The story lines revolving around Sunday’s Week 3 game between the Giants (0-2) and the Bucs (1-1) center on rookie Daniel Jones and how the Bucs defense will handle an unproven but unknown quarterback. Not to be forgotten: superstar running back Saquon Barkley and the problems he’ll pose for Tampa Bay. The Bucs will look to get a big game from middle linebacker Kevin Minter, who will step in for injured first-round pick Devin White and look to replicate the success he enjoyed in the Week 2 victory over Carolina. Shaquil Barrett, the NFC defensive player of the week, will also look to add to his team-leading four sacks. Offensively, the Bucs need to improve its passing game and get another good game from running back Peyton Barber.
A rookie will be key; a Bucs rookie
Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: Hard to know what to expect from the Giants or new quarterback Daniel Jones. He has more mobility than Eli Manning, which is important. But the Giants still are awful on defense, allowing more than 31 points per game. Unless Jones can tackle, he won’t make a big difference there. The great equalizer is Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who kind of took over the game last season. The Bucs stopped the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey, but as Bruce Arians has said, Barkley is not from the same planet. That’s the great equalizer. Does Barkley run wild to protect the quarterback? Can the Bucs defense continue to improve. Let’s assume Jameis Winston will protect the football. Straight up, I think it’s a field goal or less game. Matt Gay gets it done. Bucs 24, Giants 21
Bucs win close game if they negate Barkley
Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: The Bucs are tied for sixth in the league against the run, and as much as the storyline going into this game will be about rookie Daniel Jones taking over the reins of the Giants offense from longtime Eli Manning, it’s really about stopping do-it-all running back Saquon Barkley. This guy is the man. And while Tampa Bay did a good job against Christian McCaffrey last week, Barkley offers a bigger challenge. He’s likely to do some damage regardless. The Bucs just have to prevent him from taking over the team. All in all, the Bucs must control the line of scrimmage on defense, keep Saquon out of the end zone and, of course, win the turnover battle again. If they do, that can give them the edge. It’s still a close game. But I’m really beginning to believe in this defense to make big plays when needed. Bucs 24, Giants 20.
Bucs’ key advantages give them big edge
Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: This isn’t a difficult equation to solve. The Giants are starting a rookie quarterback. Their receiving corps is depleted. They have arguably the best running back in NFL, but as Mike Francesa told coach Pat Shurmur recently, “Other than that, you don’t look very good at anything.” Plus, the Bucs will face a defense similar to the one they’ve practiced against since the spring. James Bettcher, who was the defensive coordinator in Arizona for Bruce Arians from 2015 to 2017, runs a scheme similar to the one Todd Bowles runs here, which means Jameis Winston will see a lot of aggressive man coverages featuring one deep safety. The pass offense, which has been quiet to this point, should make some noise. This one *shouldn’t* be close. Bucs 28-10
Bucs can prove their a good team, not just a better team
John Romano, columnist @romano_tbtimes: Two weeks into the season, and the Bucs seem to have convinced a lot of people that they are a better team than they were in 2018. But how many people are convinced the Bucs are a good team? These type of games go a long way toward making that argument. You cannot lose at home to an 0-2 team with a rookie making his first start at quarterback. And there’s no reason Tampa Bay should lose this game as long as they avoid (stop me if you’ve heard this before) stupid turnovers on offense. Todd Bowles’ defense will focus on stopping the running game and making Daniel Jones beat the Bucs in his NFL debut.
Suspect Giants defense should lead to Bucs win
Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: The Giants may improve on offense behind rookie quarterback Daniel Jones over Eli Manning, but there’s not much they can do about the league’s second-worst defense (thanks, Miami). The Bucs should go up and down the field. Sans Jameis Winston mistakes, they will easily outscore New York. Bucs 31-20.
Closer than you may think
Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: Much has been made of the fact the Bucs will face Giants rookie Daniel Jones, but so often success for an opponent facing a rookie passer lies in timing. It’s more difficult to stop a rookie in his first game. You have little to no tape to help scout. Defenses can’t detect tendencies, and if the Bucs focus too much on Jones, Saquon Barkley will feast. Plus, the Giants run a 3-4 defense similar to what Todd Bowles has installed in Tampa Bay. All that being said, I think the Bucs will still win. But don’t look for a Tampa Bay blowout, even though a rookie will lead the Giants. Bucs 23-20
Daniel in the lions den
Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: Forget the Bucs-versus-rookie-QB narrative. But Todd Bowles versus rookie quarterbacks? Now that’s another story. As Rick Stroud pointed out, Bowles is a combined 5-0 against rookie QBs as Cardinals defensive coordinator and Jets head coach (though he was 0-2 against Robert Griffin as Eagles interim defensive coordinator in 2012). Tampa Bay owns the talent edge and a what appears to be a credible, reliable defense. Instead of game-planning to hide weaknesses, Todd Bowles can and is putting his players in attack mode. Look for him to go after Daniel Jones from a variety of angles. If the Bucs end every offensive possession with a kick and Jameis Winston can get his Mike Evans connection going, this could be a blowout. Bucs 24-17.
A look ahead at Bruce Arians’ first year in Tampa Bay and a critical season for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.