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Patriots-Giants matchup of the day: Tuesday

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Nov. 01, 2011 @ 9:02 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week Nine game between the Patriots and Giants:

Giants TE Jake Ballard vs. Patriots' defense

All eyes will be on Eli Manning and the Giants' air attack going against the much-maligned Patriots pass defense — and rightfully so. The Pats' corners struggled mightily trying to keep Steelers WRs Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown in check in last Sunday's loss.

Things don't get easier this week, with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz. But it's Ballard whom we focus on to start the week of matchups, as too much attention paid to the Giants' receivers will open things up for Ballard.

Before the Steelers' receivers started torching the Patriots' secondary, it was veteran TE Heath Miller who couldn't be stopped. In the first quarter alone, Miller had six catches. Three of those were on third downs and got his team  a new set of downs.

Ballard has become an under-the-radar weapon for Manning. He had four catches for 55 yards last Sunday against Miami.

Look for the Patriots to counter the Giants' passing game with multiple looks. Patriots safeties Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo will likely have their shots at covering Ballard, along with ILBs Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher. Having a healthier Jerod Mayo should help the Patriots' linebackers cover the middle of the field better than they did on Sunday.

It will be key for the Patriots' corners to put on a better showing, but if they forget about Ballard, then Manning will exploit the middle of the field as Ben Roethlisberger did with Miller last week. Those third-down conversions were killers for a Pats defense that could not get off the field.

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