EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The heyday of the New England Patriots rivalry with the New York Giants is long gone.
While Bill Belichick is still coaching New England, Brian Daboll is the fourth coach hired on a full-time basis — not interim — since Tom Coughlin was let go by the Giants after the 2015 season.
Sunday’s matchup between the Patriots (2-8) and Giants (3-8) at MetLife Stadium will bring another new phase to the rivalry, which included Super Bowl games in 2008 and 2012. It will be the first time since 1999 that neither Tom Brady nor Eli Manning will be quarterbacking one of the teams.
With injuries to Daniel Jones (knee) and Tyrod Taylor (ribs), undrafted rookie free agent Tommy DeVito will make his third start for New York. Belichick is not announcing his starter, saying all four of his players need to be ready.
“It’s a challenge, I look forward to it,” DeVito said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to do what I do and prepare and continue to just try to lead this team and lead this offense and not think too much about it.”
Belichick has posted a 24-6 record when the Patriots face a rookie starting quarterback. He said DeVito has made some good decisions since he replaced Jones in the second quarter against Las Vegas three weeks ago.
DeVito has thrown five touchdowns and one interception in starts against Dallas and Washington the last two weeks, posting his first win in a 31-19 decision over Washington on Sunday.
“There’s a little bit of lack of experience, but he seems to be pretty football-savvy, street-smart,” Belichick said. “He made some key plays on third down in the red area and does a pretty good job taking care of the ball.”
The records of the Patriots and Giants are among the worst in the league and the loser will have a better chance of a lower pick in the NFL draft in the spring.
Mac Jones started the first 10 games of the season, but he was benched after throwing an interception near the end zone late in the 10-6 loss to Indianapolis in Week 10. Bailey Zappe replaced him for the final series and threw an interception of his own.
The Patriots also have rookie Malik Cunningham and third QB Will Grier as options. Belichick said only that he would tell all the players to be ready; Jones said he’s preparing as if he will start.
Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence has developed into of the NFL’s elite interior linemen. He did not practice this week because of a hamstring injury and Daboll said he would be a game-time decision.
Lawrence said Friday the injury is feeling better. He was hurt on Isaiah Simmons’ pick-six late Sunday.
If the Pro Bowler does not play or is limited by the injury, the Giants are in trouble. Opposing teams have been very effective running the ball when Lawrence has gotten a series or two off during games.
During the heyday of the Patriots dynasty, the New England special teams were one of the strengths. In the team’s downfall, it’s been one of the causes.
The Patriots pulled off an innovative blocked punt by Brendan Schooler in Week 2 against Miami, but since then it has been one special teams mistake after another. In a Nov. 5 loss to Washington, Schooler committed penalties on two punts that gave the Patriots bad field position; on another punt, Mack Wilson jumped offside and gave the Commanders a first down.
Against Indianapolis in Week 10, the Patriots rushed 11 men on a punt with no returner back. From his own end zone, Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez kicked it to the New England 35 and the teams watched it roll to a stop at the Patriots’ 18.
New England kicker Chad Ryland also missed a 35-yard field goal in the 10-6 loss.
Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux had his fourth multi-sack game this season, getting two against the Commanders on Sunday, pushing his total 10 1/2 this season. The No. 5 overall pick in last year’s draft is tied for the sixth-most in the NFL. He has 14 1/2 sacks through his first 25 games.
Thibodeaux faces a tough test this weekend against the Patriots, who have allowed only 23 sacks. New England left tackle Trent Brown has allowed two sacks and 12 pressures in seven games this season.
Giants inside linebackers Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden are having great seasons.
Okereke leads the team with 105 total tackles. He has six double-digit tackles total and he has set career-highs with nine tackles for loss and four forced fumbles, two of which came in last week’s win over Washington.
McFadden has 68 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, 10 total pressures, three fumble recoveries, three passes defended, and one interception in 10 games. The second-year player’s stats top all his numbers from his rookie season, when he started seven games.
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