunes of both teams are far different. The Giants are playing their 3rd string QB and the Patriots are wallowing at 2-8, in the basement of the AFC East.
FOX will broadcast this week’s game and can be seen locally on WFXT-TV Channel 25. Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties with former Saint Jonathan Vilma as the color analyst. Shannon Spake will provide analysis from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2023 to analyze some of the game’s key matchups and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs. Giants Front Seven — Edge New England
The Patriots’ running game is the only positive lately on the offensive side of the ball. Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott have done a good job of finding space to run (frequently on their own) and have kept the chains moving.
Stevenson, in particular, has been stacking together some impressive games. He notched 87 yards against Washington and then 88 yards against the Colts. This week’s matchup should see that streak of good production continue.
The Giants have the 29th-ranked run defense in the league, allowing nearly 130 yards per game and a whopping 4.8 yards per carry (30th). This is despite having some good pieces in the front seven with Dexter Lawrence and MLB Bobby Okerke. But the Giants’ edge players Kayvon Thibodeau and Azeez Ojulari don’t set the edge well in the running game, and that is the area for New England to attack.
Patriots WRs vs. Giants Secondary — Edge New York
Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, or Will Grier will lead the Patriots’ passing game? As of this writing (late Thursday night), no one knows. However, whoever is under center will have to deal with the Giants, pressure system calls. Giants DC Wink Martindale loves to dial it up, and with the state of the Patriots’ OL, that could be an ugly matchup.
It starts with Dexter Lawrence in the middle of the Giants. He is one of the most disruptive DLs in the league, where the interior of the OL has struggled. David Andrews, Cole Strange, and Sidy Sow have a massive (340 lbs) and quick matchup on their hands.
With the G-Men trying to overload one side, it will probably fall on Bill O’Brien to spread out the Patriots’ offense and give whoever the QB the ability to make sound decisions on where to go with the ball. Easier said than done.
Demario Douglas has been gradually getting better each week, but the team desperately needs someone else to pick up the slack. More to that below. But the Giants are a man-coverage-heavy team, so individual matchups will have to be won.
Next up, the Giants offense:
Giants RBs vs. NE Front Seven — Edge New England
The Giants running game features Saquon Barkley, who has rushed for 651 yards with a 4.3-yard average but surprisingly has only one rushing TD this season. The Giants will look to get Barkley heavily involved early to get the pressure off of QB Tommy DeVito and to open up play-action passing. Three of the next four leaders in rushing are QBs after Barkley.
The Patriots run defense has been very good this season, a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2023. Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, and Lawrence Guy have done a terrific job of stopping or slowing down opponents’ rushing attacks and allowing the linebackers to clean up.
Ju’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai are the key factors this week in trying to slow down Barkley this week. And this is a winnable matchup. New England is 2nd in the league in yards per rush allowed (3.4) and 9th in yards per game (97.7)
Giants WRs vs. NE Secondary — Edge New York
The passing game of the G-Men has fallen to DeVito, the undrafted, third-string QB after Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor both ended up on IR. DeVito has not surprisingly struggled but had a good game against Washington last week, throwing three TDs.
TE Darren Waller is also on IR, but the Giants have good targets for DeVito in WanDale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Darius Slayton (injured), and Parris Campbell at WR. But protection is a huge issue, as the Giants have allowed a whopping 63 sacks this season.
The Patriots secondary is both banged up and not playing well right now. Christian Gonzalez and Marcus Jones are on IR. Jonathan Jones has been playing banged up. Jack Jones is now a Raider. We’ll see if J.C. Jackson returns this week. Otherwise, it will be Jones, Myles Bryant, and Shaun Wade. As bad as the protection has been for New York, sacks by the Patriots since Matthew Judon has gone on IR have been very hard to come by.
Special Teams — Edge Push
The Patriot special teams have finally met their match with units that are struggling as badly as they are. NY’s Graham Gano was struggling on field goals before landing on IR. They turned to veteran Randy Bullock. Jamie Gillian is the punter, averaging 46.9 yards per punt. Neither Parris Campbell (KR)/Gunner Olszewski (PR) has been particularly effective.
The Patriots’ struggles continue with penalties and mental mistakes. Like the Giants, the Patriot returners Ty Montgomery with kickoffs and Demario Douglas with the punt returns have generated little excitement.
Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:
Run, Run, Run — The Patriots MUST run the ball and wear down the Giants’ defense because their passing game will not win them a matchup, as this has been evident for several weeks. The anomaly was the Buffalo game.
Sounds like a broken record here, but it remains true… they have to stay patient and stick with Stevenson and Elliott and use play-action to find some open receivers against man coverage.
Generate QB Pressure and Force Turnovers — DeVito can move to escape pressure, but they can’t just pressure him; the defense has to get home and get some sacks, which are drive-killers. The Belichicks and Mayo must scheme up a way to get some pressure on DeVito and force some turnovers.
The team is facing an OL that has allowed 63 sacks on the season. There are no excuses for not ratcheting up several this week. Barkley, IMO, is the guy to stop in both the running and passing games. He has four TDs out of the backfield this season.
Get Receivers NOT Named Demario Douglas the Ball — Douglas, the rookie WR, has impressed with some decent production this season, with a knack for getting open and getting receptions. But the team really misses Kendrick Bourne, who still leads the team in receiving despite being on IR for several weeks.
DeVante Parker has only had more than two receptions once (Week 2) this season and no TDs. That is far below what you should get from the “X” WR. Smith-Schuster has just 22 catches for 149 yards and 1 TD. The production will have to come from the TEs, Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki.
The Patriots season keeps going from bad to worse. The defense has kept them in games but the offense can’t finish out them with so many chances to do so. They are favored in this game, mainly because the Giants have been as miserable offensively as they are.
But the team has struggled so badly that Mac Jones, who still gives them the best chance to win, has zero confidence right now. I don’t believe either Zappe or Grier can get it done, albeit against a struggling New York defense. Giants 16-9
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bailey Zappe Bill Belichick Dexter Lawrence Ezekiel Elliott Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots New York Giants Patriots Patriots running backs Rhamondre Stevenson Saquon Barkley Tommy DeVito Will Grier