Giants-Buccaneers Preview

The New York Giants are playing twice this season in Florida, where the most significant moment of their offseason took place July 4.

That's when Jason Pierre-Paul lost his right index finger and damaged two others in an incident involving fireworks that nearly jeopardized his career.

The star pass rusher feels he is finally ready to play and could be back on the field to help a beleaguered defense in Sunday's matchup with the improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

New York (4-4) has produced the NFL's fewest sacks with nine. Pierre-Paul was eighth in the league with a team-high 12 1/2 a season ago, when the Giants finished fourth in the NFL with 47.

A confident Pierre-Paul said he has been able to shed blockers and grab opponents since rejoining the team last week, and has been practicing for the first time since being injured. He expects opponents to test him and vows to be ready.

''Yeah, I want to play, yeah,'' Pierre-Paul said. ''But it's up to the medical staff; like I said, they're taking me slowly.''

The defensive end is eager for his first pro game at Raymond James Stadium, where he played in college for South Florida.

''I already know it's going to be crazy,'' he said. ''They've been waiting on me, I'm here, I've arrived. They say I can't, but I did. It's on me.''

Coach Tom Coughlin insisted that the Giants will not rush Pierre-Paul back.

''If he's ready, we'll play him,'' Coughlin said. ''If he's not ready, then we'll take more time.''

Coughlin isn't going to be swayed by the fact that his NFC East-leading club is ranked last in total defense, allowing an average of 435.0 yards. The lowlight was last Sunday's 52-49 loss at New Orleans in which the Saints racked up an NFL season-high 608 yards with Drew Brees tying a league record with seven TD passes while not getting sacked.

Most quarterbacks would be licking their chops to face a defense that is that bad, though Tampa Bay rookie Jameis Winston said he isn't overconfident.

"That is Drew Brees that did that," Winston said. "I'm no Drew Brees, but you've gotta just go to the next game because they're coming with a different attitude because they're like, 'Drew Brees just did this to us.' So they're going to try to play even harder. And so they're going to rise up to the occasion, and we have to be there to match their intensity."

Winston has the league's fifth-worst completion percentage at 58.6, but the No. 1 pick has shown improvement in leading Tampa Bay (3-4) to two wins in three games. He has four TDs with no interceptions and a 110.5 passer rating in that span.

He is quickly developing into one of the club's leaders, helping the Buccaneers win 23-20 in overtime at Atlanta last Sunday after they blew a 17-point, second-half lead.

"We talked about him moving more and more into that role, it's a quarterback," coach Lovie Smith said. "Every quarterback on every team has to be one of the primary leaders and we're seeing that."

The Buccaneers own the league's fourth-best rushing attack, averaging 131.3 yards. Doug Martin is fourth with 87.3 yards per game, though his streak of three straight efforts over 100 ended when he managed 71 last weekend.

The Giants allow 112.1 rushing yards per game, a figure that is up to 154.5 over the last four.

New York matched an NFL record last week for points in a defeat behind Eli Manning, who had a career-high six touchdown passes as he completed 30 of 41 attempts for 350 yards.

"Great players have games like that when they're on top of their game," Smith said. "He's never rattled, he's seen it all."

Manning, fourth in the NFL with 17 TD passes, last faced Tampa Bay when he threw for a career-high 510 yards with three scores in a 41-34 victory Sept. 16, 2012. New York rallied from a 14-point, second-half deficit for its fourth straight win in the series, including one playoff victory.

Odell Beckham Jr. is tied for the league lead with seven TD receptions after grabbing three last week among eight catches for 130 yards. The Manning-to-Beckham combination is the biggest threat for the Giants, whose rushing attack averages 94.5 yards for the NFC's second-worst mark.

"From a coverage standpoint, it's a total passing attack coming in here and we need to play our best ball," Smith said.

The Giants lead the league in turnover margin at plus-11 and have 13 interceptions to tie Arizona for the NFL's most. The Bucs have turned the ball over just once in their last three games after totaling 10 in the first four.

"But for a one-point decision at Washington, they would have won their last three," Coughlin said.

Bucs tight end Brandon Myers will face the Giants for the first time since playing for them in 2013, when he tied a career high with four touchdown catches.