The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take the field inside Raymond James Stadium for the first time in nearly a month — also the site of their last win — when they host the New York Giants under the lights on "Monday Night Football." The matchup is the last of three prime-time games for the Giants in 2021, but the fourth of five for the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
The Bucs (6-3) won six of their first seven to start the season but followed that strong start with losses in their last two. Tampa Bay fell 36-27 at New Orleans going into their Week 9 bye and came out on the short end of a 29-19 finish at Washington last Sunday. The Giants (3-6) are on the opposite end of the momentum train, meanwhile, having lost their first three and three of their next five before squeaking past Las Vegas 23-16 to bring some positive energy into their Week 10 bye — energy they’ll hope to maintain throughout the second half of their season.
The Buccaneers and Giants have squared off in each of the last four seasons and in five of the last six. They’ve split their last four meetings, with the road team winning three of the four and the Giants winning at home (38-35 in 2018) during that stretch. Close games have been the norm in recent years, as each of those last four matchups has been decided by either two or three points: the Bucs pulled out a 25-23 win at MetLife Stadium last November after the Giants edged out a 32-31 win at Raymond James Stadium in 2019.
Monday Night Football: New York (3-6) at Tampa Bay (6-3)
Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 22, at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Buccaneers -11
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Tampa Bay's offense get back into a rhythm?
The Buccaneers have won just two of their five games away from Tampa Bay but are 4-0 at home in 2021, scoring at least 31 points in each of the four home wins and an average of more than 40 points per game in that stretch. They’ll need more of the same on Monday as they’ve been held under 30 points in all five of their road trips in 2021. Even with Tom Brady throwing six touchdowns in the last two weeks, the Bucs are coming off their second-lowest two-game scoring output of the season with just 46 points combined against New Orleans and Washington.
Though the record may not reflect it, New York has done well to keep opponents off the board in recent weeks. Only three teams have eclipsed the 30-point mark against the Giants, but all in a five-game stretch between Weeks 2-6 as the Giants’ last three opponents have combined for just 36 points. New York hasn’t been as strong defensively on the road, however, so perhaps this is the spark that Tampa Bay needs to return to its ways on offense.
2. Will Saquon's ankle heal in time?
Saquon Barkley has missed each of the Giants’ last four games after suffering an ankle injury in a Week 5 loss at Dallas. It was a disappointing setback for Barkley who had just compiled 126 all-purpose yards in Week 4 at New Orleans, with both a rushing and receiving touchdown. That was easily his best game of the season, his only game before the injury with more than 100 total yards.
Thankfully for Joe Judge, Jason Garrett and the Giants' offense, Devontae Booker has helped to pick up the slack in Barkley’s stead. Booker has eclipsed the century mark in yards from scrimmage in each of the last two games, on the strength of a 99-yard rushing effort in the win over Las Vegas last week and a 60-yard/65-yard rushing/receiving total in the loss to Kansas City the week prior. Barkley is listed as questionable for Monday night but reports are he was able to increase his workload in practice, so he may be ready to return. A healthy Barkley alongside Booker would provide quite the boost for the Giants as they look to climb out of the bottom of the NFC East.
3. Can Giants start like they've finished?
Barkley’s injury surely hasn’t helped, but New York’s struggles on offense haven’t been limited to his absence. The Giants have been held to 20 or fewer points in five of their six losses, while they’ve tallied 27, 25 and 23 points in their three wins.
The key for New York is being able to start games with as productive an offense as has been present to close them. In all three of their wins, the Giants were limited to an average of just over seven points in the first half while the second half was their much more dominant presence. The Giants scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of their 27-21 win at New Orleans in Week 4, not to be outdone by 20 second-half points in a 25-3 win over Carolina in Week 7 and 13 of the final 16 in the 23-16 comeback win over Las Vegas two weeks ago.
Tampa Bay’s defense allowed 16 first-half points in each of the last two weeks in its losses to New Orleans and Washington. If the Giants can even approach that number in the first 30 minutes and continue playing as they have in the final 30 of their wins, they’ll have a great chance to grab the win in prime time.
These two teams find themselves entering Week 11 heading in opposite directions: the Buccaneers seeking to right the ship and keep their lead in the NFC South, the Giants seeking to climb back into contention in a tightly packed NFC. Tampa Bay has the benefit of returning home with the hopes that Raymond James Stadium will continue to be as beneficial in the second half of the season as it has been thus far.
Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Giants 20
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.