The New York Giants travel north to face the Buffalo Bills this week, and while the Bills are dealing with some key injuries, they may actually be the healthier of the teams in this week’s matchup. The Giants’ current injury report looks like a CVS receipt, and while there can be an argument about the quality of the players on Buffalo’s Injured Reserve outweighing those injuries, it’s a giant group of injured players for the team from East Rutherford, NJ.
In order for head coach Brian Daboll to lead his charges to a huge upset — the Giants are 14-point underdogs heading into this one — he’ll need to design a sound, quick-strike game plan to keep his quarterback upright. We’re not certain about whether that will be starter Daniel Jones or old friend Tyrod Taylor, so we’re going to leave a quarterback off this list.
Which five Giants make up our players to watch this week? Here’s our list.
RB Saquon Barkley
We’re watching him this week for two reasons. First, we’re monitoring his practice status as he works his way back from a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 2. Second, if that practice participation seems to indicate that he’s playing, it adds a deeper layer to the Giants’ offense. New York scored 31 points in that Week 2 win over the Arizona Cardinals. In their other four games combined, the Giants have totaled 31 points. Barkley is the key to making Buffalo’s defense respect the run game, and against a Giants offensive line that has been blown up time and again this year, Buffalo’s defensive linemen won’t have much to worry about if Barkley sits. With all due respect to veteran Matt Breida, he isn’t the same guy as a healthy Saquon. The other thing to watch with Barkley if he plays is just how effective he’ll be coming off that high ankle injury. If the Bills force the Giants into clear passing situations, it doesn’t bode well for whomever is throwing the passes for the G-Men.
T Evan Neal
The former No. 7 overall pick has made waves of late — and not the good kind. He called Giants’ fans “sheep” when asked about how the team deals with outside criticism, a comment that looked even worse after social media amplified a blown assignment last week that allowed a Miami Dolphins pass rusher to smoke quarterback Daniel Jones. Neal is going to have his hands full this week with Buffalo’s defensive line, as he’ll see some combination of Von Miller, Leonard Floyd, and Kingsley Jonathan. If Greg Rousseau is able to play, it’ll be even worse for him, but Daboll will need to cook up some quick-hitters and screens in order to protect this line at some point. Neal is one of a few weak links on the offensive line that the Bills can exploit.
EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux
The Giants have just five sacks in five games this year. Thibodeaux has four of them, so stopping him from hitting quarterback Josh Allen has to be the paramount goal for Buffalo’s pass protection. There are other solid players along that defensive line, but none of them have quite the same bend and athleticism that the second-year edge rusher has. Thibodeaux has already equaled his sack total from last season. The Bills would like to prevent him from surpassing that total this week.
DL Dexter Lawrence
While Leonard Williams is an old nemesis from his days with the New York Jets — and he’s a great player in his own right — Lawrence is the guy I’d vote as the interior lineman most likely to blow up a play. After an incredible breakout season last year where Lawrence had 68 tackles, 28 quarterback hits, and 7.5 sacks, he’s off to what seems to be a “slower” start this year. Lawrence has yet to notch his first sack, but he’s tied for the team lead in quarterback hits with five. He also has just one tackle for loss so far. Bills rookie guard O’Cyrus Torrence struggled a bit last week, as he was flagged multiple times and seemed to be less stout, especially in run blocking, than he’d been previously. Perhaps a return home will mean a return to the same solid form he showed in Buffalo’s first four games. If not, Lawrence is one player who can really give this Buffalo offensive line a problem.
CB Adoree’ Jackson
After two plus-years with the Giants where he allowed less than 53% of the passes thrown his way to be completed, Jackson has had a rough start to 2023. He’s allowed 66% of the balls thrown his way to be completed for a total of 279 yards and one touchdown. That yardage total is nearly what he allowed in ten games last season, where Jackson allowed 398 yards on 60 attempts his way. This year, he’s allowed 19-of-29 passes to be completed, and opposing quarterbacks have a 108.3 quarterback rating. Josh Allen should find who Jackson is guarding and go that way, because Stefon Diggs isn’t going to be contained by Jackson, and Gabe Davis is too physical for the 5’11”, 185-pound corner to handle by himself.