With the NFL preseason winding to a close, all 32 teams will be in action on Thursday night as they play their last game before the regular season. Two of these teams that will be meeting on the gridiron (7:30pm ET) are familiar with one another and that always put on a good show when they play, namely the New York Giants (1-2) and the New England Patriots (2-1). While this is nothing more than a tuneup, the history these teams share goes far beyond just a meaningless preseason game.
In 2007-08, after the Patriots became the first team to record a 16-0 season, they were easy favorites to sweep their way through the playoffs en route to the first ever perfect 18-0 record. But completely unexpectedly, the Patriots ran into the Giants, who barely made the playoffs via the wildcard. New York sweep their own way through the postseason, shocking the Pats when they and not New England were crowned Super Bowl champions.
And in 2011-12, just two seasons ago, the two teams met again after the 9-7 Giants dominated their way past three of the best teams in the NFC during the regular season. The Patriots also cruised to the championship game posting 68 points in their two previous contests. But once again, the Giants proved to be New England’s kryptonite as they won their second title in five years.
Because of this, whenever the Patriots play the Giants, even if just preseason, there is always something on the line. Bill Belichick will make it his mission to coach the Pats to victory but will Tom Coughlin once again stand in his way?
Tom Brady is Going to Play?
While starters do log time during the preseason, it is very unusual to see one, especially one of Tom Brady’s (pictured) talent, stature and importance, to take even one snap in the fourth preseason game. This game is normally reserved for fringe players fighting for a roster spot and for backups to show off why they are valuable to move up the depth chart.
The rationale for not playing your starters is simple. With a week left before the season kicks off, you don’t want to see them hurt in a garbage time with garbage time minutes. And for New England, they cannot afford for Brady to get hurt.
Earlier in the offseason, Brady suffered an injury scare that had the entire football world talking. He had tweaked his knee, the same one that caused him to miss the entire season just a few years ago. And the man isn’t getting any younger either so the concern that re-injury could occur, was definitely a real one.
Brady wasn’t seriously hurt though and all went back to normal in New England. But when the Pro Bowler told media he wants to play in the game, people once again started to hold their breaths.
But here is the kicker. Brady told the media that with new receivers, he feels he needs more time to feel his teammates out. And since Brady is the star, if he plays, even just a series, you can expect some of these new and first string receivers to play too. If that is the case, expect the Patriots to get off to a very quick lead against the second and third string Giants’ defense.
Nobody is Perfect, at Least According to the Coaches
A great thing about the final preseason game is when it comes to the head coaches. While they may still be holding back as not to reveal the whole game plan, in the fourth and final game, you will start to get a better picture of what each coach wants done, even if it isn’t executed.
And when it comes to Coughlin and Belichick, both seasoned coaches with championships under their belt, each of their teams still have fundamental flaws that need to be sorted out. The final preseason game is the perfect venue to do so.
It was a crushing 40-9 loss against the Detroit Lions, the kind the Patriots are normally inflicting not suffering, that had Belichick step back and re-evaluate this team’s strengths and weaknesses starting with four turnovers in the game’s first five possessions. Brady was under center for the entire first half posting acceptable but not Brady-esque numbers. Perhaps that is why he wants to play in the final game.
While the issues have now come to light and in a glaring manner, it does seem New England is hurting from the loss of Wes Welker, who was traded, Aaron Hernandez, who is currently in prison and up until a few days ago, Rob Gronkowski who was recovering from injury. Offensively, the Pats might even have some spots open for first string receivers, so expect to see that position battle play out in the final game.
The Giants meanwhile have holes on offense and defense, the likes of which could be hugely exposed by Brady, even if he plays just one series, or Ryan Mallett, the backup. New York has struggled so far to get the kind of consistency they are used to on this side of the ball and it seems to have had an effect on their offense, which really isn’t scoring the way it should be.
New York has talented wide receivers and young runningback tandem that when at its best, can be pretty lethal. But so far this preseason, the expected greatness has only come in flashes. Most importantly Eli Manning has played more to the bad-Eli side than the good, completing just eight of 20 last week against the New York Jets.
He probably won’t play in the finale though, so expect to see the Giants take a run heavy approach. Luckily enough for them, New England’s run defense has not recently been top notch.
New York Giants v New England Patriots Final Pick
It is hard to pick which team will win because the personnel is so different than in a regular season game. That said, if Brady plays, the Patriots should have a slight edge. If the Giants continue to work on their running game though, it might be a long night for the New England defense.
- Bovada’s odds have New England as just one point favorites over New York. It is a spread too little to take a chance on considering how both teams have played. However, New England is favored to win for a reason, so take the Pats -1pt @ odds of -110 with Bovada to cover that slim margin of victory.
- Also, at 39 points, the under looks appealing as the pick at -115 betting odds with Bovada.