Credit: Bill Moore photo

After each mounting loss for the Giants, who are 1-6 heading into Monday night’s nationally televised matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel looks more like a dim flicker.

Their deflating 22-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday epitomizes a season that thus far has been marred by too many mistakes and missed opportunities. None was more glaring than tight end Evan Engram’s dropped pass from quarterback Daniel Jones on third-and-six with 2:14 left to play in the game. A catch would have given the Giants a first down near the Eagles’ 25-yard line up 21-16.

Even an eternal optimist would admit the Giants have many struggles ahead. The most immediate is facing Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. After just seven games with his new franchise after winning six Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots, Brady has helped transform the Buccaneers into one of the most balanced teams in the NFL.

They are 5-2 and in first place in the NFC South division. Joe Judge, the Giants’ first-year head coach, knows Brady well. The pair spent the previous seven seasons together—Brady as an iconic and historically great quarterback, and Judge as a rising assistant on the Patriots’ coaching staff headed by Bill Belichick.

To contextualize Brady’s and Judge’s career arc, you have to view their ages as defining and diametrically opposed characteristics. Judge, the coach, who turns 39 on New Year’s Eve, is over four years younger than the remarkable 43-year-old player.

“This guy is clearly one of the best to ever play the game,” said Judge on Tuesday regarding Brady, who passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-20 Buccaneers win over the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday.

“…This guy hasn’t had much drop off. He’s playing at a very high level. He has the guys around him playing at a high level as well. One thing about Tom is he’s a very intelligent player. He thinks ahead of the play, he’s always looking for answers, he’s very proactive in how he sees the game, he understands the personnel on the other side extremely well.

“He’s been in all of the situations,” Judge further explained, “however you slice it up, as many times as you can possibly imagine, whether that’s through practice or games. This guy is fluent in football.”

When the NFL’s schedule makers slotted the Giants into the Monday night showcase game, they anticipated Saquon Barkley, one of the NFL’s highest profile players, being a featured performer. They did not foresee Barkley tearing the ACL in his right knee in the second quarter of Week 2 versus the Chicago Bears and being out for the rest of the season.

Now the theme of the game is can the lowly Giants upset the talented and rapidly coalescing Buccaneers, who in addition to having a dynamic offense have the NFL’s third ranked defense? It would have been a difficult challenge for the Giants’ offense with a healthy Barkley given the Buccaneers rank first against the run.

Without him, the Giants’ offense is near the league’s statistical bottom in points scored (17.4) and yards per game (282.4), coming in at 31st out of 32 teams in both categories.