Giants face long odds against Patriots with numerous key players out of lineup
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley has been sidelined by an ankle injury the past two weeks and is not expected to be available Thursday night against the New England Patriots. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
The New England Patriots defense has not allowed a touchdown pass in its first five games this season. Coach Bill Belichick’s team is giving up an absurd league-low 6.8 points per game.
“They got the No. 1 defense over there,” New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley said Tuesday. “We’re definitely gonna have to be on our A-game.”
The Giants’ offense, however, is expected to be without Barkley (high right ankle sprain), receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion), tight end Evan Engram (sprained left MCL) and running back Wayne Gallman (concussion).
And that means rookie quarterback Daniel Jones faces even greater odds on Thursday than he did in Sunday’s 28-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Shepard is out long-term. Gallman is in the protocol, as well. And ESPN reported on Tuesday both Barkley and Engram are unlikely to play, as well. Both practiced in a limited role, with Engram wearing a sleeve over his left knee and calf.
Barkley said “I expect to get on the bus” to Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, and he and Coach Pat Shurmur both disputed the report he is unlikely to play.
“You didn’t hear that from me,” Shurmur said. “I think what’s accurate is the two guys that did not participate to any degree (Tuesday) were the two guys listed with concussions. … I really don’t have anything to add, and some of what’s out there is not stuff we put out there.”
Barkley added: “I do not know if I’m playing Thursday night. There’s no decision yet. I know you guys asked coach, and I know there’s reports out there that I’m unlikely to play. But it didn’t come from my mouth, it didn’t come from Coach Shurmur’s mouth, so I don’t know how that’s a story yet.”
The Giants’ star running back would be missing his third straight game and eyeing a hopeful return in Week 7 at home against the Arizona Cardinals.
That doesn’t help the Giants (2-3) and Jones on Thursday, though, facing the mighty Patriots (5-0). That is why the line on the game, which opened Sunday night with the Patriots giving 16 points, was up to 17 by Tuesday afternoon.
“They’ve been a good defense for a long time,” Jones said. “We’re excited for the opportunity, we’re excited for the challenge, and I think we’ll be prepared and confident going in.”
Granted, the Patriots’ schedule has been soft enough to help them pad their defensive stats.
There are four winless teams remaining in the NFL entering Week 6, and New England has beaten three of them: Ryan Fitzpatrick/Josh Rosen and the Miami Dolphins (0-4), Luke Falk and the Jets (0-4), and Colt McCoy and Washington (0-5).
The Pats bludgeoned Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, 33-3, in Week 1, though. And they also beat Josh Allen/Matt Barkley and the Buffalo Bills (4-1) on the road, 16-10, in Week 4.
They’re allowing a league-low 238.4 yards per game to opposing offenses. And Jones has cooled off considerably since his impressive debut at Tampa Bay, while the Giants’ pass protection has slid in a big way, too.
Jones has been pressured on 45.7 percent of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus, which ranks second-highest in the NFL only to the Jets’ Falk at 47.8 percent.
The Giants believe in their remaining skill position players, headlined by receivers Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer and Cody Core, fullback Eli Penny and tight ends Rhett Ellison, Garrett Dickerson and Kaden Smith.
But Thursday is setting up for a frightening four quarters if the offense can’t move the ball and keep Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense off the field. New England’s offense has struggled, but the Giants defense just surrendered 490 yards to a Minnesota Vikings offense that had been in absolute turmoil coming in.
And Shurmur’s only Thursday night experience so far was a 34-13 blowout loss last season to the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium, albeit with Eli Manning at quarterback.
Shurmur did not want to hear about lower expectations for Jones given his dearth of weapons.
“We expect Daniel to go out and execute, and I’m gonna try to call the game so he has the best chance to do so,” Shurmur said.
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