The New York Giants are likely to be favored only one more time for the rest of the season after Sunday's home game with the New Orleans Saints, so the Giants have to take care of business against a team that is currently sliding at a much faster rate than they are.
Make Victor Cruz option No. 1
Hakeem Nicks, and even Martellus Bennett, have been targeted more than Cruz in the last three weeks, and the Giants have lost two of those games. I realize that defenses play a role in dictating where the quarterback goes with the ball, but the Giants also went a little overboard with their commitment to the run last week against a bad Redskins defense.
That can't happen again this time. The Saints are terrible defensively as well, but they do have two solid corners on the outside who are playing well. That's why Nicks might not be an ideal first option against Jabari Greer or Patrick Robinson, while Cruz will be an ideal go-to guy in the slot, especially if nickel cornerback Corey White is still injured.
The Saints don't move their corners around much, so Cruz should have great matchups all day if Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride give the secondary a steady dose of Nicks and anyone not named Cruz outside. The Giants are a pass-first team and the Saints are giving up a league-high 8.3 yards per pass attempt. Time to start featuring your best weapon again.
But don't forget about Ahmad Bradshaw
Gilbride is pretty good at maintaining relatively good balance, and that should be the case again on Sunday. The Saints are also giving up a league-high 5.1 yards per rushing attempt (unbelievably) and while the pass D has shown signs of improvement lately, the run D appears to be getting worse.
Bradshaw looked very solid against a Redskins run defense that had been performing well above average, so he should get plenty of opportunities to keep a struggling Saints defense honest. After all, New Orleans has given up 880 rushing yards in the past five weeks.
So keep Bradshaw and David Wilson and the running game in the mix. Just don't overdo it this time.
Take chances on defense
The Saints are in desperation mode, and it's not a good look for them. Drew Brees isn't holding back and is trying to overcompensate for a depleted roster. As a result, he's thrown seven interceptions in two games, with four of those coming under heavy pressure.
It just so happens that this Giants' defense has forced an NFC-high 27 turnovers in their last 10 games. Four of Brees' seven recent picks have also been thrown to safeties, and that's the position where New York is most loaded on defense right now. Antrel Rolle is playing well, Kenny Phillips is getting healthy and Stevie Brown has emerged as a play-maker.
The Giants don't have to blitz to take chances. Brees, like most elite quarterbacks, invites blitzes and has better numbers when facing extra rushers. Plus, New Orleans still doesn't give up a lot of sacks. But with the tackles struggling, they've surrendered a total of 37 pressures in the last two weeks alone, according to Pro Football Focus. So the G-men have to rely on their talented defensive line to force Brees into coughing it up to a ball-hawking secondary.
Support Corey Webster
The Saints are tough to defend once Brees does have time to connect. Only four offenses have completed more 20-plus-yard passes than New Orleans has, while only six defenses have surrendered more of said completions than the Giants have. But a large chunk of those can be pinned on Corey Webster, who has had a terrible season.
With New York not having to worry too much about a running game that has received less work than anyone else in the NFL, they can focus on not allowing Webster to get give up any more home runs. More often than not, the Giants have to commit five or six defensive backs to stopping Brees and his weapons.
My grand vision of how to approach things: Let Prince Amukamara do his thing solo—preferably against the easier-to-handle Lance Moore—and then have either Webster or Jayron Hosley cover Marques Colston with constant safety help. That way, one safety can help a linebacker with Jimmy Graham, the other linebacker can deal with Darren Sproles or whomever is in the New Orleans backfield and your spare man (likely Brown or Phillips) can try to create those big plays.