Sep 292011
 
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, October 2, 2011: The win against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday was probably the Giants’ most important regular-season victory since the end of the 2008 regular season when the Giants beat the Carolina Panthers to clinch the #1 playoff seed in the NFC. The victory was certainly exceptionally satisfying and will be long remembered by Giants fans. Unexpectedly, the Giants under Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are now 5-5 at the Linc, if you include the 2006 playoff loss.

What the win also did is set up a tremendous opportunity for the Giants to begin a mini-run before the bye week with the Cardinals, Seahawks, and suddenly high-flying Bills.  The Giants will need such a run since the post-bye schedule is absolutely brutal.

But before we all start penciling in wins, one upset victory against a long-standing rival does not prove that the Giants have turned the corner.  As I wrote last week, when I gave the Giants little chance to upset the Eagles:

What I’m saying – and this will not resonate well with many fans – is that the Giants are not good enough to seriously compete in 2011.  They are not good enough because there are talent deficiencies in the secondary and at wide receiver and tight end that cannot be overcome.  The Giants will probably beat a team or two that they are expected to lose to, and they will probably lose to a team or two that they were supposed to beat.  But this has the feeling of an 8-8 season to me.

Was last week’s game merely one of those games where the Giants upset a better opponent and the Giants will soon show their true colors by losing to the Cardinals or Seahawks?  Or were the performances by such players as Victor Cruz and Aaron Ross the sign of things to come and the Giants may not be as weak at wide receiver and cornerback as feared?

As I watched the Cowboys-Redskins game last Monday, I was left with one question: how did the Giants lose to this Redskins team?  And as I mentioned last week, the Giants-Rams game was far closer than the final score.  And the Giants-Eagles game might have looked far differently had the Eagles gained another inch or two inside the 1-yard line in the 3rd quarter and had not so foolishly gambled on 4th-and-1.

My point in all of this is we need to see more strong play from the Giants before we label them a serious contender.  I want to see a more complete game from the defense.  I want to see a consistently productive running game.

Do not underestimate the Cardinals.  This is a game the Giants should win, but the Cardinals have just enough talent to keep this interesting if the Giants don’t come to play at a high level.  No let downs!

Giants on Offense: Statistically, the Cardinals’ defense is not performing well.  They are giving up almost 400 yards a game and are currently ranked 27th in total defense (25th in passing defense and 27th in rushing defense).

The Cardinals run a 3-4 defense and have some beef up front with LDE Calais Campbell, NT Dan Williams, and RDE Darnell Dockett.  Dockett is a guy who has given the Giants trouble in the past.  The Cardinals have some serious age at linebacker. Ex-Steelers Clark Haggans (34 years old) and Joey Porter (34) man the outside spots.  Inside are Paris Lenon (33) and the young pup of the group, Daryl Washington (24).  My game plan would be to wear the old guys out with a heavy dose of running plays combined with some short passing to the backs and tight ends, mixing in the occasional deep shot.  What I really would like to see is the Giants ground game to get really on track with consistent, positive pickups that set up play-action passes.  From my point of view, both Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are in top form, they just are not getting a lot of room to operate.  Now that we are entering the fourth week of the regular season, I want to see the big and talented offensive line start to wear some folks down.

Strong safety Adrian Wilson has long been one of the key guys for Arizona, especially as a run defender.  The Cardinals also invested a very high 2011 draft pick in RCB Patrick Peterson.  But LCB A.J. Jefferson gets picked on a lot and the Giants should probably take some deep shots against him. It will be interesting to see how the Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Victor Cruz trio performs this week.  Nicks (knee) and Manningham (concussion) are not 100 percent.  Can Cruz string two strong performances together?  The Giants will also likely be without Brandon Stokley (quad).

“NFC Offensive Player of the Week” Eli Manning has been much more careful with the football.  He’s taking more sacks, but not turning the football over as much thus far.  Let’s hope that trend continues.

Giants on Defense: The Giants have played three games.  In two, the defense was very strong against the run but terrible against the pass; in one, the defense was strong against the pass, but terrible against the run. Will we see a more complete performance this week?

The Cardinals are 18th in the NFL in total yards (16th passing the football and 18th running the football).

Obviously, the #1 threat on the Cardinals is WR Larry Fitzgerald who is one of the very best in the business.  Covering him can be a nightmare.  The Giants should obviously double him.  Ex-Eagle QB Kevin Kolb is playing decently with 93.8 QB rating.  He’s hit some big plays both to Larry Fitzgerald and WR Early Doucet.  Kolb will spread the ball around to his other targets including ex-Raven TE Todd Heap, WR Andre Roberts, TE Jeff King, and HB Beanie Wells.

Much depends on what version of Aaron Ross we will see this week?  The one who was benched against the Rams or the one who had two picks against the Eagles?  Antrel Rolle returns to his old stomping grounds.  He has to keep his emotions in check.  Not to sound like a broken record, but it would be nice to see him make some plays on the football in the air, just like he did when he was a Cardinal.

The Giants can really get after Kolb if they shut down the run.  Beanie Wells is surprisingly averaging 5.7 yards per carry.  That’s a really impressive statistic too when you consider his longest run so far is only 25 yards.  The run defense has to play much, much better than it did last week against the Eagles.  The Giants missed far too many tackles.

If the Giants can shut down Wells and make the Cardinals one-dimensional, New York could have a huge advantage on the pass rush with the Giants’ defensive line versus a Cardinals’ offensive line that can be shaky at times.  I think the Cardinals’ coaching staff is smart enough to realize that Kolb isn’t going to be able to do a lot of 7-step drops against the Giants so look for a lot of quick passes to the receivers, tight ends, and backs.  And watch out for screens and draws.

Giants on Special Teams: Patrick Peterson is very dangerous on punt returns and already has an 89-yard return for a touchdown.  The Cardinals have also been averaging 30 yards per return on kickoffs.  The Giants need to get more productivity out of their return game.

Lawrence Tynes oddly has only attempted one field goal since his preseason injury and that was blocked.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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