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Giants vs. Cardinals 2014: Key matchup -- Giants OL vs. Arizona front seven

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Is there any real question about what match-up will determine the outcome of Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Going into this week, I had to answer the question of what will be the critical match-up between the New York Giants and the Arizona Cardinals.

With play-makers like Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, and Tyrann Mathieu in the Cards' secondary, and the uninspiring-at-best play by the Giants' wide receivers against a thin and depleted Detroit Lions secondary, that match-up was awfully tempting.

However, is there REALLY much of a question what match-up will determine whether or not the Giants will be able to make a game of it on Sunday?

Regardless of whether or not Eli Manning and his receiving corps are on the same page, regardless of whether Victor Cruz or Rueben Randle fight for the ball, the Giants' offensive line will make or break the offense. So let's take a look at how it could work out.

The Match-Ups

We learned on Wednesday that Brandon Mosley took back the top of the depth chart at right guard from John Jerry. If that holds true for Sunday, the offensive line projects to be:

Left Tackle - Will Beatty

Left Guard - Weston Richburg

Center - J.D. Walton

Right Guard - Mosley

Right Tackle - Justin Pugh

Meanwhile, the Cardinals boast a stout front seven.

Defensive End - Calais Campbell

Nose Tackle - Dan Williams

Defensive End - Ed Stinson

Weak Side Linebacker - Alex Oakafor

Inside Linebacker - Kevin Minter

Inside Linebacker - Larry Foote

Strong Side Linebacker - Matt Shaughnessy

The Cardinals' defense is coordinated by Tod Bowles. Under his scheme, the Cards look to stop the run on early downs before bringing a variety of sub-packages to bear on offenses that get behind in the down and distance.

Arizona's base defense is well suited to stopping the run.

Nose tackle Dan Williams is a mammoth human being at 6-foot-2, 330 pounds. His size and height make for a very difficult player to move, and he is good at occupying double teams. Defensive end Calais Cambell was one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL last season. Early in his career he was primarily a pass rusher, but he has added a solid run defense to round out his game.

Linebackers Shaughnessy, Minter, and Foote are all down-hill linebackers well suited to stuffing the run. Shaughnessy is a converted defensive end, and at this point in his career Foote is in a similar place as Jon Beason -- an intelligent inside linebacker who communicates, and has great awareness to plug gaps in the run game.

The Cardinals' pass rush took at hit on Monday night with both John Abraham and Frostee Rucker sustaining injuries Monday night. Abraham, the team's best pass rusher, has left the Cardinals due to the latest in a string of concussions. He career may be over. Rucker, the next man up behind Darnell Dockett, injured his calf and looks to be unavailable.

Running Game

With the Giants' passing offense still a work in progress, the Giants will need their running game to show up against the Cardinals. The match-up to watch will be on the left side, with Dan Williams and Calais Campbell against J.D. Walton, Weston Richburg, and Will Beatty.

The Cardinals will likely try to take advantage of Richburg to create gaps for Foote to shoot into the backfield. Richburg is not only inexperienced as a rookie, he is under-sized for the guard role he is forced into playing due to injury, and against the Lions, he looked over-matched physically.

As we well know, Will Beatty is coming off a broken leg. Many were anxious with regard to Beatty's play following the injury and an uncharacteristically bad 2013 campaign. Beatty played well for the most part against the incredibly athletic Ziggy Ansah on Monday. He did lose a couple battles, and we all saw his pug fuggly attempt at a cut block, but his play overall was not the issue with the offensive line. That bodes well for his match up against Campbell and Okafor.

Passing Game

As I noted before, the Cardinals like to use a variety of fronts and formations when offenses are in obvious passing situations. Against the San Diego Chargers, the Cardinals fielded defensive fronts that showed two, three, and four down lineman, as well as a variety of blitzes and personnel packages.

Without Abraham, and possibly Rucker, they will likely need to rely even more on sub-packages to generate pressure in the passing game.

Likewise, they are without frenetic linebacker Daryl Washington due to a suspension. Washington is one of the league's true three-down linebackers, able to shoot gaps in the run game, drop into coverage on almost any tight end or running back, and blitz.

Without Washington not only do the Cardinals lose a dangerous blitzer, but the middle of their defense is also more vulnerable to tight ends and running backs. If Eli Manning can complete some passes over the middle, it could help to relieve some of the pressure on the offensive line.

Final Thoughts

While the Giants have had some success running the ball through the preseason and the first game of 2014, they have yet to consistently protect Eli Manning in the passing game. Against the Detroit Lions, Eli had -- on average -- less than two seconds, 1.8 to be exact, to throw the ball.

Individually, the Giants have talented linemen at every position. The issue has largely been dealing with stunts run by defenses. On paper, the Giants offensive line should match up pretty well  against the Cardinals defensive front. The problem comes with the regularity that Arizona runs stunts along the line of scrimmage (i.e.: when a defensive end or linebacker on the outside loops inside of a defensive tackle, or vice versa).

They simply have not picked those up on a consistent basis, and the confusion that creates has led to bad things for Manning and the rest of the offense.

Does that mean the Giants offense is doomed? Do past failures ensure future failure? I don't think so. This is an offensive line that has been completely rebuilt, and it takes time for five men to learn to work as a single unit.

But, that's why the Giants offensive line vs. the Cardinals front seven is this week's critical match-up.