The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants didn’t exactly get off to the start they wanted to in their title defense on opening night. They most certainly did not look like the team that knocked off the New England Patriots just a few short months ago to capture the Vince Lombardi trophy. The Cowboys ultimately knocked them off, 24-17. After one week, there are already people discounting the Giants as a threat this season after the touchdown loss. When taking a glimpse at the Giants schedule in the offseason it appeared that this week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be an easy victory. The Buccaneers surprised a few people last week after playing the Carolina Panthers hard. The Bucs defense suffocated Cam Newton, limiting him to an 83.3 quarterback rating. Newton still got his yards in, throwing for 303 yards, but the 2 INTs were the deciding factor in the Buccaneers 16-10 win.
The Bucs will need to bring the same stout defense this week to shutdown Eli Manning and company. New head coach Greg Schiano started off on the right note, bringing a new attitude, and the type of defense we used to expect out of the Buccaneers during their Super Bowl runs under John Gruden. The only player left from that Super Bowl winning team from 10-years ago is Ronde Barber, and Barber kicked the new era off nicely with an interception. The pass defense was adequate, but what really shined is the ability to stop the running game of the Panthers. The rushing defense was dead last in the NFL last season, allowing a porous 156 yards per game. Even more impressive for the Bucs is that the Panthers ranked 3rd in rushing yards per game a season ago. While Jonathan Stewart did not participate, the Panthers still had a serviceable backfield in DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. Of course, Cam Newton is always a threat to do damage on his feet as well. They were also 32nd in points allowed at 30 points allowed a game, but only allowing 10 in week 1 is a good start this season.
A key cog in the Buccaneers defense is defensive tackle Gerald McCoy who was in the same draft class as Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh. There was much speculation in that draft who the better defensive tackle was, but so far Suh has asserted himself as the better player. It has been difficult to get a good read on McCoy due to the fact he has been sidelined with injuries often. But make no mistake, when he is healthy he is one of the better defensive tackles in this league, just ask Cam Newton. This defense has a talented young core that could turn some heads. In addition to McCoy, cornerback Aqib Talib and rookie safety Mark Barron out of Alabama provide a solid foundation for this season and the future.
The Buccaneers offense is expecting a bounce back seasons of sorts out of third year quarterback Josh Freeman. After an outstanding rookie campaign with 25 TDs and only 6 INTs, Freeman regressed in 2011 passing for 16 TDs and 22 INTs. The Bucs went out and spent the big bucks to lure highly coveted free agent Vincent Jackson to Tampa in the offseason. Jackson had a quiet debut, catching 4 balls for 47 yards, but he has the big play potential every down. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise the Buccaneers have on offense is rookie running back Doug Martin out of Boise State. Martin had a productive preseason, and so far, it has translated in the regular season. He was their biggest offensive weapon for the Bucks in week 1, rushing for 95 yards on 24 carries, also hauling in four receptions for 24 yards. I had Martin pegged as a fantasy sleeper entering the 2012 season, and I think he is going to continue to put up big numbers for the Bucs. If Freeman can get back to the way he was performing in 2010, this could be an offense worth keeping an eye on.
The Giants defense will need to stay alert, and not take this offense lightly. It won’t help if Prince Amukamara isn’t able to play after being absent last week as well. Amukamara is currently a game time decision, so be sure to monitor the situation closely. The biggest question mark for the Giants last week was at the cornerback position and it was generally tough sledding against the Cowboys. Romo passed for 307 yards on 22 of 29 passing. The Giants allowed the Cowboys third receiving option, Kevin Ogletree, to run wild. Ogletree was getting separation all night long and it showed, Ogletree finished with 8 receptions, 114 yards, and 2 TDs. Running back DeMarco Murray had an outstanding performance as well, rushing for 131 yards on 20 carries. Defense is the Giants M.O, so without a stifling defense the Giants are an average team. The offense seemed out of sync, too. There was no salsa dancing for Victor Cruz, he actually couldn’t even get a good handle on the ball, dropping easy passes throughout the game. It would help if Hakeem Nicks could finally get healthy, but he is questionable again for week 2. A loss that went slightly unnoticed was the departure of receiver Mario Manningham. I believe the problem is amplified with the inability of Nicks to stay healthy.
Buccaneers vs. Giants Spread and Betting Odds:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7.5 (-105)
@ New York Giants -7.5 (-115)
Over 44 (-110)
Under 44 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Buccaneers vs. Giants Pick:
What impresses me the most is the fact that the Buccaneers held a very good rushing attack to only 10-yards in week 1. A unit that couldn’t stop a nose bleed a year ago looked completely different with new head coach Greg Schiano. The offense is also greatly improved with finally having a true number one target for Josh Freeman. The Giants running game is going to need to get going quickly in this one, but I don’t think Ahmad Bradshaw is a running back that can carry a team on his back alone. If the Bucs stuff the run early, it will be up to Eli Manning to get in a rhythm with a banged up receiving core. There are numerous teams in the NFL that can survive without a running game, but I just don’t think the passing game is good enough at this point in time for the Giants to solely rely on it. I think this is a game that will be a low scoring affair that is played closely without. In that regard, sign me up for a revamped Buccaneers defense and offense.
PICK = Buccaneers +7.5