Winning in Foxboro, Mass., is a tall enough task for a rookie quarterback. In fact, over the last 20 years, it’s been downright impossible: Opposing first-year QBs are 0-12 at Gillette Stadium during the Bill Belichick era.
Now, try doing that without your top two pass-catchers and your top two ball-carriers. Against a defense that’s surrendered just 20 total points and zero passing touchdowns through five games
That’s the challenge facing Daniel Jones this week as the New York Giants visit the undefeated New England Patriots on “Thursday Night Football.”
Time: Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium
TV: FOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
The Patriots shook off a slow start against the Washington Redskins to win 33-7 on the road and improve to 5-0 on the season.
The 2-3 Giants had their two-game winning streak snapped in a 28-10 home loss to the Minnesota Vikings, who racked up 490 yards of total offense, including 218 by running back Dalvin Cook.
The Patriots are pegged as 17 1/2-point favorites in this one, their fourth double-digit line in six games this season. New England covered as a 15 1/2-point favorite last week and is 3-2 against the spread this season. The Giants are 2-3 ATS.
Running backs Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Wayne Gallman (concussion), wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) and tight end Evan Engram (knee) all were ruled out Wednesday, leaving Jones with a skeleton crew of offensive weapons to work with.
New England also listed six players as questionable:
RB Rex Burkhead, Foot
LB Shilique Calhoun, Ankle
S Patrick Chung, Heel
S Nate Ebner, Groin
WR Julian Edelman, Chest
WR Josh Gordon, Knee
Burkhead, Chung and Ebner all sat out last week against the Redskins.
Linebacker Lorenzo Carter is questionable for New York with a neck injury.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots wide receiver
With Dorsett sidelined, we should see Meyers, the team’s No. 4 receiver, take on a more prominent role this week. The undrafted rookie put up huge numbers in the preseason but hasn’t seen much usage since the real games began, catching four total passes on six targets for 66 yards. Rookie punt returner Gunner Olszewski could see some run on offense, as well, if Edelman and/or Gordon are limited.
Daniel Jones, Giants quarterback
The deck is stacked against the Duke product in this one. Jones, who’s fared well overall since taking over for Eli Manning in Week 3, will be playing with a group of skill-position players made up largely of no-names, save for veteran wide receiver Golden Tate. Undrafted rookie Jonathan Hilliman is expected to start at running back for the Giants, with Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer and Cody Core making up the receiving corps and Rhett Ellison subbing in for Engram at tight end.
The Boogeymen, Patriots linebackers
That offense against this defense? Yikes. This projects as another big game for the Patriots’ deep and dynamic linebacking corps (Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Chase Winovich, John Simon and Elandon Roberts), which Collins dubbed “The Boogeymen” for its ability to terrify opposing QBs. Uber-versatile and skilled in the art of disguise, these ‘backers have made life miserable for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Luke Falk, Josh Allen and Colt McCoy in recent weeks, helping New England’s defense bag five-plus sacks in each of its last four games. This is not the kind of unit Jones wants to see in his fourth NFL start.
Golden Tate, Giants wide receiver
Expect New England’s secondary to zero in on Tate, whom the Patriots reportedly tried to trade for ahead of last year’s trade deadline and expressed interest in this spring. The 31-year-old primarily plays in the slot, so he’ll likely see a lot of Jonathan Jones, Pro Football Focus’s fourth-highest-graded cornerback this season. This has been a quiet season thus far for Tate, who was suspended for the first four games and then caught three passes on six targets for 13 yards in last week’s loss to the Vikings.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images