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In an NFL rematch of Super Bowl XLII and XLVI, the New England Patriots and New York Giants will square off at MetLife Stadium.
Breaking down the most intriguing Matchups
New England Patriots 8-0 @ N.Y. Giants 5-4 4:25 PM ET – TV: CBS
The Giants are ranked dead last in the league with 9 sacks, but are ranked first in the league in takeaways, with 20, tied with the eagles. The opportunistic approach by Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo’s unit has scored 4 times on defense and has consistently given the offense good field position and extra possessions. That’s helped New York’s offense in averaging 27.4 points per game, ranking them fifth in the league. The Giants are also ranked first in the league in takeaway and giveaway differential with a plus 11.
Will that continue for HC Tom Coughlin’s Giants against the most disciplined team in the Patriots at MetLife Stadium? The Patriots have turned the ball over only a mere 5 times this season – much thanks to arguably the best quarterback ever to play the game in Tom Brady, exhibiting his poise and exceptional judgment on reading coverage’s and finding open targets that’s stifled the opposition on a weekly basis. You can make a strong case that Brady has been better than anyone in the history of the game when it comes to executing and keeping his offense in rhythm. The challenge at hand for Spagnuolo will be the most difficult mission for his unit to make plays on the ball and pressure the pocket. Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) made his return last week at defensive end, and though the stat sheet tells us he didn’t record any sacks, he provided pressure on the edge. For Spagnuolo’s group to have a chance against the well-oiled-machined led Brady offense, pressure and tight man press coverage will need to come in handy for the Giants to hand the Patriots their first loss of the season.
Without LB Jon Beason, who’s done for the season with an ankle injury, New York’s linebacker corps and safeties have been susceptible defending the middle of the field, particularly against tight ends. With that factoring in, containing New England’s freakishly skilled and physical tight end, Rob Gronkowski will be the toughest matchup for New York’s defense. Rookie safety Landon Collins has had his woes taking bad angles and getting caught out of position – sprinkle that in with Brandon Merriweather’s inconsistency in coverage and Brady should have ample chances to dissect New York’s vulnerable areas (middle seams) of the defense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will likely be responsible for keeping Brady’s multifaceted weapon, Julian Edleman in check, but the prime plan for Spagnuolo’s secondary will be to nullify the masterful combinations of rub and pick concepts the Patriots have exploited back sevens with. Nobody has a quicker release than Brady, and if there isn’t pressure coming from the middle of New York’s defense, the ultimate executioner will be able to survey the field and stand upright from the pocket to step up and deliver the football. If New York’s secondary allows Edelman, Danny Amendola and rest of Brady’s receivers to screen defenders to allow separation on swing, wheel, out cuts, crossing and slant routes – New England’s offense will have a field day moving the chains. The Patriots will run the ball, and if the Giants fall behind, HC Bill Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels will turn to power back LeGarrette Blount on power based runs to hammer away at New York’s defense. In addition, there are deceptive concepts, play-action fakes, and lots of motioning New England uses that can catch New York’s defense out of position. Look for McDaniels to throw a bunch of different spread formations (trips and stack sets) while moving Brady’s options around to form favorable matchups.
Quick passing concepts have been a staple of New York’s offense under OC Ben McAdoo’s West Coast style of offense. On trying to minimize New York’s electrifying receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., look for Patriots DC Matt Patricia to keep a safety over the top of the burner while having his secondary ready to play tight in coverage and force New York quarterback Eli Manning to throw to ball outside. Most of Manning’s completions and well executed plays have come inside on slants, crosses and in the middle seams. Manning can get the ball to his receivers on the outside shoulder, but for Patricia’s unit to keep Manning out of sync, his well-rounded defensive front that features Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley, and Jabaal Sheard (if he plays, nursing an ankle) needs to put Manning under duress by winning their battles in the trenches against a subpar New York offensive line. Look for Patricia to throw some A gap blitzes toward Manning and to have a linebacker shadow New York’s X-factor back Shane Vereen, who McAdoo uses lots on third down, offset when the Giants are in shotgun. Pushing the ball downfield is always imperative, but to keep Brady and company on the sidelines to limit his possessions, the old school power running concepts of Coughlin should be part of the plan for the Giants when the have the ball. Going with New England is the responsible pick – there are more matchups on both sides of the ball in their favor, and without New York being able to dominate time of possession or take the ball away from Brady, the Patriots should continue their winning ways.
Pick: Patriots 37, N.Y. Giants 24
Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Arizona Cardinals 6-2 @ Seattle Seahawks 4-4
Both offensive units have the pedigree at the point of attack to nullify what the opposition does defensively so well. Under HC Bruce Arians, the Cardinals’ offense has been known to stretch the field with vertical concepts. This year, a ground attack that’s given the keys to running back Chris Johnson has made the Cardinals’ offense diverse, mixing things up between the run and pass. Seattle’s vaunted defense is very feisty and stingy, led by the “Big Three” of safety Earl Thomas bracketing the deep ball, Strong safety Kam Chancellor playing near the box in a linebacker/defensive end role, and cornerback Richard Sherman blanketing the perimeter. Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a head hunter will be mostly responsible for containing Johnson and Arizona’s backs when the Cardinals run their zone stretch plays, but the matchups on the outside will be paramount for Seattle’s defense to slow down quarterback Carson Palmer, who’s thriving on a slew of spread sets, particularly when the Cardinals go empty backfield.
They key for Arians’ offense will be to keep Seattle’s defense honest by running the ball, but to ultimately neutralize Seattle’s pass rush, spreading Seattle DC Kris Richard’s unit out will be the best way to attack the field. Arians has moved his personnel around this season, with veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald playing inside more. His snaps from the slot has him beating slot defenders while Michael Floyd and John Brown possess more of an over the top threat, mixed in with the short passing game concepts that’s been an extension of the running game. Will Richard have Sherman play Fitzgerald in the slot or will he keep Sherman playing his usual spot on the outside against the physical Floyd? Look for Arians to have Palmer attack Seattle’s weakness (corners Cary Williams and DeShawn Shead) with his range of outlets on passing downs. To slow down Arizona’s high-octane passing concepts, the technique of pressing and bailing of Seattle’s scheme will need to disrupt Arizona’s deep receiving corps at the snap to allow more time for Seattle’s front to get after the non-mobile Palmer. Mainly, Richard’s unit will need to force Palmer outside the hash marks and get in his face to force him to make bad decisions with the football.
Nothing has really changed for Arizona’s defense since the departure of former DC Todd Bowles. The philosophy is still the same, blitz, blitz and blitz. The versatile talent is still there at each level of the defense, ranging from safety/linebacker Deone Bucannon, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, all the way down to a stout front – plus having one the best lockdown corners (Patrick Peterson) in the business makes Arizona’s defense complete and geared for Bettcher to get creative in coverage and send pressure from all angles. Blitzing will never get thrown out of the game plan for Arizona, but blitzing against Seattle’s Russell Wilson, the games best sandlot passer could be costly. Seattle’s offense is based on grinding things out on the ground with Marshawn Lynch, setting the tone and getting the play-fakes functioning on Bootleg and read option concepts. Over-pursuing can freeze Arizona’s linebackers and safeties on the play fakes, and if that happens, Wilson can find dangerous tight end Jimmy Graham in stride on roll-outs for big plays. Without any doubt, Bettcher will press Seattle’s receivers, so look for Seattle OC Darrell Bevell to use some mesh concepts and rub routes to beat coverage when the Seahawks spread Arizona’s defense out. Mainly, Lynch’s violent prowess needs to churn out the dirty yards for Seattle’s offense to move the chains against an aggressive Arizona defense that swarms to the ball.
Pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 21 OT
The rest of Massimo’s Week 10 picks:
Jets 24, Bills 20 - Game Already Completed, final score, Bills 22, Jets 17
Packers 27, Lions 17
Cowboys 24, Buccaneers 20
Panthers 29, Titans 17
Rams 28, Bears 25
Saints 27, Redskins 24
Eagles 31, Dolphins 24
Steelers 23, Browns 20
Ravens 26, Jaguars 21
Raiders 30, Vikings 27
Broncos 30, Chiefs 16
Bengals 31, Texans 14
Bye: Atlanta Falcons (6-3), Indianapolis Colts (4-5), San Diego Chargers (2-7), San Francisco 49ers (3-6)
You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and SilverandBlueReport.com