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Giants vs. Saints: Five things to watch Sunday

Let’s break down the keys to victory for the Giants

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The New York Giants will be aiming for their first 2-0 start since 2009 when they face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Let’s look at five things to watch in what will be the Giants’ 2016 home opener.

Can the Giants slow down Drew Brees?

We have talked about the high-flying Saints’ offense all week. We know what Brees did to a woefully undermanned Giants’ defense a year ago, 505 yards passing and seven touchdown passes in a 52-49 New Orleans victory.

One of the Giants who lived through that nightmarish defensive performance is linebacker Jonathan Casillas.

“A lot of points. A whole lot of points. Drew threw seven touchdowns, I believe, against us. We weren’t good at all, defensively, in any phase of the game, at any part of the game. We didn’t tackle that great, we blew coverages, we let people run free,” Casillas said. “Do you want me to keep going? It just wasn’t a good showing. That was one of those games where you look back and you don’t watch the film because you are just disgusted by it. We have to do better and this is a guy that will make us pay on the road or at home.”

This isn’t the same Giants’ defense, though. You have Damon Harrison instead of Markus Kuhn, Olivier Vernon instead of Robert Ayers, Janoris Jenkins instead of Prince Amukamara, Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard instead of Jasper Brinkley and Uani Unga, Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe instead of Brandon Meriweather, Jason Pierre-Paul instead of Kerry Wynn or Damontre Moore.

In no way, should this group surrender 500 yards passing or something approaching 50 points.

One of the keys will be how the Giants handle the Saints’ receiving corps of Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Michael Thomas and tight end Coby Fleener. The Giants have quality at corner with Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eli Apple, Leon Hall and Trevin Wade, and got impressive safety play Week 1 from Landon Collins, Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe.

Another key will be whether or not the Giants can generate some pressure against Brees, a master at getting the ball out quickly.

“He gets the ball off very quick,” Jason Pierre-Paul said. “You can’t get frustrated at times. We know he’s going to get the ball off very quick. Our cornerbacks, I hope they do a great job covering, which I know they do. We just have to get there. We have to stop the run first before we get there.”

Can the Giants be efficient on offense?

The Giants did enough on offense in last Sunday’s 20-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and they were successful on all three trips into the red zone. They also ran the ball better than most thought they would, gaining 113 yards on 24 attempts (4.7 yards per carry).

Thing is, overall the Giants were not very efficient. They ran only 54 plays to 75 for Dallas, and held the ball for only 23:17. The Giants will be in a difficult spot if they can’t hold the ball longer than that against the Saints.

Giants’ offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan gave a long, but excellent, answer when asked about that this week.

“It comes down to the two things we need to do to sustain drives. It’s a major emphasis for us. We can’t turn it over and we have to have the appropriate balance in terms of looking at how many times we rushed the football, rushing attempts, as well as completions. Coming up with a formula that suits our goals, meets our goals in terms of giving us the consistency we need to go ahead and stay out there,” Sullivan said

“Again, we have a great challenge ahead of us. We have to improve. We took a lot of strides form the preseason, but as you guys all know from Week 1 to Week 2, that’s the biggest jump. We’re of the mindset that we can do everything we can to limit our mistakes and stay out there. It’s a long way of saying, we’ve done so much where we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re the reason we’re leaving the field. Not because we’re scoring so fast but because we went three and out or turning it over. That has to stop. That’s where our focus is.”

Can the Giants stand success?

Before Sunday, the Giants had not won a season-opening game since 2010. That means the only players on the roster who have been 1-0 as members of the Giants are Eli Manning, Zak DeOssie, Will Beatty and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Can the Giants maintain their focus. This week, coach Ben McAdoo said he didn’t like the way the team practiced on Wednesday. There was also the distraction of some of the Giants trash-talking Josh Norman of the Washington Redskins, the team the Giants face next week.

Let’s hope the Giants are focused on the task at hand.

How the Giants match up with the Saints’ receivers

A week ago, the Giants had Janoris Jenkins shadow Dez Bryant for much of the game, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and others picking him up in situations, such as when he lined up in the slot.

How will the Giants match up with New Orleans’ troika of receivers — Cooks, Snead and Thomas — this week? The Giants won’t commit to using Jenkins as a shadow every week, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said this week his corners are “interchangeable.”

“It’ll be game-by-game with who we’re playing, what the threats are on the other side. Our guys have worked so well together. By that I mean all of them,” Spagnuolo said. “I think we can do some of those. Things can be interchangeable. Somebody can go inside and somebody else can go outside. We have that luxury right now which is a good thing.”

Better work from Brad Wing

When he came to the Giants last season one of the things that endeared the left-footed Wing to the coaching staff and the Giants’ fan base was his ability to knock punts dead inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Against Dallas, Wing had three opportunities to do that in five punts, and missed them all. If he can return to form Sunday against New Orleans, giving Brees & Co. long fields to work with, that will help the Giants’ defense keep the score down.

“Well, one was from 60 yards away and if you hit a good punt you're going to turn over, and when it turns over it's going to bounce and roll forward. The other one he hit a little bit different of a punt, trying to make a play on that one. And the last one, we got to keep it in and we've got to have a better snap, obviously, and he's got to just hang it up there and fair catch at the 10-yard line is a hard goal on that one not trying to get too greedy,” special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said.