Jones, banged-up Giants visit Patriots on Thursday night
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The New England Patriots are receiving a spectacular performance from the defensive side of the football through their 5-0 start.
The timing of facing the Patriots couldn't be worse for the New York Giants, who will likely be without their top two running backs and top two pass catchers when they face New England in Foxborough, Mass., on Thursday night.
Star running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) hasn't officially been ruled out, but published reports say he will miss his third straight game. Receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Wayne Gallman will sit out due to concussions, while tight end Evan Engram (knee) also is in jeopardy of missing the contest.
Barkley and Engram were officially listed as limited in Tuesday's "jog-through," an estimation of their participation had it been a full practice. Shepard and Gallman sat out.
Barkley, who has a 6.4 per-carry average while rushing for 237 yards, is fine with letting his situation play out up until close to game time.
"I do not know if I'm playing Thursday night. There is no decision yet," Barkley told reporters on Tuesday. "I know you guys asked Coach (Pat Shurmur), I know there are reports out there that I'm not going to play. It didn't come from my mouth, and it didn't come from Coach Shurmur's mouth, so I don't know how that story happened."
If Barkley can't play, Jonathan Hilliman (19 carries, 53 yards this season) and Elijhaa Penny (eight carries, 30 yards) will be the club's prime ball carriers.
Factor in having a rookie quarterback in Daniel Jones (760 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions) on a short week without his top weapons, and the Giants (2-3) are facing formidable odds against a New England team clicking on all cylinders.
"It's different. It's obviously my first time doing it here, so the routine is a little bit different, but that's part of the challenge," Jones said of his first Thursday night game. "They have the same challenge in a short week for them also, so I'm confident we'll be prepared. We're excited for the opportunity."
The Patriots lead the NFL in scoring defense (6.8 points per game), total defense (238.4 yards), passing defense (160.4), third-down efficiency defense (12.7 percent, 8 of 63), sacks (24) and interceptions (11). Safety Devin McCourty leads the NFL with four interceptions, and linebacker Jamie Collins ranks second with three.
New England has limited three opponents to seven or fewer points, including Sunday's 33-7 rout of the Washington Redskins, and is looking to start 6-0 for the fourth time in franchise history.
"For us it's the same thing each week, studying our opponent, and understanding what we need to do to play well," McCourty told reporters. "We talk about playing well situationally and trying to turn the ball over. For us as a defense, that's not going to change, and that's something we have to stay locked in on."
The offense is averaging 31 points per game and has scored 30 or more on four occasions. Quarterback Tom Brady has passed for 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns against two interceptions.
Brady has 71,923 yards and is 18 away from passing Peyton Manning to move into second place on the all-time passing yardage list. Brady moved past Brett Favre during the win over Washington.
"I could never have imagined playing 20 years in the NFL," Brady said of the milestone. "I could never have imagined everything that has happened over the course of my career. I've looked up to Brett. I've looked up to Peyton. There has been some really spectacular players who have played in the NFL."
Brady will be without receiver Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), who has a team-best three touchdown receptions.
The Giants, who allow 25.0 points per game (24th in NFL), are hoping linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring) can return after a two-game absence.
The Patriots have won five of the past six regular-season meetings with New York. Of course, the Giants defeated New England in two Super Bowls (after the 2007 and 2011 seasons) behind now-backup quarterback Eli Manning.