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GIANTS (3-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Spread: Buccaneers -11
The Giants had a week off to feel good about themselves, coming off a win over the Las Vegas Raiders and seeing so many of their injured players back at practice. They have a renewed confidence and a little bit of momentum.
But their timing couldn’t be worse.
With their season at a crossroads and needing every win to stay alive, this is what the Giants are facing as they return: A game on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions, who are coming off a two-game losing streak and Tom Brady’s worst game of the season.
And that’s unfortunate for them because a win in this primetime game would actually establish the Giants as actual playoff contenders. Once they get through the Bucs they’re staring at a pretty soft schedule. An unexpected win could turn their entire season around.
But it would be really unexpected now, considering the Bucs are one of the best teams in the NFL and a three-game losing streak would be absolutely shocking – more shocking, even, than their 29-19 loss to Washington last week in which Brady threw for only 220 yards and was picked off twice. The Giants defense may be playing better of late, but the Bucs still have the third-ranked offense and the No. 1 passing attack in the league. It’s going to be hard for the Giants to slow them down, considering their pass rush has been anemic for most of the year.
So most of their hopes for an upset here will be on quarterback Daniel Jones and an offensive lineup that will likely be as complete as it’s been since way back in Week 4. The Giants expect Barkley and Golladay back in the lineup and rookie Kadarius Toney should be at full strength and left tackle Andrew Thomas will be back to bolster the Giants’ offensive line. And they are going against a Bucs secondary that is incredibly banged up and has been playing very shaky.
So even without Sterling Shepard – the one Giants weapon unlikely to be available – they should have more than enough to actually, finally, consistently move the ball.
But there’s just no way they can move it enough to keep up with the Bucs. Over the last four weeks the Giants have averaged just 277.5 yards per game. That included only 247 in their pre-bye, 23-16 win over the Raiders. They have still yet to score 30 points this season. And the only time all year they gained more than 400 yards on offense was in Week 4 during a 27-21 overtime win in New Orleans, which not coincidentally was the last time they were even close to full strength.
They might have enough to blow past the weaker teams they’ll face down the stretch, but not this Bucs team. Even with all their weapons back in the fold, it’ll be a few weeks before the Giants’ offense is anywhere close to being in sync.
So unfortunately for them, this is just a bad, post-bye matchup against a good team that will be more focused than ever after its recent bad stretch. The Giants figure to be a better team during their final eight games than they were during their first nine, but that likely won’t help them until next week.