The New York Giants (0-3) are winless so far, but according to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1), they’re still a dangerous team and much better than their record implies.
Big Blue will try and earn its first win of the season when they travel to Raymond James Stadium and not one member of the Buccaneers roster or coaching staff are taking the visitors lightly.
“We’ve got a two-time Super Bowl MVP coming in,” Tampa Bay’s star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said about Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning. “[No.] 13 [Giants’ wideout Odell Beckham, Jr.] is arguably the best receiver in the league. I’ll say I can argue our guy [receiver Mike Evans] is, [too]. They’ve just got a lot of playmakers on the offense. … We’ve gotta be ready, man. They’ve got something to prove. We’ve got something to prove.”
It’ll be a battle of National Football Conference teams looking to wash the bad taste out of their collective mouths. Tampa Bay is coming off a terrible performance in losing at the Minnesota Vikings, 34-17, to backup quarterback Case Keenum, while New York one-upped them with a heartbreaking walk-off loss at the Philadelphia Eagles when they nailed a 61-yard field at the buzzer.
Salute Magazine takes a look at the key storylines to follow, as the Giants look to earn their first win of the season, while the Buccaneers try to get back on track.
#1 The great debate … Fans of both teams have the right to claim their star wideout as the best in the 2014 National Football League Draft. Evans was the seventh overall pick, while Beckham was 12th. It was a loaded draft class at that position – especially in the first round – which included Sammy Watkins of the Los Angeles Rams, by way of the Buffalo Bills, Brandin Cooks of the New England Patriots, by way of the New Orleans Saints, and Kelvin Benjamin of the Carolina Panthers. Jarvis Landry of the Miami Dolphins and Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers were selected soon after in the second round.
Evans and Beckham, though, are considered at the top of their class, as the fourth-year pros are among the most productive players since entering the league. They’ve combined for 553 catches, 7,975 yards, and 65 touchdowns. Beckham has 37 of those touchdowns, the most in the NFL since his Week 5 debut of his rookie season. Beckham also nabbed his 300th career reception during last week’s loss in Philadelphia, doing so in fewer games (45) than any player in league history.
The Bucs’ top weapon, though, didn’t take the bait about who’s better.
“I think we are both great players,” the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans said. “I’m a bit bigger. He’s a bit faster. He’s better after the catch. I’m a bigger guy — better at jump balls, probably.”
Evans also likes the extra curriculum stuff that some old school fans, players, and coaches may not like about Beckham.
“He plays with a lot of passion as well, as I [do]. I think we play with a lot of swag in different areas,” Evans said. “He’s more of a dancer, [and] I’m more of a tough guy. … Odell is a great player. He is a friend of mine. I’m happy that I am a part of such an amazing draft class. I hope we can continue the success we’ve been having.”
#2 Manning owns the Bucs … The Giants’ signal caller is 5-0 against the Bucs, including a 24-14 playoff victory in Tampa that began the team’s magical 2007 Super Bowl run. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and has an 87.7 passer rating in his past three games against the Bucs.
Manning appreciates the statistics, but all he truly cares about is getting rid of that zero in the win column.
“Our mindset is we have to get this win right here. Get our first win and go from there,” said Manning. “We have a long football season left and anything is possible. But still the focus is on the next game no matter if we’re 3-0, or 1-2, or whatever.”
#3 Can Jameis Winston bounce back? … The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft is coming off a three-interception game at Minnesota. He’s a noted gunslinger, so the Giants feel comfortable in knowing he’ll give that good secondary some chances to make plays. He’s a different player at home, though, and knows he needs to take care of the ball. If history is any indication, he will bounce back, as he’s thrown 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions in his past seven home games – five of them wins.
#4 Eating up that Apple … Second-year cornerback Eli Apple has been picked on this season, and with noted Giants’ killer DeSean Jackson likely to draw the matchup with the former Ohio State University star, Big Blue backers may cringe at that battle. Apple was beaten for a short touchdown by Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten in the opener, gave up a 27-yard scoring toss to Detroit Lions wideout Marvin Jones the following game, and was called for pass interference penalties of 41 and 36 yards against the Eagles, last week, with both infractions leading to touchdowns. Those weren’t the only woes in that Eagles game, as he also collided with teammate Janoris Jenkins on a 19-yard pass to wideout Alshon Jeffrey that set up the game-winning 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott. It could be a long afternoon for him if he can’t correct those issues.