This time of the year, the way a year like this has gone, you look for good reasons to watch games like this one — games between the Giants, who have three wins, and the Patriots, who’ve won but twice.
These are teams officially playing out the string. If at the start of August you circled this one in red ink as a “can’t miss,” at the end of November, it has simply become “can’t.”
So you look for reasons. You look forward to seeing Saquon Barkley, who is good for one or two runs every game in which you shake your head and wonder what he could do on a championship-caliber team. There are the defensive guys — Kayvon Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence, Bobby Okereke — who will make it worth your while at least a couple of times.
And, hell, it’s always fun to root against Bill Belichick.
(Even if Giants fans mostly still love Belichick for Back in the Day.)
But really, the reason to watch the Giants and the Patriots on Sunday at MetLife Stadium is that Tommy DeVito will continue his unlikely if not downright improbable, magic-carpet ride as the starting quarterback.
DeVito will get his first start inside the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium, and for a kid who played his high school ball 20 minutes away in Ramsey, N.J., at Don Bosco Prep, and grew up even closer, just 8.5 miles away in Cedar Grove, N.J., well …
Well, how would you feel?
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” DeVito said earlier this week. “I imagine it’s going to be like the last two games, but a little more of my friends and family there. That’s really about it. It’s a little tougher to play away, in an away atmosphere. So, it’ll be home, I’ll be comfortable, it’ll be a lot of fun.”
There have been precious little fun attached to this Giants season, but watching DeVito grow out of necessity into the job of QB1 has absolutely been one of them, especially when you consider where it all started.
Back then, in Week 8 against the Jets, when he was summoned as an emergency sub for Tyrod Taylor, it felt like he had no business inside MetLife without buying a ticket to watch. He did score the Giants’ only TD that day on a nifty run, but the rest of the time Brian Daboll kept him vacuum-sealed in bubble wrap as the rain fell on East Rutherford.
His next appearance, one week later after Daniel Jones suffered a knee injury at Las Vegas, wasn’t much more encouraging. And though he threw a couple of touchdown passes the next week in the Dallas suburbs, that was swallowed whole by the 49-17 final score.
But there was no obscuring what happened last Sunday in the D.C. suburbs, when DeVito looked like a genuine, bona fide NFL quarterback. It wasn’t just the numbers, either, which were excellent — 18-for-26 passing, 246 yards, three touchdowns with a passer rating of 137.7 — it was the way he carried himself — tough enough to absorb nine sacks, confident enough that he never once looked overwhelmed by the gig.
Now, this week, in the New York suburbs, he’ll try to replicate that.
“I think I proved that I’m a competitor,” DeVito said. “I just love to play the game of football. I think that I’ll try to show that every time I take snap because you never know what snap is going to be your last. So, I just try to embrace it, go out there and just try to play for my teammates.”
There is a part of DeVito that has to understand that while Giants fans will be rooting for him based on the uniform he wears — and maybe a little harder thank to the ZIP code he lives in — the idea of seeing him doing this job beyond this year is not high on their wish list, whether that means a return of Jones or the arrival of one of the hot-shot QBs who will fill this draft. It’s good that DeVito enjoy every snap.
And good that his coach is committed to allowing him to maximize the opportunity.
“He’s so young right now, with only the two starts,” Daboll said. “We’ve really got to focus on him and the things he does well.”
Everyone else will focus on young Tommy DeVito, too. He’s the reason to watch.