The New Orleans Saints (7-3) host the New York Giants (6-4) at the Superdome this Monday night in a potential playoff matchup.
The Saints are coming off two consecutive divisional wins in Week 9 and 10 vs. Atlanta and Tampa Bay and hold a one game lead in the NFC South. They had a bye last week.
The Giants, on the other hand, have lost their past two games. A win Monday would earn the team a tie for first place in the NFC East with the Cowboys.
The last time these two squads met was during Week 6 in 2009 in a similar situation. New Orleans was coming off a bye week, and both teams were undefeated and widely considered as Super Bowl contenders. The Saints romped the Giants 48-27 behind quarterback Drew Brees’ 370 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Brees, the former Super Bowl XLIV MVP, is up to his usual tricks this season. He has a career high in completion percentage (70.9) and his 3,326 passing yards are the most in NFL history through 10 games, as he is on pace to shatter Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 yards.
The Saints have scored the 2nd most points in the league (behind the Packers) largely due to the additions of Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram, as well as the rapid development of Jimmy Graham.
The multi-faceted and lightning quick Sproles is a new gadget for offensive mastermind head coach Sean Payton. Brees and Payton have found ways to get Sproles the ball in space to utilize his speed. The first-year Saint has already set a career-high in rushing yards and is on pace to break his career-high in receiving yards.
Second-year tight end Graham leads New Orleans in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns (62, 873, 6). At 6’6”, 260, Graham has become Brees’ favorite target – he is too fast for linebackers to stay with and too physical for defensive backs. Think Antonio Gates, only better.
Although the Saints’ strength is their passing game, their three-headed running attack is very capable. Sproles, Ingram, and Pierre Thomas have each rushed for more than 340 yards this season. The three combined possess a cumulative yards-per-carry average of 4.8, a very good number.
The key for this squad is their defense. New Orleans is last in the NFC in takeaways (9) and 20th in the league in points allowed per game (22.8). Improving upon these statistics would go a long way towards dethroning the Packers come January.
The New York Giants look to right the ship after two straight losses. As if traveling to “The Big Easy” wasn’t difficult enough, New York’s schedule down the stretch is pretty gruesome as it includes the Packers, Jets, Cowboys (2), and Redskins. This Monday is arguably a more important game for the “G-Men” than the Saints.
The Giants are led by quarterback Eli Manning, who ranks 5th in the NFL in passing yards per game. Manning is on pace for career-highs in passing yards, QB rating, and yards per attempt. Anyone who says Peyton’s little brother is not “elite” does not know much about football.
As with most elite quarterbacks, Manning has lots of weapons to work with including former first-rounder Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, and Jake Ballard.
Cruz and Ballard have been pleasant surprises this season. Both are undrafted rookies but have contributed in a big way. Cruz leads all New York receivers with 46 catches, 800 yards, and 5 touchdowns. At 6’6”, 275, Ballard is a great safety net for Manning and has surpassed 440 yards on the season.
If the Giants want to be a more consistent team, they need to regain their identity by playing smash-mouth football. New York ranks 31st in the league in rushing yards per game (83.2), a surprising number considering it has two solid running backs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Both have had injuries this year, however, and have faltered behind an inconsistent offensive line.
In order to defeat the well-oiled machine that is the Saints, the Giants must play a complete game. On offense, they need to take the crowd out of the game by getting an early lead as well as controlling the time of possession in order to keep Brees on the sidelines. On defense, they must take Brees out of his rhythm by generating pressure from their stout defensive line.
New Orleans is undefeated at home and will look to feed off its raucous fans. Payton has proven to be successful coming off bye weeks, and it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which New York contains a potent Saints offense.
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