Later today, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will look to improve to 6-0 on the year against the visiting New York Giants. Equally important, however, is their attempt to escape the Thursday Night game healthy — we all know how difficult these short weeks can be for the players.
The Giants’ Daniel Jones , meanwhile, is looking to become the first ever rookie quarterback to beat Bill Belichick at Gillette Stadium as previous ones are a whopping 0-12 in Foxboro (although rookie passers are 5-19 all-time against Belichick, the last one to beat him being Geno Smith in 2013 in the Meadowlands). However, with a very limited group around him in terms of skill players, this may be the task of Jones’ entire football career.
With that being said, here are my keys to the game to ensure that a Giants upset win won’t happen:
Get out healthy
As noted above, probably the most important aspect of tonight’s game is to make sure the Patriots stay healthy and get in and out with a win. Matthew Slater spoke earlier in the week about the safety aspect of these Thursday night games and how tough it is for the players, and with a ton of ailing players already on this team, the Patriots can’t afford to lose any more — especially at wide receiver and along the offensive line.
Facing a depleted Giants team, there is therefore just no sense in pushing it with players that are going to help you down the stretch. Hence, Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) has already been ruled out while Rex Burkhead (foot) and Patrick Chung (heel) are likely to join him on the list of inactives. With the Patriots set to play next Monday night, they have a ‘mini bye’ coming up and plenty of time to rest up and get those players ready for the second half of the season.
Protect Tom Brady
This should be a top number priority every single week. Coming off a game in which Brady was rushed all day and sacked a season-high four times while being pressured, what felt like, the whole game, it needs to be reiterated just how important keeping #12 upright is. Starting tackles Marshall Newhouse and Marcus Cannon are coming off tough games — they missed several pass-blocking assignments all day long — so establishing the run early should allow for Brady to generate more time in the pocket to find guys open down field.
Convert on your third downs
The Patriots’ defense has done its part on third down so far this season: opposing offenses are just 8-of-63 this year. On the other side of the ball, however New England’s offense finds itself at just 16th in the league converting only 39% of the time — they were just 5-of-15 last week against a terrible Washington defense.
Given the competition they have faced thus far, it’s easy to overlook something like this, but when the Patriots start playing the better teams in the league in a few weeks, keeping drives alive will become much more crucial. Tonight is an opportunity for them to continue to find what works for them from a scheme perspective, especially in key situations like third down.