With the NFL’s new 17-game schedule, there’s no longer a defined halfway point to any team’s season. But coming off their bye week with eight games still left to play, it’s fair to say the New York Giants are set to embark on the second half of their 2021 season. Sporting a record of 3-6, Big Blue has certainly put themselves behind the proverbial eight-ball in their quest for a playoff berth. The cause has not yet been lost, however, as a shallow NFC has rendered the conference’s 6th and 7th playoff seeds entirely up for grabs, even for a three-win team like the Giants.

New York is just a game and a half back of both the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints for the final Wild Card spot, while holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over New Orleans. Big Blue’s schedule should ease up a bit, too. Only three of their remaining eight games are against teams with winning records. The problem, though, is the “in-the-hunt” group of NFC teams has more members than the Wu-Tang Clan. Only the winless Detroit Lions are mathematically below the Giants in the standings.


Big Blue needs to go on a run in order to seperate from the masses in the NFC. They’ll have the chance to win their second game in a row when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight on Monday Night Football. The Giants might be catching Tom Brady and the defending champs at either the best or worst time, depending on your perspective. Tampa has lost two games in a row, and Brady has thrown four of his seven interceptions on the season in those games. That last loss, to the Washington Football Team, was especially poor for Brady, as he only averaged 6.47 yards per attempt with a QB rating of 80.5. The former New England Patriot quarterback is, after all, 44 years old. If he’s finally showing signs of decline midway through his 22nd season it shouldn’t come as a shock.

On the other hand, those last two losses have come on the road for the Bucs. At home, they’ve been nothing short of dominant. Tampa Bay has averaged 39.75 points per game at Raymond James Stadium, and Brady hasn’t put up a QB rating lower than 97. Plus, Brady hasn’t lost three games in a row since 2002. Banking on something happening for the first time in 19 years doesn’t seem like sound strategy. It also won’t help that safety and captain Logan Ryan will miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19.

Getting Healthy

New York’s offense should look more like it’s intended self. Running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas are both strong candidates to return to action tonight. Thomas, especially, should make a huge difference, as Big Blue’s horrendous tackle play has hamstrung their offense in his absence. If the Giants can pass protect well enough to attack downfield, they could very well take advantage of a banged up Tampa Bay secondary.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of tonight’s game, followed by a prediction for the final score.

Where and When

Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida tonight at 8:15 p.m EST/5:15 p.m. PST

Injuries

New York: RB Devontae Booker (Questionable), RB Saquon Barkley (Questionable), TE Kaden Smith (Questionable), FB Cullen Gillaspia (Questionable)

Tampa Bay: DT Vita Vea (Doubtful), DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Questionable), TE Rob Gronkowski (Questionable), CB Dee Delaney (Questionable)

Most Concerning Matchup: OLB Shaq Barrett vs. OT Nate Solder

Solder’s been a frequent whipping boy in the “Most Concerning Matchup” section this season. Unfortunately, he’ll have to make yet another appearance this week. The former Patriot has been a weakness New York has had to gameplan around all year. He’s a liability in pass protection, and doesn’t bring much value in the run game, either.

Solder’s matchup this week is the star pass rusher Barrett, who has had a solid season thus far with 5.5 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures. Barrett’s speed around the edge could cause serious problems for the creaky Solder. The Giants will have to provide plenty of tight end and chip help to his side. With Thomas hopefully back, they should be able to trust him to block Jason Pierre-Paul and give extra attention to stopping Barrett. There’s a chance second-year pro Matt Peart gets the start over Solder at right tackle, but the Giants have shown they usually err on the side of the veteran.

Most Promising Matchup: WR Kadarius Toney vs. CB Ross Cockrell

Tampa Bay will still be without cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Carlton Davis due to injury. That means Jamel Dean will assume coverage duties on Kenny Golladay, while the veteran Cockrell will likely follow the rookie Toney. Cockrell has played for five different teams over seven years, including a spell with the Giants in 2017. He’s been a solid backup for most of his career, and he’s been serviceable this year for the Buccaneers, posting a respectable 65.3 grade per Pro Football Focus. On a star-studded Tampa Bay defense, though, he certainly stands out as a player to attack.

Toney broke out with spectacular performances in Weeks 4 and 5, but an ankle injury has since diminished his productivity. After a bye week to rest and recover, the Giants hope Toney will return to his normally dynamic form. They certainly need him to be a reliable playmaker for Daniel Jones in order to keep pace with this Buccaneers offense.

Keys to Victory

With Thomas and Barkley likely back, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett needs to open up the playbook and attack this vulnerable Tampa Bay secondary downfield. The same conservative gameplan that worked against the Carolina Panthers and Las Vegas Raiders won’t work against the Buccaneers. Garrett has no excuse but to be more aggressive with New York’s replenished offensive talent.

Defensively, Big Blue should adopt the same mindset they had against the Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. An emphasis on preventing the big play is paramount when facing a downfield-oriented passing attack like Tampa Bay’s. Brady is more patient than the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr, so the Bucs will still move the ball in small chunks. But Brady has shown in recent weeks he’s capable of making mistakes, too. The Giants need to give him plenty of opportunities to commit them.

Final Score Prediction: Buccaneers 29 – Giants 23

The Buccaneers at home have been a different animal this season. One that, quite frankly, the Giants aren’t equipped to handle. Expect a bounce back performance from Brady, even if New York’s talented secondary can keep the game from getting out of hand. Big Blue has a puncher’s chance with most of their offensive playmakers back healthy, but they don’t exactly have a great track record of landing haymakers.

– Ryan Cuneo is the Managing Editor of Full Press Giants. He covers the New York Giants. Like and follow on Follow @ryan_cuneo Follow @FullPressGiants and Facebook.

This article first appeared on Full Press Coverage and was syndicated with permission.

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