New York versus Tampa Bay has become an annual contest as this will be the fifth consecutive season these two teams have played one another, with each team winning two games.
The Giants are coming off their bye week and are looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Buccaneers are looking to rebound from last week’s 29-19 loss to Washington and stay atop of the NFC South.
In addition to both teams needing a win, there are five major storylines heading into Monday night’s game.
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Can Daniel Jones finally win a primetime game?
The jury is still out on whether Daniel Jones can be the Giants’ quarterback of the future. He’s shown signs of improvement this season, but his play is still inconsistent.
One of the reasons there are doubts surrounding Jones is his inability to shine when the lights are at their brightest. Jones is 0-7 in primetime games, including last year’s 25-23 loss to the Bucs where he threw two critical interceptions.
If Jones wants to silence his critics, the best way to do that is to defeat the defending Super Bowl champions and come away with his first primetime victory.
Is the Giants defense for real?
Through the first six weeks of the season, New York’s defense struggled mightily, giving up 29.5 points per game and sacking opposing quarterbacks just 10 times. In their last three games against the Panthers, Chiefs, and Raiders, the defense stepped up, giving up 13 points per game while recording nine sacks.
Even with Antonio Brown out with an ankle injury, the Buccaneers are loaded with offensive firepower with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette.
If the Giants defense can continue their dominant ways against one of the best offenses in the league in Tampa, then it will prove that Big Blue’s defense is one of the best in the league.
How will Saquon Barkley look in his return?
After missing the last four games due to a sprained ankle, all signs point to Saquon Barkley making his return on Monday night. Barkley is officially listed as questionable, but he was able to practice all week on a limited basis.
If the Giants are going to make a run toward the playoffs in the second half of the season, they’ll need a healthy Barkley. It will be interesting to see how their star running back fares against the Bucs 2nd ranked run defense. Tampa could be without their best run stopper in Vita Vea, which could bode well for Barkley to have a productive game in his return.
Will the receivers be able to exploit the Bucs secondary?
With the exception of Sterling Shepard who has been ruled out due to a groin injury, all of the Giants’ top receivers; Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Darius Slayton will be on the field at Tampa.
The weakness in the Buccaneers’ defense is their secondary as they’re giving up 254 yards per game through the air which is 22nd in the NFL.
Big Blue’s receivers going up against Tampa’s secondary is the biggest advantage New York has in this game. Look for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to dial-up plays where his receivers can exploit the Bucs’ vulnerable secondary.
Will this be Tom Brady’s last game against the Giants?
Tom Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. But his record against the Giants is 5-3 and two of those losses occurred in dramatic fashion in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.
You can’t mention Brady’s legacy without mentioning the two times Eli Manning and the Giants got the best of him on the biggest stage.
Since New York ended Brady and the New England Patriots‘ bid at perfection in Super Bowl XLII, there’s been added magnitude any time Brady has faced the Giants.
However, there is a very good possibility Monday night will be the last time Brady faces the franchise that has haunted him the most. The quarterback that is referred to as the G.O.A.T is only under contract until the end of this season, and even if he returns next season, the Giants will play the NFC North. This means New York and Tampa Bay will only play next season if they finish in the same standing as their respective divisions. Monday night could be the final chapter of Brady’s historic rivalry with Big Blue.