The New York Giants (5–0) will go on the road to challenge the New Orleans Saints (4–0) at the Superdome on Sunday, in what should be the most exciting game of the weekend between two of the best teams in the NFC.
The game also holds special meaning for the Giants’ Eli Manning, who will play his first game in the Superdome where his father, Archie, was an All-Pro quarterback for the Saints throughout the 1970’s.
Eli spoke about the opportunity, “I am excited about it. My first time playing in the Superdome. Been in there many, many times and looking forward to that experience.
“I am excited about getting the opportunity to play where my father spent most of his career.”
Emotions aside, this game will present a huge challenge for the Giants.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees leads a prolific offense that is loaded with dangerous playmakers including former Giant Jeremy Shockey, Marques Colston, and Devery Henderson. Contributors such as Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas, and Reggie Bush round out a well-balanced attack.
New Orleans’s offense is based on the long passing game and Drew Brees does it as well, if not better than anyone else in the league. Shockey leads the team in receptions and is a force to be reckoned with down the middle of the field. He has become one of Brees’s favorite targets this season with 18 catches, 162 yards, and two touchdowns.
There’s no doubt the Giants will have to contend with the fiery tight-tend but they should be able to game plan against him since they know him well.
In addition to the deep threat, defenders must also concentrate on short passing plays out of the backfield, where running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are huge concerns.
The Saints thrive on the deep ball, but New York’s secondary leads the NFL as the best defense against the pass, giving up only 104.8 yards per game.
The Giants defense is also ranked first in fewest yards allowed per game with 210.6 and third fewest in points allowed per game with 14.2.
If the there is a concern for New York, it could be their run defense, which allows 105.8 yards per game (15th in the league).
New Orleans has a potent rushing attack led by running backs Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas, who are averaging 5.1 and 6.4 yards per carry respectively. Thomas also has three rushing touchdowns and is a capable of breaking a play open.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin knows his team needs to be focused, “Our guys have to rise up and play well against the run. There are a lot of things to defend. But certainly that is where it all starts for us, is with the run.”
The key to the game will be putting pressure on Brees. The Giants should be careful though when employing the blitz because Brees has excellent pocket awareness and avoids it well by getting the ball out quickly to his receivers.
When the Giants are on offense, they will be facing a Saints defense that is ranked sixth overall. The Giants are no slouches though, ranking second in the league in total yards with 417.4 yards per game and second in touchdowns with 10.
Behind the power running of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, the Giants are fourth in the NFL in rushing with 160.4 yards per game. Bradshaw has game-breaking ability and averaged an unthinkable 10.0 yards per carry against Oakland last week.
As for the passing game, Eli Manning will no doubt be throwing often to his favorite receiver Steve Smith, who is currently the league’s top receiver with 37 receptions and 481 yards receiving.
Eli must be careful though when throwing against the Saints. They make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks and lead the league with 10 interceptions. He must also be especially aware of Saints safety Darren Sharper, who has intercepted him eight times throughout his career.
Manning knows his offense has to be ready, “Their defense is playing really well. They cause a lot of turnovers, a lot of interceptions. We’ve got to take care of the ball and play great on offense.”
While going back home to his hometown will be special for Eli Manning as a visiting quarterback, he expects the home crowd to make things difficult, “I have been a part of the screaming and yelling and trying to make it hard on other quarterbacks. So, I know how the fans think and they are going to be loud.”