KICKOFF: Thursday, 8:00
LOCATION: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
TV: ABC, Don Criqui, Randy Cross, Mike Lynch
RADIO: WBCN 104.1 FM, Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti
SERIES: Tonight's game marks the 15th time the Patriots have played the Giants in the preseason. The Giants have won eight of those fourteen matches so far, but the Patriots hold a 4-3 series advantage when it counts in the regular season. The history of the two teams dates back to 1970, the year of the AFL-NFL merger, in which the Giants beat the Patriots in a game at Harvard Stadium, 16-0. One of the more notable games between the two teams came in 1996, when the Patriots, down 22-3 in the fourth quarter, scored 20 unanswered points to win the game and gain a playoff berth in the process, eventually advancing to the Super Bowl.
2004 RANKINGS*: Giants: offense 23rd (11th rush, 26th pass); defense 13th (28th rush, 8th pass). Patriots: offense 7th (7th rush, 11th pass); defense 9th (6th rush, 17th pass) * in yardage
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Giants, who will not have Eli Manning play due to an elbow injury, are looking to see what they have left behind center when the game begins. Head coach Tom Coughlin voiced concern over the play of backups Jesse Palmer and Tim Hasselbeck who looked inconsistent at best, and downright awful at worst. Newcomer Jared Lorenzen is looking for his first significant playing time to show that he deserves a shot at a roster spot.
In significant playing time last week, the Giant defense had little trouble shutting down the New York Jets in the red zone, twice intercepting Chad Pennington. Possibly it was rust Pennington was trying to work out having offseason surgery, or it could just be that the Giants defense is much improved from a season ago.
For the Patriots, the team is looking to rest most of their starters. If there are any significant contributors tonight, it will be veteran Doug Flutie dispersing the ball to a bevy of receivers who are caught in a hot competition for roster spots. Andre Davis, Bethel Johnson, David Terrell and P.K. Sam are all looking to prove they belong on this team. While rookie camp sensation Bam Childress is hoping for an opportunity to show why he deserves the nod as a WR/KR.
On the other side, the Patriot's defense is still searching for a a better understanding as to their run defense. At times in the preseason, veterans Chad Brown and Monty Beisel have looked like anything but the veterans they are. Moving to new schemes (the 3-4) is always a change, but more is expected out of these players. Matt Chatham, Tully Banta-Cain and Eric Alexander are trying to prove they're viable backups in the linebacker corp.
Special teams for the Patriots are where things get interesting. Belichick has talked about the need to improve, and Matt Chatham has made it a personal mission to go out there to be part of that improved unit. Wes Mallard, the former Giant is making a case to stick with the team, and he's doing it via the kicking game. His play may force the coaches to take notice and edge out one of the long-standing veterans.
The kick-return unit is one of the final areas where the roster competition heats up. Tim Dwight has made impressive returns last week against the Packers, while Ellis Hobbs can claim the same thing from the beginning of the season. Bam Childress is determined to show why he belongs, and brings back visions of little David Meggett when Belichick was a coach with Parcells in New York.
The keys to this game are not to win or lose, but to showcase the reserves to help determine which players down the road are the right ones to have on the roster when the games actually matter.
FAST FACTS: Giants: Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin was the head coach at Boston College from 1991-93. He was was Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie's position coach for his first three seasons at Chestnut Hill Coughlin was receivers coach at the same time Bill Belichick was defensive secondary coach with the New York Giants 19988-90 Giants offensive coordinator John Hufnagel was the Patriots' quarterbacks coach in 2003 Giants running back Michael Cloud played for the Patriots in 2003, attended Boston College Patriots: Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson played for the Giants for seven seasons (1986-92), winning two Super Bowls with the team as a player Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick was part of the Giants coaching staff for 12 years Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator during Super Bowls XXI and XXV...Patriots' linebacker Wesly Mallard spent four seasons with the Giants (2002-04).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think they're a good, solid football team that has thrived on the turnovers, when they can get the turnovers and get the ball and get on a short field, that's where they are winning. They've beat two of our regular-season opponents already, Carolina and the Jets in preseason. I think we have a lot of respect for what they do and they are a well-balanced team." - Bill Belichick on the New York Giants
PREDICTION: 17-13, Patriots
INJURIES: Giants: LB Barrett Green - knee, QB Eli Manning
- elbow sprain, OT Luke Petitgout - Ribs, WR Mark Jones - foot, CB Will Peterson
- knee; Patriots: OT Brandon Gorin - undisclosed, WR Bethel Johnson - leg, LB
Mike Vrabel - ankle, OT Matt Light - leg.
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