Daniel Jones makes his first start for the Giants on the road against the Buccaneers
The New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be facing off on Sunday in what could be one of the more interesting NFC games in Week 3.
The Giants are still searching for their first win of 2019 after losing by 14 or more points to both the Cowboys (35-17) and Bills (28-14). This game also will serve as the first NFL start for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, started the season with a 31-17 home loss to the 49ers but they bounce back in a big way with a 20-14 victory on the road against NFC South foe Carolina last week. Jameis Winston was far from spectacular in the victory over the Panthers, but the important thing he was he didn't turn the ball over. That's something he can hopefully build on moving forward.
New York at Tampa Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 22 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Tampa Bay -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Daniel Jones' first career start
On Tuesday, the Giants announced that Jones, the sixth overall pick in this year's draft, would be replacing long-time starter and two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning in the lineup. That news surprised many, but it shouldn't when you consider the offense's struggles to start the season.
In two games, Manning only has two touchdowns to three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble lost). As a result of his struggles to create any consistency, the offense is only averaging 15.5 points, which is not going to be enough to get the job done.
To remedy that problem, Jones is being asked to replace Manning sooner than expected. The good news is that the Duke product looked good throughout the preseason, completing 85.3 percent of his passes for 416 yards and two scores — all while not tossing an interception.
The Buccaneers have a middle-of-the-road pass defense right now, as they sit at No. 15 in yards allowed per game through the air (235.5). Hopefully, that helps Jones' transition as he takes over the Giants offense.
2. Tampa Bay's new Shaq Attack
The Buccaneers have been searching for an impact pass rusher, and needless to say, they've found one in free-agent signee Shaquil Barrett. The former undrafted free agent out of Colorado State spent his first five seasons in Denver, but signed a one-year deal with the Bucs during the offseason.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound edge rusher has rewarded them handsomely for that decision. In two games, Barrett has already racked up eight tackles and four sacks, three of which came last week against the Panthers. It should come as no surprise that Barrett was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the performance.
New York has a good — not great — offensive line, which means that Barrett could continue to build on those sack numbers in Week 3. And what better way to rattle a rookie quarterback than to get consistent pressure on him?
3. Saquon Barkley vs. Tampa Bay's run defense
Barkley is only in his second season in the NFL, but he's already emerged as one of the league's top running backs. As a rookie in 2018, the Penn State product ran for 1,307 yards while also bringing in a whopping 91 catches for 721 yards. He also scored 15 total touchdowns that season on his way to being named a first-team All-Pro and winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
The 2019 season has been no different for Barkley, as he's totaled 274 yards and a score through two games. His 7.8 yards per carry is a significant increase from the 5.0 he averaged in 2018.
If there is one issue for Barkley and the Giants rushing offense this week, it's how good the Buccaneers' front seven has been against the run. They're tied for sixth in the league in yards allowed per game on the ground (68.5) and most recently held Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey to only 53 total yards on 18 touches — less than three yards per touch.
It's hard to gauge how much better — or worse — this Giants offense can be with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones leading the way. If he's clicking like he was in the preseason, it is possible for New York to walk away with a road victory on Sunday.
With that said, the Buccaneers seem to have found the key to victory this past Sunday. Establish the run game early and often while allowing Jameis Winston to play off of it. That limits his turnovers and allows a better-than-expected defense to limit the opposing team's offensive success.
If head coach Bruce Arians sticks to that game plan, expect the Buccaneers to get to 2-1 on the season while the Giants fall to 0-3 for the second time in three years.
Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Giants 17
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.
(Top photo by Matthew Swensen/New York Football Giants, courtesy of giants.com)