The New York Giants, in a nail-biting chase for the NFC East title with the Washington Football Team, look for a fifth straight victory Sunday when they face the 6-6 Arizona Cardinals. Here are some of the story lines.
The return of Daniel Jones?
Coach Joe Judge says the Giants will give quarterback Daniel Jones “every opportunity” this week to show that his injured hamstring has healed enough to allow him to play Sunday.
For Judge, it comes to this — can Jones demonstrate enough mobility during practice this week that he can defend himself against Arizona pass rushers?
“When there’s pressure in the pocket, can he sidestep, can he step up? If he has to leave the pocket and scramble, if there’s a gap open for him to go ahead and tuck that ball and run to get a first down, are these things we’re okay with him doing and we’re confident that he’s going to go out there and do it without getting hurt worse,” Judge said. “We talk about defending himself, I want to make sure that when his natural instincts kick in as a player, that he’s not limited somehow physically or someone has an advantage over him on the field. That’s just not fair for us to do.
“These are great athletes on the field, they’re playing very aggressive, and he’s at the toughest position in terms of holding the ball every play and everybody trying to take your head off. He has to be able to have some kind of mobility. Just sidestep the hit, step up in the pocket, escape pressure and throw the ball away. I have to make sure we do the right thing by him of making sure we don’t put him out there on the field where he can’t do that, he’s just a sitting duck.”
Hello, Markus ... and Devon and Justin!
There will be several players on the Arizona side of the field who are familiar to Giants fans.
The Giants traded edge defender Markus Golden, who led them in sacks last season with 10.0, to the Cardinals in late October. They haven’t missed him. The play of veteran Jabaal Sheard, and the rise of rookies Niko Lalos, Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown have made trading away Golden an afterthought, even with Lorenzo Cater, Oshane Ximines and Kyler Fackrell on IR.
Golden has one sack and 11 tackles in five games with the Cardinals.
Justin Pugh is in his third season with Arizona after leaving the Giants in free agency. After seeming to always be hurt as a Giant, Pugh has not missed a game for the Cardinals since 2018.
The Giants foolishly chose to sign Kareem Martin before the 2018 season instead of keeping Kennard, who has proven to be a much better edge player. Kennard, in his first year with the Cardinals, has played in nine games. His role has been limited recently as he has played fewer than 20 snaps in three of Arizona’s last four games. Still, he’s a good player.
NFC East playoff picture
Here are the standings:
Here’s what I wrote in Wednesday’s notebook. I’m giving it to you again because a) it’s applicable and b) I’m lazy and don’t feel like finding a new way to write it.
It’s a two-team race for the NFC East title, with the Giants and Washington Football Team both 5-7 heading to the last quarter of the season. The Giants, by virtue of beating Washington twice, hold the tie-breaker advantage.
Football Outsiders lists the Giants with a 52.6 percent chance of winning the division, and Washington with a 45.8 percent chance.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Giants a 54 percent chance, with Washington at 43 percent.
ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Giants a 57.2 percent chance of winning the division, with Washington at 39.5 percent.
Cardinals need this win, too
Arizona is 6-6 and right now on the outside looking in at the NFC playoff picture. The Cardinals are currently the eighth seed, with the 6-6 Minnesota Vikings holding the seventh and final playoff spot based on win percentage in games against common opponents.
Arizona faces the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles the next two weeks, and finishes the season with NFC West matchups against the San Francisco 49ers and at the Los Angeles Rams.
You know Arizona wants to take advantage of this two-week window against NFC East opposition.
Special teams woes
The Giants have got to figure out what is going on with their special teams, in particular the punt coverage group.
After having been solid most of the season, the Giants have surrendered big returns, had a punt blocked, committed penalties and even missed an extra point.
They have still managed to win the last two games, but odds are they won’t continue to get away with that kind of special teams play.