Skip to main content
Advertising

Official website of the New England Patriots

replay
Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Wed Feb 21 - 04:00 PM | Thu Feb 22 - 09:55 AM

Patriots vs. Giants: 10 Must-Watch Factors

Here's what you should keep an eye on as the Patriots and Giants meet at MetLife Stadium.

WK12-2023-ThingsToWatchPDC

The 2-8 Patriots are coming off their bye week looking to break their second three-game losing streak of the season after dropping an international contest to the Colts in Germany prior to the break. They'll travel to New Jersey to take on the 3-8 Giants, who are coming off a win over the Commanders that broke a three-game losing streak of their own. Now on their third quarterback, the Giants have turned to Tommy DeVito and he posted three touchdowns and a 137.7 QB rating against Washington. That kind of performance, coupled with the hard-charging ways of Saquon Barkley, should give the Patriots defense plenty to contend with as they look to start the final seven-game stretch off on the right foot.

Here are the key things to watch for!

Changes from the Bye

The Patriots played it close to the vest this week as they got an early start on Thanksgiving week preparations. "I've told all the players the same thing, be ready to go. So, hopefully they will be." said Bill Belichick on Tuesday morning. What exactly that means will have to wait until the game's warmups before we have any possible answers and even then, it could be well into the game before we know what the Patriots coaches cooked up over the bye week. A change at quarterback? Another offensive line tweak? Some more jiggering with the wide receiver group? An increase in defensive snaps for some younger players? Everything would seem to be on the table and with seven games to go, getting more information on those who haven't had their number called extensively yet this season is paramount.

Ground Swell

The Patriots posted a season-high 167 rushing yards against the Colts as it appeared their surprisingly dormant ground attack is starting to find a gear, stacking a second-straight 100-yard rushing performance for the first time in 2023. The offensive line played an important role in this turnaround, with four of the five starting linemen finishing with some of their best PFF run-blocking grades of the year. The question remains how to turn ground production into points on the scoreboard? With uncertainty at the quarterback position, riding the running game seems like a good tangible goal for the offense. They have the personnel to do it and a two-headed monster at running back that might be enough to lead the Pats to a much-needed win.

Quarterbacks

The Giants are rolling with third-stringer Tommy Devito so they don't really care to hear about the Patriots quarterback issues which will dominate the conversation around Thanksgiving tables this week. Mac Jones' game-sealing interception against the Colts was the culmination of the many mistakes and problems that have been adding up in recent weeks and resulted in Bailey Zappe entering the game for one final drive. It would be an easy leap to assume Zappe will carry over that opportunity to a full game week's worth of preparation that would give the second-stringer an extended chance to prepare. But earlier this week it sounded like it would come down to practice performance, as Mac continues to have a chance to retain his job, while Will Grier waits in the wings as a third unknown option that has yet to be tainted by a poor performance in front of Patriots fans.

Offensive Line Settling vs. Thibodeaux

Even with Trent Brown missing a second-straight game, the Patriots have finally found some consistency along their offensive line in recent weeks. Conor McDermott has done as much as he could at left tackle, while Michael Onwenu has also stabilized things from the right tackle position. Much of their success has come while running the ball, as their combination of athleticism and brute strength makes them effective at moving defenders out of the way, but their pass protection remains a work in progress, as their problems protecting on third down against the Colts played a big part in how the game unfolded. Against Kayvon Thibodeaux off the edge and Dexter Lawrence in the middle, the Patriots blocker will have their work cut out for them.

New Receiver Contributions?

Will DeVante Parker return to the lineup after missing the last two contests due to a concussion? He's played just seven games this season and hasn't topped two catches since Week 1 in any single contest. That lack of production has been a common characteristic this season, as rookie Demario Douglas has been the only productive receiver since Kendrick Bourne tore his ACL in Miami three games ago. Even still, Bourne remains the team's leading receiver by five catches. Simply put, they must find a way to get more production out of their receivers. Juju Smith-Schuster and Kayshon Boutte had just one catch each against the Colts. Could the bye week mean a renewed opportunity for Tyquan Thornton? The second-year receiver should not let this opportunity through the last seven games pass him by. One way or another, finding a way to get production out of the receivers not named Pop is a big key for the final seven games, starting Sunday.

Big Play Tommy DeVito

The Patriots have been surrendering big plays all over the place lately and not surprisingly those plays have helped lead to their demise in recent contests. For the Giants, big plays were what helped them get back on the winning track. With eight plays over 20 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass, the Giants have the right ingredients to attack the Patriots where they've struggled the most recently. Apart from turnovers, nothing can change a game quicker than big plays. Sam Howell got them for six plays over 20 yards and even Gardner Minshew got them for three. The Patriots cannot let Tommy DeVito have the same kind of success or else it could make it impossible for their run-focused attack to keep up with even a Giants offense that ranks 32nd in points.

"There's a little bit of lack of experience, but he seems to be pretty football-savvy, street-smart," said Bill Belichick in assessing DeVito. "He made some key plays on third down in the red area and does a pretty good job taking care of the ball."

Stopping Saquon

The Patriots run defense has been a bright spot this season for the team, ranking ninth in rushing yards allowed and second in rushing yards-per-attempt, and that's good news going against Saquon Barkley, who has 650 rushing yards and a healthy 4.3 yards-per-attempt average. However, it's Barkley's 27 receptions and four receiving touchdowns that might be of bigger concern, as the balanced back has a knack for tearing up defenses in multiple ways. "Barkley is a major force, a go-to guy for them," said Belichick this week. The Patriots stable of safeties should help them deal with Barkley, and tackling will be of major importance.

Matching Up

Will J.C. Jackson be back in the mix at cornerback? With Jack Jones now a Raider, depth has become a concern, especially if Jackson can't get back into the team's good graces. Shaun Wade has played well given his opportunities and in-season addition Alex Austin could be headed for a Patriots debut of his own as the team tries to match up with Wan'Dale Robinson, Darius Slaton and Parris Campbell, three receivers who have similar underwhelming production to that of the Patriots own stable. Still, the trio did damage to the Commanders last week, with Slayton setting a season-high in catches including a 40-yard touchdown. "We're going to have to do a really good job there being disciplined, following our rules and be ready for the unexpected for anything from no huddle to gadget plays to just their normal conventional game planning," said Belichick. "They're a good game-planning team, both on offense and defense."

Patriots Sackmasters

Despite the resurgence of Christian Barmore, the Patriots defense is lacking finishers in their front seven without Matthew Judon. Against the Colts, Minshew was running around the pocket and backfield like a crazy man but the Pats were unable to get him down, allowing several late throws that kept the chains moving. New England is solid up front and have consistently gotten themselves into good third-down situations, but their inability to consistent win one-on-one against the pass is troubling. Josh Uche's pass rush metrics are still positive but he's missed two games and hasn't recorded a sack since Dallas. Sack stats can be overrated but here they're somewhat meaningful, especially for a defense that is having trouble getting stops, ranking 19th on third down.

Special Teams on Track?

The game in Germany featured some more head-scratchers from the special teams as the third phase has continued to be a drag on the team's overall performance, especially covering and returning kicks. Usually it's the specialists that get most of the attention, but the two rookies have largely been solid this season despite some missed kicks and subpar punts that are to be expected. The Pats blocked an impressive punt in Week 2, but since then the special teams have not been able to make enough of a positive impact to affect the game. With questions at quarterback and for their pass defense, the team badly needs some contributions from the third phase to help them pull out a win.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

Related Content

Advertising

Latest News

Presented by
Advertising

Trending Video

Advertising

In Case You Missed It

Presented by
Advertising