The New York Giants rebounded nicely from a deflating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles by taking back a "W" in their division record. Against the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Giants put points on the board in all three phases of the game. Everyone got in on the action, even Tom Quinn's special teams boys.
Fast forward one week and this team may need an encore. The New Orleans Saints in the Super Dome is no easy task (just ask the previously undefeated Atlanta Falcons). Much like Seattle's CenturyLink Field or the frozen tundra of Green Bay, the Saints are a whole other beast when you have to travel into the darkness of Louisiana to do battle.
Stats At A Glance
|Points||Total Yards||Passing Yards||Rushing Yards|
|Saints Offense||23.0 (14th)||395.9 (6th)||297.1 (3rd)||98.7 (22nd)|
|Giants Defense||22.3 (14th)||401.7 (29th)||288.3 (29th)||113.4 (21st)|
Could this be the week where we have a somewhat full-strength pass rush? No, I'm not talking about a potential return from Jason Pierre-Paul just yet. I'm referring to the presence of both Damontre Moore and Robert Ayers on the field at the same time. It's clear that this is New York's strongest pairing when it comes to getting to the quarterback, so I'm expecting to see Moore hit the field on obvious passing downs with Kerry Wynn potentially sliding inside to defensive tackle where we have seen him take some snaps before.
In terms of stopping the run, it could be a third straight rough week for a Giants defense that at one point this year was rated No. 1 in terms of average rushing yards per game. The Saints' line is much improved from where it was a year ago after trading for center Max Unger in the off-season. While it may not be their first priority as an offense, the Giants can't afford to let the Mark Ingram and the Saints run the ball for cheap yardage. A stable ground game combined with a Drew Brees passing attack could form a snowball capable of crushing this team before half-time.
It's not a huge surprise that Jon Beason landed on this week's injury report given that he has aged into a fiberglass monster since signing with the Giants. Thankfully, Devon Kennard appears to have cleared the list this week, and with Uani' Unga in the wings, this defense isn't in as much trouble as it could be.
Outside of Kennard, the linebackers have been a mixed bag, with varying skills and flaws that pose interchangeable problems for their scheme. J.T. Thomas has been alright, and the back-ups -- Jonathan Casillas and Mark Herzlich -- have been fine in spot duty but nothing you want to rely on for a full game.
If Beason is out, I'd imagine that Unga and Thomas split time alongside Kennard and the Giants stay in their nickel package for the majority of the game, but if Beason takes the field, then I could imagine them taking a few more risks. Maybe a few more blitzes with the hope that Beason is experienced enough to possibly check out of it in a dumb situation.
I guess the key match-up here is much like it is for the defensive line; stop the run and minimize the pass, because this team isn't equipped to extinguish that right now, just sort of slow it down.
Make no mistake, just because the Saints don't have any big name wide-receivers, it doesn't mean that Brees is any less likely to pick holes in a Swiss cheese defense. There have been some issues, but we have seen guys like Willie Snead and the immortal Marques Colston make some impressive catches in recent weeks. Add to that, a pair of overachieving tight-ends succeeding in the vacuum left by Jimmy Graham, and you've got yourself a show.
The Giants could really use Prince Amukamara this week, but he's not ready to return after a pectoral strain a few weeks ago. Instead, they will have to rely on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to make plays on the back end. After two interceptions last week, he's red-hot and surely outmatches any receiver on the Saints roster right now.
The problem is that opposite him is Jayron Hosley. He's not going to kill you over and over, but he's just the kind of 5-foot-10 cornerback that Sean Payton wants to match up with a tight-end split out wide. Both Josh Hill and Benjamin Watson have a good 5-7 inches on Hosley. With unbalanced sets and a generally tall wide-receiver group, I could picture some mismatches coming Hosley's way.
And then we have the safeties. Brandon Meriweather has shocked me. He's been reliable and has had none of the bonehead plays that made me roll my eyes when I first heard news of his signing. I don't think he's going to be a problem here. I'm more worried about Landon Collins. How many starting rookie safeties go against Brees and come away with their pride intact? I'm betting that it's a minority for sure. Collins has been good ... for a rookie. He's nowhere near the caliber of starter that is required to shut down half the field against a top quarterback. He's improving, he's doing the right things, but he's not there yet.
This is an opportunistic defense who has come up big a number of times this season already. With a plus-10 turnover differential, they have more than outdone the limitations of a defense with minimal pass-rush, a group of linebackers in flux, and a rag-tag secondary. What can they do to keep this going? Keep forcing mistakes.
Brees has been prone to the odd meltdown game -- much like Eli Manning. If they can push him into a few regrettable throws early in the game, they might do enough for their offense to take command on the other side. That's a big "if" though. This is potentially the best quarterback this defense has faced all year, they're not full-strength, and it's an away game. There's a lot going against the Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Let's see if he can pull one out of the bag.