The last time the New England Patriots were this hot it took one improbable play from the New York Giants to deny them what would’ve been the NFL’s only perfect 19-0 season. Almost nine years ago the Giants and quarterback Eli Manning proved triumphant in Super Bowl XLII off of David Tyre’s incredible “helmet catch” in the closing seconds and shutdown a historic Patriots' offense that had won its first 18 games of the season.
It was the first of three straight victories New York’s claimed over New England, including 2011’s regular season meeting and the Super Bowl XLVI rematch later that same year, a game again decided by a late and deep Manning pass to a receiver that’s no longer with the squad, Mario Manningham, to set up the winning touchdown.
But a Super Bowl won’t be on the line in Week 10’s Sunday afternoon matchup at MetLife Stadium, and the Patriots enter the game as one of only three undefeated teams left in the league and seven-point favorites over the host 5-4 Giants.
Joining Cincinnati and Carolina with a blemish-free 8-0 mark, the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady are decimating opponents with the league’s highest-scoring offense at 34.5 points per game and they lead the NFL with a 133-point differential after nine weeks.
With New England firmly in control of the league’s dominate conference and in line for one of the top two playoff seeds, Brady’s on pace to eclipse his career high in passing yardage with 2,709 yards and 22 touchdowns compared to two interceptions for a league-best 113.5 passer rating.
Improving his standing as MVP frontrunner, Brady fired off two touchdowns to go along with his 299 yards and New England improved on their best start to any season since 2007 with a 27-10 victory over Washington in Week 9.
But Brady isn’t the only star in the Patriots new show of dominance, as the New England defense has put up some lofty numbers of its own. Powered by defensive end Chandler Jones’ league-leading 9.5 sacks and cornerback Malcolm Butler’s eight passes defensed, the Patriots are presently fifth in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.9), third against the run (89.3), and tied for second with 27 sacks on the year.
Another New England victory puts pressure on Cincinnati to stay perfect and 7-1 Denver to keep pace atop the AFC playoff standings, but a loss at this juncture of the season might not hinder their chances of home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
However, the first-place Giants can ill afford a fifth-loss while in the thick of an intense NFC East battle and a deep mix of conference powers trying to move up the NFC’s ranks. New York owns a slim half-game lead over Philadelphia in the division, and has two more losses than Green Bay and Arizona with a 4-4 record in the conference.
After opening the season 0-2, the Giants have seesawed between .500 or one game above over the last four weeks, but New York and Manning have the chance to topple New England’s hopes of perfection for a second time and potentially enter their Week 11 bye with a two-game lead in the division.
Also on pace for one of the best years of his career, Manning nailed two touchdown strikes and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. recorded his fourth 100-plus yard game of the season in New York’s 32-18 victory over Tampa Bay in Week 9.
The 34-year-old Manning improved to third in the league with 20 touchdowns on the year, and Beckham’s now fourth with 759 yards, and though he didn’t reach the end zone he’s still sits tied for second with seven touchdown catches.
The Giants defense also welcomed star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul back to the lineup in Week 9 after a fireworks accident resulted in the loss of his right index finger and part of his right thumb, but his presence didn’t improve the league’s worst-pass rushing unit.
With Pierre-Paul still working back into form, the Giants may have trouble getting to Brady, who’s been sacked only 18 times this season. New York failed to record a sack against Tampa Bay, and has only nine on the year, three of which belong to third-year defensive end Damontre Moore.
The lack of pressure up front has also played a role in New York’s last-place secondary. The Giants have allowed 2,772 passing yards and 17 touchdowns in the air this season, but have also forced an NFL-best 13 interceptions.
Betting Odds: New England -7 points
Over/under: 54.5 points
Prediction: New England over New York, 35-24