The 1-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the 0-3 New York Giants tomorrow in their third game of the season. The Bucs are coming off a disheartening blowout loss to the Chicago Bears, while the Giants have yet to win this year. So this should be an interesting game.
Channeling my inner Yogi Berra, one of these teams will break their trend of losing. Hopefully, that will be the good guys, as Bucs’ HC Dirk Koetter would describe the Bucs after a win in a post-game interview.
Just by looking at the box stats, the Giants cannot stop the run, but are very adept at stopping the pass. Sadly, the Bucs cannot run the ball and struggle to be accurate with passing the football. This matchup might be a lot more fun than I originally thought, but in a very cynical point of view. The silver lining here is that the Giants are willing to give up points!
Reviewing the Giants’ Defensive production for the last three games:
Dallas 19, NYG 3 – Allowed: 129 yards rush, 263 yards pass, 1 sack, 0 turnovers, 8/15 on 3rd down
Detroit 24, NYG 10 – Allowed: 138 yards rush, 119 yards pass, 3 sacks, 1 Fumble lost, 7/15 on 3rd down
Philly 27, NYG 24 – Allowed: 193 yards rush, 161 yards pass, 3 sacks, 1 Fumble lost, 5/14 on 3rd down
According to Football Outsiders, the Giants run defense is weak in short yardage situations, allowing running backs into the second level, and allowing those same backs to break even further beyond the 2nd level. But their pass rush ranks them above average as they have accumulated a total of seven sacks so far in three games.
The Bucs ran into a buzzsaw of a run defense against the Vikings last week, but this week there might be more leeway for the Bucs run game. This should allow the Bucs offense to be more balanced and take away the ball from Winston and his propensity to turn the ball over.
On NFL Network’s game preview, they did note that Winston is 5 – 2 after games in which he threw multiple interceptions.
In two games, the Bucs’ defense presented two different extreme productions: a dominant defense and a porous defense. The porous defense had a plausible excuse. There were starters ruled out before the game(DT Baker, CB Grimes, DE Smith), starters that were injured early in the game (DE Spence), players injured during the game (DT McCoy, DE/DT Ayers, CB VH3, CB Smith, S Ward), and at the conclusion of the game (WLB David). Tampa will probably be missing MLB Kwon Alexander, WLB Lavonte David, and S TJ Ward for the matchup with New York.
Reviewing the Giants’ Offensive production for the last three games:
Dallas 19, NYG 3: 35 yards rush, 198 yards pass, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 4/12 on 3rd down
Detroit 24, NYG 10: 62 yards rush, 208 yards pass, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 4/12 on 3rd down
Philly 27, NYG 24: 49 yards rush, 366 yards pass, 0 sacks, 2 INTs, 3/10 on 3rd down
The Giants defense cannot run, will give up pass rush, will turn the ball over, and cannot break the threshold of 30% successful conversion rate on third downs. One would believe this would be a boon for the Bucs’ defense, but last week’s dismal performance has fans hoping that the Bucs defense can at least be average. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Bucs were hit with a slew of injuries and DC Mike Smith could not mitigate the loss of talent with his defensive play calling. In fact, helmets were switched often between linebackers David and Beckwith on who would be calling the defensive plays on the field.
With talent returning to the defense at the two of the three levels of the defense, defensive line and secondary, Tampa and DC Mike Smith are hoping that last week was just an aberration due to a lack of talent. Last season, the Bucs did have veteran and former starter CB Alterraun Verner to step in when one of Grimes or VH3 would not be able to play.
The team’s first backup CB is Ryan Smith, a defensive back that is re-converting back to the cornerback position from safety. Tampa’s run defense was not so great last year, but it looked surprisingly dominant in one with newly inserted DT Chris Baker playing next to DT McCoy. Then the run defense did not lock down without Baker playing. Sometimes you cannot overcome the loss of top tiered talent. This becomes a reminder of how the Bucs are still a young team in development.
The Bucs offense needs to control the game and try to be a balanced play calling team. They can do that by not turning the ball over. Control what it can control, which is being on the field and scoring points. Even if the offense does not score touchdowns, they need to be grinding and eating the clock away with a run game that the Giants are willing to concede. In limiting the Giants offense and QB Eli Manning offensive opportunities, the game becomes shorter and advantageous.
In two games, the Bucs’ defensive secondary is not playing like the secondary it was in 2016. The pass defense in 2017 ranks 29th overall and, in 2016, the pass defense ranked 6th overall, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics. This reminds me of two different seasons of Lovie Smith defensive play calling – improved in latter half of the season of first install and then changing everything up in the secondary to be more porous. It is possible that DC Mike Smith is trying to be too cute from the start.
Eli Manning comes into this game throwing for an average of 275 gross yards per game, sixth overall for all quarterbacks. Tampa’s defense will have talent returning. A new talent will be inserted into the lineup in DE Jacquies Smith, who was the best pass rusher on the team in 2015 before getting injured one play into the 2016 season. Mike Smith will try to implement complementary defense and hope the pass rush gets to Eli before Eli can gash the secondary. Last week against the Vikings, the Bucs’ defense did limit the Vikings’ rush game to 2.7 yards per rush in the first half; without a pass rush, the Vikings were able to put up 226 yards through the air as well as putting up 21 points at the half.
Since the Bucs offense has proven to be inadequate in 2017, the winning determinant is all dependent on the defensive play. Can the defense stop the run? Can the defense create QB pressure? Can the defense defend against the pass? If the defense can do all three, then the outcome will be a win for the Bucs. To what gradient the Bucs defense can accomplish all three feats will be determined on game day.
Just using basic stats, the Bucs should easily dispose the Giants. Add in the recent trends, it looks like two shaky teams trying to find solid ground on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Bucs 20, Giants 17