Before this month, NFL teams during the past 75 years had gone 74-1 when scoring 49 points. It’s basically an automatic victory. Maybe someone should have told that to the Giants before their 52-49 loss to the Saints last Sunday in New Orleans.
Despite the stunning setback, the Giants (4-4) still reside atop the standings in the poor NFC East. Their next assignment: a trip to Tampa, Florida, to face the Buccaneers (3-4).
Here are three keys to the matchup against Tampa Bay.
Let Eli loose
Last weekend’s loss reaffirmed this much: Eli Manning can tear apart a poor secondary. He completed 30-of-41 passes for 350 yards and six touchdowns without an interception against the Saints. The Bucs (7.9 yards per attempt) aren’t quite as bad against the pass as the Saints (8.4 ypa) but remain among the league’s worst. Another wild Manning day is realistic and should ensure victory, this time.
Watch out for Winston
This year’s top pick, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, is beginning to put a rough start behind him. After a 1-3 start in which he posted a TD-INT ratio of 6-7, Winston hasn’t tossed a pick and Tampa Bay has won two of its last three games. Last week’s loss exposed the Giants’ banged-up secondary as vulnerable, and they can’t let the rookie tear them apart in the same way Drew Brees did.
Get down with JPP
Getting Jason Pierre-Paul back is one way of alleviating the burden on the defensive backs. The defensive end reportedly as progressed rapidly in his attempt to return from a July 4 fireworks mishap that cost him his right index finger. If he plays and he’s close to the same JPP that Giants fans remember, even for 15 plays or so, that should go a long way toward disrupting Winston and the Tampa Bay offense.