NFL: Contrasting fortunes as Bucs host Giants in MNF
This week's Monday Night Football pits two sides at opposite ends of the Super Bowl outright betting market against each other with the defending champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hosting New York Giants at the Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs are 1212/1 to retain the Vince Lombardi Trophy at SoFi Stadium on 13th February, while the Giants are on offer at 5000/1, and the disparity in their overall chances is reflected in the match markets.
Tom Brady's side are 1/5 on the Money Line and are 11-point favourites for the match, with the Giants priced at 15/4 to register the win, while the Total Points line is set at 49.5.
Bucs looking to bounce back
The Bucs looked every bit the Super Bowl contender across the first seven games of the season, losing just once at the Los Angeles Rams as they moved to 6-1 with relative ease, but the wheels have come off to some degree in the last two games as they have been beaten by NFC South rivals, the New Orleans Saints, as well as the Washington Football Team last time out.
The Bucs are now just one win better off than the Saints in the NFC North and they will be desperate to get back to winning ways to maintain their divisional advantage. Tampa are priced at 1/500 to win the division with the Saints available at 40/1.
Brady has not lost three games on the bounce too many times in his career and what can help the Bucs further on Monday is a return to the Raymond James Stadium as they boast a perfect 4-0 record on home soil, with all three of their defeats this term coming on the road.
The Bucs' offense has also been more effective in front of their own fans, scoring at least 31 points in each of their four games so far, while they have not passed 28 points in any of their five away.
Fitness issues could be key
Antonio Brown has been ruled out of the clash but the Bucs will make game-time decisions on tight end Rob Gronkowski and safety Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Regardless of those potential returners, the Bucs still look to have plenty of firepower on both sides of the ball to be expected to win this, and the Giants will be more hopeful that some of their returning players can give them the necessary lift to make a difference.
The G-Men's offense has struggled all season but they are set to welcome back wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney for the trip to Florida, which can only aid Daniel Jones as he looks to prove he is the right quarterback to take the Giants forward.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas could also make his comeback but the big news will centre around Saquon Barkley and whether he will be able to take to the field.
Barkley's varied absences over the last two seasons have obviously had a major impact on the Giants' ability to put points on the board and he has missed the last four games this term due to an ankle problem.
Coming off the bye week has helped Big Blue get players back fit although Barkley remains "questionable" in terms of featuring against the Bucs.
Barkley suffered the latest injury in the loss to the Dallas Cowboys coming on the back of his impressive performance in week 4 in the Giants' win in New Orleans, in which he scored both a rushing and receiving touchdown, but he keeps finding obstacles in his path in his recovery to peak fitness.
The visitors will definitely be without wide receiver Sterling Shepard and safety Ryan Logan though.
Giants defence needs Jones to deliver
The Giants' season started slowly but there have been signs that their defence is returning to somewhere near the form that almost saw them squeeze a playoff place last season, but they will need some help from Jones and the misfiring offense if they are to have a chance against Brady and co.
The seven-time Superbowl-winning quarterback leads the NFL this season in terms of touchdowns thrown, with 27 to his name, completing 254 of 377 attempts for 2870 yards.
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Perhaps astonishingly, given Daniel Jones' penchant for turnovers, Brady has thrown more interceptions than his counterpart (seven to five) but the Giants' signal caller is hampered by an ineffective offense, having thrown just eight TDs.
Head coach Joe Judge will need to set up a system to allow Jones to be effective in at least moving the chains, otherwise the Giants defense - who have only given up 39 points across the last three games - will be under too much pressure. High powered offenses like the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys have put up some big numbers against the Giants, and Monday's clash could get ugly if the offense continues to misfire.
The Buccaneers' defense has paid for slow starts in those two recent losses and if the Giants, who averaged only seven first-half points in their three victories so far, can get on the board early, we might have a game on our hands.
History hope for visitors
The Giants have the historical advantage in the head-to-head record with 16 wins to eight and, although they don't necessarily meet every year, they have played each other in four of the last five seasons, splitting the four meetings with two wins apiece.
The G-Men won the last meeting in Florida with a 32-31 win in 2019, although the Bucs avenged that loss with a 25-23 victory in New York the following year.
In that four-game spell, neither side has won by more than three points but it is worth pointing out that they were all played in the pre-Brady era at Tampa.