The New York Giants (4-4) are fresh off one of the more brutal victories to swallow in recent memory, losing to the New Orleans Saints 52-49 in overtime. While Eli Manning threw for six touchdowns in that loss, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) are hoping to hold New York's offense in check.
Over the past three games, it's been a tale of two teams heading in two different directions. While the Giants have lost two of their last three games, the Buccaneers have actually won two of their last three, with the lone loss coming by just a single point. Can Manning go on the road and knock off the confident young Buccaneers and rookie Jameis Winston?
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Here are three keys to the game for both the Giants and Buccaneers.
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1. Get the ball out quickly to Odell Beckham Jr.
The Buccaneers stay true to Lovie Smith's defensive scheme, even when it's not working very well. Tampa Bay has struggled against the run and pass in 2015, and their secondary is a major reason why. They have played roulette at cornerback all season. It seems like they have settled, at least for now, on using Mike Jenkins and Johnthan Banks outside and Alterraun Verner as the slot cornerback. All three players have struggled in coverage this season, and that's excellent news for Beckham -- he moves around to all three wide receiver spots. The Buccaneers have been especially poor at limiting yards after the catch. In Week 8, Julio Jones racked up 90 yards after the catch. The Giants would be wise to get the ball to Beckham in space early and often.
2. Make the Buccaneers use Charles Sims
Doug Martin is having an incredible bounceback season, but for some reason the Buccaneers insist on limiting his snaps and using Charles Sims. Martin has played just 53 more snaps than Sims, but he has been much more effective on a per snaps basis. Martin is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 2.23 yards per route run, while Sims is averaging just 4.2 yards per carry and 1.79 yards per route run. The Buccaneers turn to Sims on passing downs and when they fall behind early. The Giants should plan an aggressive game plan for the early going so the Buccaneers will fall into their alarming tendency.
3. Control the clock by running through the Buccaneers' interior defense
The Giants have struggled on the edges, but their interior offensive line has taken a major leap forward in 2015. After moving back to his natural center position, Weston Richburg has emerged as one of the NFL's best centers. The same can be said about Justin Pugh in his move from tackle to guard. Geoff Schwartz has struggled some in pas protection, but he is a mauling presence in the run game. The Buccaneers have struggled to defend the interior. Middle linebacker Kwon Alexander has made some splash plays, but he has been washed up on more run plays than not, leaving gaping holes up the middle of the field. The Giants should look to attack this area of the field.
1. Don't let Manning get into a rhythm
While we saw Manning go off last week to the tune of 350 yards, six touchdowns and a 73.2 completion percentage, we've also seen what can happen when he's unable to get comfortable. In the two games before that, against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, Manning threw for a total of 359 yards, managed just one touchdown against two interceptions and completed an average of just 58.7 percent of his passes. Manning can torch you when he gets going, but the Buccaneers need to make him uncomfortable from the word go. The best way to do this is to use an extra defender to cover Beckham.
2. Utilize the tight end
Whether Austin Seferian-Jenkins is back or not, the Buccaneers have a great opportunity against the Giants, who have struggled to cover opposing tight ends in 2015. To this point in the year, New York has given up 58 receptions for 684 yards and five touchdowns to opposing tight ends. If Winston is looking for a few early and easy completions, he should probably target one of his tight ends.
3. Give Winston a shot to let it fly
Yes, the Giants will likely be looking to do anything and everything to bounce back from the disaster that was Week 8 against the Saints, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to do it. Winston has been throwing the ball well as of late, and this could be a great opportunity for him to have a big day against a defense that has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for a total of 2,583 yards this year, the most in the NFL.