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Buffalo Bills opponent preview: By-the-numbers look at the New York Giants

We’ll do a stat dive this week in lieu of the usual format

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

After a very disappointing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Buffalo Bills are set to host the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. Usually I’d pick a specific player or position group to highlight via film review, but the Giants have struggled to a sufficient point to warrant a more global look. The best way to do that is a stat dive.

Giants Offense — League comparison

I’ve used these charts before, which come courtesy of the NFL. For offense: red = bad. The Giants do well on fourth-down conversions and goal-to-go situations. There’s a wacky clusters of teams in the middle of the pack so those numbers translate to 15th and 11th respectively. That’s above perfect average, but still in the average range. Now let’s talk about all the red.

I’m a bigger fan of per-play metrics so let’s focus on those. With 3.72 rushing yards per play, the Giants rank 24th in the league. That’s barely squeaking into the average cluster according to my rule of four with 25% of the league being worse off. This is the Giants’ best rating in all of those red highlights when it comes to per play metrics. When it comes to all the red highlighter, it’s their second best with a 23rd rating in rushing yards per game.

They’re dead last in overall yards per play and 31st for passing yards per play. Only three teams have a higher interception rate. No one allows a higher sack rate.

This is all good news. The better news? The Giants have the second lowest points per game. Want the best news? The only team scoring less per game than them is Buffalo Bills’ following opponent, the New England Patriots.

Giants Defense — League Comparison

Remember how with the last chart, red = bad? It’s the opposite here: red = good. This is a near perfect mirror of the offense with the Giants stopping teams on fourth down (fifth best) and goal-to-go situations (12th). The punt return average looks like a strength but there are some really bad teams pulling the numbers down. While that 8.9 is better than the mean average, it’s 19th in the league so below the median average. But remember I’m a rule-of-four guy since I invented it. That means 19th is in the average cluster.

The defensive numbers are technically better than offense in the rankings but not by much. They’re 31st in the league in yards per play, only ahead of Denver. They’re 29th in rushing yards per play and 30th for passing.

Their interception rate is 23rd in the league, so also in that average cluster. Third-down stops has them ranked 24th and red zone stops at 20th are both also in the average cluster.

They’re not very good at getting to the quarterback. Only the Atlanta Falcons do so less frequently. They’re also not very good at stopping the other team from scoring. You know... the entire point of a defense. Three teams are worse, but fourth worst in the league is not an enviable position.

When it comes to overall differential per game, opponents of the Giants average 18.2 points more than New York and 122.8 more yards. Both of these are dead last in the league.

Play Direction — Rushing

You’ve likely also seen these before on Buffalo Rumblings. Is there anything the Giants are legitimately good at? There is. On offense, running plays to the right tackle have them definitively in the good range. There’s a catch though as they’ve only run the ball that direction 11 times. There’s not a single major outlier, but two of these were Daniel Jones scrambles of 13 and 15 yards.

On the defensive side, they’ve managed to be quite good at locking down runs to the left end. Small sample-size caveat out there, the play finder tool from Pro Football Reference’s service shows a pretty steady presence on that side. There could be some truth to this as a strength.

Play Direction — Passing

For the passing stats there’s more data to consider, as average gain and completion percentage are both factors. The Giants are actually quite good at passes to the short left with solid average gain and very good completion percentage. High completion percentages do tend to lead to better average gain by removing passes of “zero” (aka “incomplete”). So it’s unlikely these short left passes are traveling further distances on average. The ninth-place ranking in average gain is almost certainly a function of the completion percentage. That’s not an insult, just an observation.

Similarly, the poor completion percentage over the short middle likely is a major factor in the abysmal average gain. You see the same thing for deep right passes where both ratings are very bad.

What’s also pretty glaring is the low total volume of deep passes. They’re average in the middle but very low to the outsides. Overall this means the Giants are not passing deep (more on that below). That probably helps explain the poor rating in average yards per pass up above.

On defense, things are a bit harder to dissect. They’re actually good in three of the six zones (deep right, short left, and short middle). They’re bad in the other three. A good guess is that they’re a bit boom or bust against the pass. It also suggests opponents may have to choose their spots.

In summary

On paper this is a preposterously lopsided matchup up. As just one quick “for instance,” what’s the prediction for this scenario;

Team A: Allows more sacks per pass attempt than anyone else and the fourth most interceptions
Team B: The best team in the league at getting to the quarterback and intercepting the ball per pass attempt

OK class, let’s all grade our own exams. Did you answer with “A bloodbath?” Because that’s the prediction on paper. Now there are always reasons to pause. The Bills have suffered some major injuries on defense. The Giants may be featuring former Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.

If so, head coach Brian Daboll may try to leverage Taylor’s ability to throw a deep ball to shift how the Giants’ offense is operating. Taylor’s legs can also shift the dynamic. Will it be enough for the Giants to eke out a win? On paper it’s still a “no.” But we’ve seen stranger things play out before.