Can A Cardinal Trap A Giant?

Courtesy of another new guest contributor, for the time being writing under the pen name “The Tall Guy”

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Going into this week’s contest, it seems unlikely that the Giants could lose the game. Statistically, and on paper, the Giants would seem to have advantages in every category. Unfortunately, the game isn’t played on paper, it’s played on a field, and odd things can happen. To quote almost any coach in the NFL at any time, “We’re just going to play them one game at a time.” With that in mind, the G-Men return to Arizona, the scene of one of their greatest victories in the history of the franchise.

So what’s different this time, and what should we look for as Giants fans? The prime concern of Giants fans is whether or not the team will suffer an emotional let-down, and come out flat against a team that they should dominate. This should be fairly evident within a short period of time. The team had a highly emotional win against a hated rival that seemed to have their number. Quite frankly, the Giants seemed snake bit, especially in light of the loss that they suffered at the end of last year. They put a lot of effort into beating the “Iggles,” and that showed. Now they fly across the country to take on a team that has its own issues to resolve. The last time this happened, the Giants flew out to Seattle, and waited until the middle of the third quarter to show up. The Seahawks pasted them, and Adam Koets was lost for the season as well.

The team also suffered a horrendous number of injuries to their wide receivers and defensive personnel, which had to have had a psychological impact on the team. When you factor in the roster moves and losses to free agency, coupled with the lack of off-season training, the Giants didn’t feel comfortable with each other, and it showed in the loss to the Redskins. Will Beatty is still adjusting to his role as a starter. David Baas and Eli Manning are getting used to each other, and the loss of key personnel up front made this an area of concern. This has shown itself in the seeming lack of production from the running game. The Giants are down almost 40 yards per game in terms of running the ball, and the O-line feeling itself out may be the reason why. Giants fans should look to see if the per game average starts to rise during the course of the season.

To quote a Charlie Daniels song from my adolescence, gimme that passing lane and I’ll be gone. Last year, Eli Manning threw 25 interceptions, 7 of which were the result of misplays on the part of his intended targets. This year, Eli has sharply reduced his mental errors, and the turnovers have dropped as a result. I offer the following hypothesis: in previous years Eli had a receiving corps that could make plays. Plaxico Burress could outfight any defensive back, Kevin Boss could go over the middle, and Steve Smith was Eli’s security blanket. He knew that he could make a risky throw, and one of his wideouts would bail him out. Last year, he had Boss, Smith, and the emerging star in Hakeem Nicks. Boss and Smith left for free agency, Mario Manningham, who has showed flashes of brilliance, is finally getting into sync with Manning, and the screen passes to Bradshaw and Jacobs, while they may look ugly, are effective. In spite of this, Manning has shown a willingness to take the sack or throw it away. As Eli becomes more comfortable with his receivers, more risk may be taken. Right now, the tight end position is the only area where production has lagged.

On the defensive side of the ball things look better. While also hit by injuries, the unit looks solid and the players are coming back. Kenny Phillips is showing the form that the Giants had hoped for after micr-fracture surgery, and first round draft choice Aaron Ross finally looks to be rounding into form. The special teams are solid, and the coaching staff keeps putting together effective game plans.
So where does this leave us this week? A look at the opposition should give us pause. Kevin Kolb is a high quality quarterback, and he has the tools to hurt the Giants. Arizona’s receiving corps is a weapon to be feared. While everyone focuses on Larry Fitzgerald, the other receivers are not to be treated lightly. Todd Heap is an effective weapon at tight end, and is a solid veteran presence. The Cards’ other wideout, Andre Roberts, is having a better season than some of the name receivers that fans were screaming for Arizona to sign during free agency (Braylon Edwards). In the game against the Seahawks, 4 different receivers caught at least 4 passes. Lastly, LeSean McCoy ran through the Giants for major yardage. Beanie Wells missed the most recent game with a hamstring injury, but he looks to be ready to play on Sunday. As he was averaging 5.7 yards per carry before the injury, this should be a concern for New York.

Analysis:

The Cards’ offensive tackles are not as good a tandem as some of the others the Giants will face this year. If the statistics are right, the Cards pass blocking efficiency ranks near the bottom of the league. The key for the G-Men will be to apply pressure from the outside, and force Kolb out of his rhythm. The Cards should look to counter this pressure by using short drops and play action passes to slow the rush. If the Giants can control the Cards’ rushing game, that will make things easier.

From the standpoint of pass defense, the Giants have given up over 300 yards in the four games prior to the Eagles game last week. The Giants must get to Kolb early and often, and let him hear footsteps at every opportunity. The Giants must establish their rushing game as well. Lost in the euphoria of the win last week was the discrepancy in time of possession. The Giants got a little lucky by having Andy Reid fall back on his tendencies and poor tackling by the Eagles that resulted in big plays. The Giants are first in the league in red zone production, but Ray Horton has the Cards playing sharp defense in the red zone. The Cards are sixth in the league in giving up red zone TD’s. This might be a case of the irresistible force versus the immovable object. From an emotional standpoint, the Cards are angry. They lost a game in Seattle that they felt that they should have won, and they now have a chip on their shoulders. They are playing at home after two weeks on the road that included a trip to DC, followed by a flight home and a trip up north. They are anxious to give their home fans a win, and help save Coach Wisenhunt’s job. The Cards home stadium is one of the loudest in the league, and they are a well disciplined team with regards to false start penalties. The Giants will be forced to deal with the noise, as it will not be a neutral crowd the way it was that night in 2007.

Bottom Line:

The Giants win a close one, say 24-21. The Cards have a lot of weapons, are playing at home, and are desperate for a win. The Giants are coming off an emotional win, are flying cross country, and are still looking to solidify themselves. In the end, the Giants DE’s prove too much for the Cards’ tackles, and while Fitzgerald gets his catches and yards, the G-Men get the win. Then it’s back home to face the Seahawks. Eagles, Cardinals, Seahawks. How did they miss the Falcons?

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