In lieu of writing a long preview, I’ll refer you to Sean Lahman’s excellent preview in the New York Sun. Summarizing his points, he writes, “With a rookie quarterback and a beleaguered offense, the only way the Bucs can win is if the Giants completely self-destruct.”

Here’s a quick breakdown and explanation of some significant stats going into this game:

 

Giants

Overall DVOA: 33.3% (4th in the NFL, ahead of the 3rd place team by 15 percentage points, behind the 1st place team [Bears] by 12 points. Yes, we’re one of the elite.)

Offense DVOA: 21.3% (3rd in the league. A potent unit.)

Run DVOA: 17.4% (2nd. Tiki’s the man.)

Pass DVOA: 25.2% (7th. Is it fair to say that Eli’s arrived? I mean, of course we can expect some improvement over the next few years, but give the guy credit: He’s really good. Now. And as Lahman points out in his preview, “Manning has done a fantastic job of identifying mismatches and exploiting them when they arrive.” Agreed. The mental side of Eli’s game has really, really improved. If his accuracy gets a bit better, the sky’s the limit.)

Defense DVOA: -10.8% (11th in the league. A dramatic improvement after week 3.)

Run DVOA: -17.8% (8th. Stalwart all year, despite what Jamal Lewis and the Ravens did to us in the first series of the preseason game. Imagine what this rating would be if Jason Bell had been a little quicker to fill his gap and tackle Warrick Dunn before he took it 90 yards? Credit also belongs to Fred Robbins, who has really, really stepped up this year. It’s good to see a guy “get it” and start realizing his potential. Have you heard Kendrick Clancy’s name since those first couple weeks of the preseason?)

Pass DVOA: -4.9% (13th. Hey, look what happened? The pass rush showed up, and the Giants pass defense went from a huge liability to a slight asset in the span of three games. Let’s keep it going this Sunday with Kiwanuka in for Osi.)

 

Bucs

Overall DVOA: -15.3% (21st in the NFL. Trailing the 20th ranked team [Seattle] by 15 percentage points. Yeesh. So much for my earlier contention that “yes, they’re 2-4, but this isn’t a bad team. I take that back. This team sucks.)

(Perhaps my misapprehension had to do with their beating the Eagles last Sunday [God bless ‘em for doing so!], but if you look at the stats, it’s not nearly as impressive as you would think. First of all, they needed the longest field goal in 8 years by none other than Matt Bryant to win it. Thank God Trey Junkin didn’t show up for that game.

Also, the Eagles outgained them 506 to 196. That’s….um… completely ridiculous. Yes, I know that Ronde had those two touchdowns, but winning a game when you get outgained by 300 yards when you only accumulate 200 doesn’t happen very often. But thank God it happened last week.)

Offense DVOA: -12.8% (25th. Putrid.)

Run DVOA: -6.7% (14th. Cadillac ain’t bad. We should be able to contain him, but he’s a very good player.)

Pass DVOA: -17.2% (24th. Gradkowski averaged 3.3 yards per attempt against the Eagles last week.)

Defense DVOA: 1.0% (20th. Not the Bucs defense of 2002, or even last year. An average unit.)

Run DVOA: 2.0% (24th. Though last week, the Eagles rushed for 208 yards on 7.7 yards per carry. How in the world did they lose that game?)

Pass DVOA: -0.1% (15th. The only facet of this team that is not below average. Just keep an eye on Ronde.)

**

A big factor tomorrow will be the weather, with winds expected to approach 40 miles per hour. Since we’re the better team, we’d of course prefer the weather to play as little a role as possible — the elements level the playing field. But since our running game has been so great and the Bucs have struggled so much against the run, we match up well considering the circumstances. We should see a lot of Tiki.