While there is a chance Drew Brees and Eli Manning will get involved in one of those 30-plus shootouts when the New Orleans Saints face the New York Giants this weekend, it’s more likely a defense is going to determine the winner.
The 39-year-old Brees and the Saints (2-1) are coming into MetLife Stadium on Sunday averaging more than 34 points. That’s more than troublesome for the Giants (1-2) and the 37-year-old Manning. New York has not scored 30 points since the final game of Tom Coughlin’s coaching tenure in 2015.
If the Saints run true to form, the Giants are in trouble. That puts a burden on defensive coordinator James Bettcher. The good news is New York has not given up more than 22 points in a game with its new 3-4 defense.
The Giants have done a good job of stopping the run, but their secondary struggled last week with cornerback Eli Apple sidelined with a hamstring injury. He is out this week.
Brees has been phenomenal this season, hitting 80 percent of his passes.
The last time the Giants played the Saints, New York won 16-13 at home. In the previous game, New Orleans posted a 52-49 win at home in a game Brees threw for 505 yards and seven TDs, and Manning threw for 350 yards and six TDs.
Brees is closing in on one of the more significant career records for an NFL quarterback: the 71,940 yards passing by Eli’s older brother, Peyton Manning. He needs 417 yards and has passed for more than that in a game 13 times in his career, including his 439 yards in this season’s opener against the Bucs. Just don’t expect Brees to discuss setting the record before it happens. “Nope. One at a time. One at a time,” Brees said this week. “That stuff takes care of itself.”
The Giants will be without top tight end Evan Engram with a sprained knee. Also, the Giants placed placed Jonathan Stewart, their most experienced running back but third on the depth chart behind rookie Whitehall High and Penn State product Saquon Barkley (who has had 100 yards of offense each week), on injured reserve Friday with a foot injury.
RAVENS AT STEELERS
Ben Roethlisberger and Terrell Suggs have spent well over a decade staring across the line of scrimmage, the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and the relentless Baltimore Ravens linebacker both knowing they will meet multiple times, often in violent fashion.
Their collisions — much like the rivalry between their two teams — have been memorable. So has the back and forth between the two.
And while the NFL appears to be in the midst of an identity crisis of sorts as it tries to legislate some of the brutality out of the game — particularly when it comes to how defenders can (and can’t) hit quarterbacks — Roethlisberger doesn’t expect much to change on Sunday night when the Steelers (1-1-1) host the Ravens (2-1).
Baltimore’s previous two visits to Heinz Field have ended dramatically. Antonio Brown’s “Immaculate Extension” in the final seconds secured a division title for the Steelers on Christmas night in 2016. Chris Boswell’s late field goal capped a wild 39-38 Pittsburgh victory last December.
The Steelers and the 36-year-old Roethlisberger remain one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses even with All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell’s extended absence while waiting to sign his franchise tender.
It’s a group the Ravens appear to be ready to join thanks in part to a revitalized Flacco. Pittsburgh is the NFL’s seventh-highest scoring team through three weeks. Baltimore is fifth.
Red (Zone) hot
The Ravens are the first team in NFL history to start a season with touchdowns on each of their 12 trips into the red zone.
Bring the noise
Pittsburgh’s secondary has looked like a bit of a hot mess early, allowing Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes to throw for six touchdowns in Week 2 and Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick to go over 400 yards last Monday.
JETS AT JAGUARS
New York Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum calls Sunday’s visit to Jacksonville an “identity game.”
“We have to be able to run the ball,” Beachum said. “They know that and we know that.”
The Jaguars (2-1) actually welcome it after what happened in the fourth quarter last week when theywere beat down by the Titans.
Jacksonville’s defense will try to redeem itself against the Jets (1-2), who have one of the top rushing tandems in the league. Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell have combined for 310 yards and four touchdowns in three games.
The Jets also torched Jacksonville on the ground in last season’s Week 4 matchup, which New York won 23-20 in overtime.
With rookie quarterback Sam Darnold making his fourth start and going against Jacksonville’s vaunted defensive front, it makes sense that the Jets would try to establish the run.
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is expected to return after missing the last two games because of a strained right hamstring. Fournette ran nine times for 41 yards in first half of the season opener against the Giants, but has been sidelined since.