The New York Giants go on the road, down to one of the most hostile environments on their schedule.
The Giants have historically struggled to play in the Superdome, with a 4-8 all time record when playing the Saints at home. The last two trips to New Orleans have been especially traumatic, as the Giants were trounced 48-27 and 49-24 respectively.
Making matters worse, the Giants' offense has struggled in recent weeks, only scoring 20 points in total. However, these also aren't the same Saints as in 2009 and 2011.
Stats At A Glance
|Total Yards||Rushing Yards||Passing Yards||Scoring|
|New York Giants Offense||343.4 (23rd)||95.6 (25th)||247.9 (14th)||23.7 (11th)|
|New Orleans Saints Defense||404.9 (30th)||129.1 (28th)||275.7 (26th)||26.4 (25th)|
The Giants have the top turnover differential in the NFL with +10. That's a number that has to make Tom Coughlin happy -- though there is probably an arm-flapping, red-faced part of him that wants to know why it isn't higher.
A big part of that is the Giants' conservative game plans of late -- more on that later -- but the other side of that coin has been the sterling play of Eli Manning. Manning, who a year ago was the worst quarterback in the league when under pressure, is now one of the best. Eli has become one of the quickest QBs around in delivering the ball, and his ability to dissect a defense before the snap has made opponents pay dearly when they decide to blitz him. And despite Eli's receivers leading the league in dropped passes with 18, he is still completing just under 65 percent of his passes, for a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio, and a 92.4 QB rating.
However, the Giants have found their offense to be bogging down over the last 10 quarters. Eli will need to continue to accurately diagnose defenses, but also make an effort to take advantage of a weak Saints defense. The Giants are 27th in the league in terms of "big plays" (defined as runs of more than 10 yards and passing plays of more than 25 yards), with 28. With a quarterback like Manning and weapons like Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle, the Giants should be getting more than four big plays per game.
There is good news and bad news to be found in the trenches for the GIants' offense. The bad news? Cameron Jordan -- not to be confused with tight end Jordan Cameron. Cam Jordan is quickly becoming one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the NFL. In the past two weeks Jordan has notched five sacks and a forced fumble, rushing from both the defensive tackle and defensive end positions. As the Giants well know from Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Robert Ayers, that kind of versatility can cause havoc on an offensive line. Something else to keep an eye on is the health of Geoff Schwartz, who didn't practice on Wednesday.
If Schwartz is healthy, the Saints might be more likely to send Jordan against either Ereck Flowers or Marshall Newhouse, rather than the much more stout interior offensive line. However if Schwartz is replaced by John Jerry, It would make sense for Jordan to see time testing the backup. If the Giants are to kick start their offense, they are going to need to keep Jordan off of Eli.
But there is good news. Apart from Jordan, the Saints' defense is very poor against the run. They are surrendering 129 yards on the ground per game, so the offensive line, the left side in particular, should be able to have some success opening holes for the running backs.
This position received some good news this week as Beckham and Randle both practiced on Wednesday. The Giants' offense is built on quick passes to its play makers, hopefully resulting in yards after the catch. If Eli's primary weapons cannot separate quickly then the offense will struggle to maintain drives.
The Giants will need to rectify the matter of Beckham's targets. Perhaps because of Beckham's balky hamstring, but the Giants have been shying away from their premier play maker in anything other than 1-on-1 situations, and even then ignoring him in the second half. By going away from one of the most dynamic players in the league, the Giants are limiting themselves. While Eli shouldn't force the ball to Beckham, per se, he should look for the sophomore superstar throughout the game.
That, of course, touches on another sore spot in the Giants suddenly struggling offense. Predictability.
Slant, slant, fade, TE pick route ... Offense is very predictable— Terrell Thomas (@TerrellThomas24) October 25, 2015
During half-time of Week 5, it seems as though the San Francisco 49ers decided to start jumping the Giants quick routes, betting that Aaron Lynch's pressure was keeping the Giants from attempting any deeper passes. That gamble paid off and the Eagles and Cowboys quickly copied the plan. It seems likely that the Saints will ape the successful defensive game plan, so the Giants will want to be ready to take advantage of aggressive coverage, possibly with screen passes, or with double moves taking advantage of their receivers' athleticism.
In particular, if Beckham has his rare blend of speed and agility back, the Giants should look to force Beckham into being covered by Brandon Browner. The 6-foot-4 corner might be well suited to cover Randle, but Beckham's quick feet and sharp routes are often very difficult for larger corners to match.
The Giants also potentially uncovered a new weapon in the person of Orleans Darkwa. After six games of core special teams play, Darkwa got his first carries of the season against the Dallas Cowboys, and produced an electrifying series, culminating in a 15-yard touchdown. Darkwa should have done enough to earn more snaps, but his importance to the special teams -- a unit that has become an asset rather than an albatross for the Giants -- could force the coaches to limit Darkwa's offensive snaps.
But, with the Saints' suspect run defense, the Giants have to hope that at least one of their running backs steps up and grabs the yards that should be there for them. Hopefully the Giants aren't too strict with their running back rotation and give themselves a chance to recognize a hot hand should one emerge.