Coming off a blowout road victory against the Washington Redskins, the New England Patriots return home this week to take on another NFC East team: the New York Giants will visit Gillette Stadium for a primetime matchup. The game certainly carries a lot of intrigue considering the history the two clubs share — from two Super Bowl meetings to head coach Bill Belichick’s past — and should be an interesting affair.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at New England’s Week 6 opponent.
Record: 2-3 (3rd place NFC East)
Offense: 24th (19.4 points/game)
Defense: 24th (25.0 points/game)
Head coach: Pat Shurmur
Coordinators: Mike Shula (OC), James Bettcher (DC)
Games so far
Week 1 at Dallas Cowboys: L 35-17
Week 2 vs Buffalo Bills: L 28-14
Week 3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: W 32-31
Week 4 vs Washington Redskins: W 24-3
Week 5 vs Minnesota Vikings: L 10-28
The Giants opened their season with back-to-back losses, which led head coach Pat Shurmur to bench starting quarterback Eli Manning in favor of first-round rookie Daniel Jones. The switch immediately paid off, as Jones led the team to two straight wins against Tampa Bay and Washington. However, the team suffered its third defeat of the season on Sunday when it lost at home against Minnesota.
Three storylines that describe the 2019 season
The quarterback change: As noted above, the Giants decided to change quarterbacks two games into their season. The move did not come as a major surprise, however, considering that Eli Manning started the season poorly yet again and was unable to elevate the offense against Dallas and Buffalo. In came much-criticized first-round pick Daniel Jones, who is not looking like he will hand the keys back to Manning anytime soon.
The inconsistent play: While inserting Jones into the lineup brought some fresh air to the Giants offense, the team’s overall performances did not improve by much. It won its first two games with the rookie at the helm, yes, but still had some major struggles on both sides of the ball: from turnovers — New York has given the football away 11 times through five games — to coverage breakdowns to up-and-down offensive line play. All in all, the Giants’ record reflects the team’s overall inconsistency.
The injuries: If there is one constant during this season, however, it is the injuries suffered by the Giants. The biggest, of course, is running back Saquon Barkley who missed the last two games because of a high-ankle sprain; he is not expected to participate on Thursday either. Furthermore, the team saw his top backup — Wayne Gallman — go down with a concussion, while wide receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram are also listed on the injury report and no safe bets to play against New England.
Three players to know
QB Daniel Jones: Drafting Daniel Jones sixth overall in April was a controversial move by the Giants, but the rookie has looked solid so far this season. Since taking over for Manning ahead of Week 3, he has 67 of 105 passing attempts (63.8%) for 743 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions — all while also attempting 12 rushes for 73 yards and a pair of scores. Jones, who has been sacked nine times over the last three games, has looked solid albeit unspectacular as New York’s number one.
WR Golden Tate: After missing the first four games of the season due to a violation against the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy, Golden Tate returned to the lineup in Week 5 against the Vikings. Even though he caught just three passes for 13 yards, his return was a big boost to a Giants aerial attack that has struggled to consistently challenges opposing defenses. Tate, who joined New York as a free agent this year, has the potential to change this.
DT Dexter Lawrence: The Giants drafted three players in the first round this year. But while Jones made most of the headlines, Dexter Lawrence might very well be the best player of the group — and not just that as he might very well be New York’s best player, period. The 6-foot-4, 340-pound defensive tackle has looked terrific as a run stopper and also showed his pass-rushing abilities on a weekly basis: Lawrence has registered 11 quarterback pressures through five games, including two sacks.
What to watch this week
Pro football is primarily a passing game, so Daniel Jones is naturally the player to keep an eye on on Thursday. The rookie faces a tough challenge, though, going against a Patriots defense that ranks first in most meaningful statistical categories and has made life miserable for every quarterback it has faced so far: New England has registered 11 interceptions and 24 sacks — both the most in the league. Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Shula have their work cut out for them.