‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
The Giants are 8 ½-point underdogs to the Patriots this Sunday.
Let’s say that again. The 5-2 Giants, current leaders of the NFC East, are 8 ½-point underdogs to the 5-2 AFC East co-leading Patriots.
You’d think that would be cause for fans to pack it in, forget that trip into Gillette Stadium, and move on to next week’s road encounter with the up-and-coming 49ers.
You’d think wrong, of course. The Giants have beaten the odds — and outsiders’ perceptions — against this team before, though not necessarily in New England. It happened in their last meeting in 2007, which coincidentally gave this franchise its third Super Bowl championship. Remember? Arizona? Eli Manning to David Tyree? Undefeated Patriots? A mile-long betting line that came out at 13 ½ points and 8-1 odds against the Giants?
That’s far in the past, of course. Only 15 players are still around in the locker room to tell the tales of that season — the 16th, Domenik Hixon, is on injured reserve. And there hasn’t been a lot of that talk going on.
But whether the players are talking about it or not, the fact is that odds are a thing the Giants do tend to overcome. And if they expect to beat the Pats this week, they’ll need to beat more than the numbers flying from the Vegas bookmakers’ heads. There are some very real, very imposing statistics that favor the Pats, and one big one that shows the Giants have an uphill battle ahead of them.
Tom Brady, a rather unhappy quarterback in light of last week’s loss to Pittsburgh, has made a habit of following bad losses with victories. Especially when he’s in friendly confines. He’s 14-4 at home after losses.
That’s just the personal stat. New England history also shows a potential pile-on. Since 2002, New England has gone 31-7 in home games played after Oct. 31 for an NFL-best .815 winning percentage. And in all home games against the NFC since 2002, they are a whopping 18-1.
The Giants have their own numbers to overcome. They hit the midpoint of the schedule with this one, which means their second-half witching our is upon them. Eli Manning’s 12-14 career record in November reflects the beginning of those second-half slides after generally strong first halves highlighted by his 23-5 mark in October games.
Then there’s the Giants’ stalled running game. Ahmad Bradshaw’s sore and swollen foot incurred against Miami kept him out of practice Wednesday and could make him iffy for Sunday.
Brandon Jacobs, booed last week after fumbling his first carry (he recovered it) and dropping a pass that same second-quarter series, and finishing with four carries for 10 yards, proclaimed a new attitude and better performance the rest of the year. And the Giants need that right now against a team that ranks ninth in the league against the run.
Manning’s passing game may also take a hit if Hakeem Nicks’ knee sprain keeps him sidelined during the practice week. The Giants are trying to rush PUP’d Ramses Barden back to fill in, but to expect any substantive contribution from someone who has seen limited time in nine games over two injury-ridden seasons is stretching the imagination.
The Patriots’ schedule so far has proved they’re beatable. It’s just history that shows they’re all but unbeatable in the regular season at home. And if you have any doubts about that, just ask the 20 straight opponents that have fallen to them in Foxborough.
So it’s all set up for the Giants. Odds as long as giraffe’s neck. Segments of gameplans that simply haven’t worked consistently. More injury woes.
“If we win this — which I feel we will — the outside world will say, ‘The Giants are now a great team,’” said safety Kenny Phillips.
Yep. As long as the Giants beat the odds — again.
What’s your prediction for Giants-Pats? Fire away in the comments below…