The 2-1 New York Giants head to Arizona this Sunday to face the 1-2 Arizona Cardinals (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX). To set themselves up as serious playoff contenders this is a game the Giants have to win. The Giants are three-point favorites on the road, and with the brutal schedule they face the second half of the season simply cannot afford any more mis-steps against teams they are supposed to beat.
Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin said earlier this week he hopes his team will use last Sunday's long sought-after, impressive victory in Philadelphia can be used as a "springboard" by his team.
"Last Sunday was over, as far as I was concerned, Monday. We're moving on. We have to move on," Coughlin said. "I think our team realizes that and hopefully we can use it as a real plus to help us go forward."
Follow the jump for this week's 'Five Things To Watch' in Sunday's game.
1. The Giants' emotional state -- Everyone around the Giants is saying the right things, talking about how the Giants have to move forward, how they have to take the season one game at a time, how the Cardinals are a good team and the Giants have to be ready. Thing is, we all know how much the Giants put into defeating the Philadelphia Eagles last week. It was a game that everyone has pointed to ever since the NFL schedule came out. Can the Giants avoid the natural emotional letdown? They have to in order to win. My guess is we will know pretty quickly whether or not the Giants are suffering from an Eagles hangover.
2. How the Giants handle Larry Fitzgerald -- Obviously, the Giants will double Fitzgerald, the best player the Cardinals have and maybe the best receiver in football. Will they have Corey Webster follow him regardless of where he lines up? How much will using a safety over the top impact the run defense, where both Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips have been spectacular in the first three games? Will doubling Fitzgerald make any difference? Before last week's three-interception game against Michael Vick the Giants' secondary had been torched for 300+ yards in four straight games. No matter how they go about it, can they keep Fitzgerald in front of them and stop him from making enough plays to beat them?
3. The Giants' running game -- The Giants have averaged only 3.6 yards per carry and 98.7 yards rushing per game thus far in 2011, down from 4.6 per carry and 137.5 per game a season ago. The Giants beat the Eagles Sunday with terrific defense and opportunistic, big-play offense. What they have not yet displayed is the ability to put together consistent drives, churn out first downs and control the clock. That has to come from the running game. Arizona's defense is 27th in the league allowing 122.7 yards per game, so this might the week the Giants are finally able to get untracked running the football.
4. Turnovers -- The Giants have thus far been much better protecting the ball than they were a season ago. The Giants are +4 and have just two turnovers. Arizona is -1, having fumbled the ball eight times in three games, though they lost only two of those. Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb has been intercepted three times. Through three weeks of the season the team winning the turnover battle has gone 28-7. The Giants have done well in this department thus far, and that needs to continue.
5. Justin Tuck -- Jason Pierre-Paul has had a phenomenal start, and Osi Umenyiora might return this week. Tuck, though, is the defensive captain and the group's best player. Tuck, however, had very little impact last week against Philadelphia as neck and groin injuries limited him. He has not practiced yet this week, but vows to play Sunday. How effective can he be? And how much should we worry about Tuck over the course of the season? Is he headed for one of those years, like 2009 when Flozell Adams wrecked his shoulder, where he is on the field but he really isn't Justin Tuck?
New York Giants - Game Averages
|Off||23.7||324.0 (20th)||225.3 (20th)||98.7 (15th)|
|Def||20.0||358.3 (18th)||255.0 (20th)||103.3 (15th)|
Arizona Cardinals - Game Averages
|Off||19.7||347.3 (18th)||253.3 (16th)||94.0 (18th)|
|Def||18.7||397.7 (27th)||275.0 (25th)||122.7 (27th)|