Can The Cards Fly High In Meadowlands?
Lets see after getting lit up by Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints offense whats the last thing you want to see? You guessed it, its the pass happy Arizona Cardinals coming to Giants Stadium to face the Giants on Sunday night football.
Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cardinals come to New York with a 3-2 record and the sixth best passing offense in the NFL. Arizona got off to a slow start with losses in two of the first three games including a blowout loss to the Colts in a Sunday night matchup. Since then the Cards are now on a two game winning streak beating the Texans and destroying the Seattle Seahawks on the road.
The Cards high flying offense is similar to the Saints offense that destroyed the Giants last week. Kurt Warner will look to get mismatches with his wide recievers Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breston. Each receiver is cappable of getting 100 yards through the air. The Cards still need to get their running game going, but Tim Hightower is also a great receiver out of the backfield who has already has 29 catches out of the backfield.
On Defense the Cards have the best rush defense averaging only 60 yards against but also have the 31st ranked pass defense giving up 265 yards per game. Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie is a ball hawk who looks to make big plays. Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle are Probowl players who also need to be accounted for. Betrand Berry is their best pass rusher who already got 3 sacks on the season.
The Giants are lead by Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs and Steve Smith on offense. Smith leads the NFC in yard receiving and tied in the NFL in receptions. Brandon Jacobs hasnt gotten on track just yet but his bruising style wears down the opposition allowing for Ahmad Bradshaw to juke and dash for the big plays. Eli Manning throws the ball all over the field with weapons Smith, Mario Manningham and 1st round pick Hakeem Nicks at his disposal.
On defense the Giants still rank first in overall defense. Even after last weeks poor performance the Giants are still ranked #1 against the pass giving up 148 yards through the air. Corey Webster leads the Giants secondary and doesnt see much action thrown his way. Jason Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka led the defense front seven. The three have combined for half of the Giants sack total this year.
Injuries: Giants: OUT: Chris Canty DL, Aaron Ross CB, Michael Boley OLB, Kenny Phillips (injured reserve). Questionable: Kareem McKenzie RT. Probable: Danny Ware RB, Ahmad Bradshaw RB, Eli Manning QB.
Cardinals Questionable: Anquan Boldin WR, Beanie Wells RB, Steven Spach TE
Last meeting: Giants 37 Cardinals 29 in Arizona November 23, 2008. Domenik Hixon 269 all-purpose yards led the Giants to victory over the Cardinals. Eli Manning threw for 3 touchdowns and 240 yards. Missing Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress the Giants took advantage of a couple of Kurt Warner turnovers and turned them into touchdowns to give the Giants the win.
What to look for Sunday night:
When the Cardinals have the ball on offense they will look to take advantage of the Giants secondary and follow exactly what the Saints did to the Giants. Kurt Warner will spread the Giants out and throw at Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson and Kevin Dockery. CC Brown and Michael Johnson will be target deep down the field with Larry Fitzgerald and company. The Cardinals offensive line is better at pass protection then at run blocking as the Cards are only averaging 3 yards per carry. Beanie Wells will share the carries with Tim Hightower.
The key to the Cards is protecting Kurt Warner. The Cards offensive line has struggled at times protecting Warner. Warner when given time will destroy anyone and everyone infront of him. Larry Fitzgerald catches everything throw his way. He is a redzone monster that uses his 6'3" frame to his advantage against smaller cornerbacks. Anquan Boldin might miss this game with a high ankle sprain. If he plays Boldin can take short passes and turn them into big plays. Expect the Cards to use max protection schemes against the Giants defensive line to allow their speed receivers to attack down the field. Look also for a lot of crossing patterns to be run by Cardinals receivers trying to catch Giants in matchup problems.
Dont look for a lot of running plays by the Cardinals. The Cards use the dump pass as running plays. Hightower has one 100 yard game in receiving already this year. The Cards will try to mix it up to prevent the Giants ends to be teeing off against Warner. Look for a 70-30 pass to run ratio by the Cards.
When the Giants have the ball look for Eli Manning to attack the Cardinals secondary problems. While Rodgers-Cromartie and Antrel Rolle are ball hawks but the rest of the secondary is average at best. Look for the Giants to be attacking down the field a lot against the Cardinals.
The Giants offensive line will need to know where both Bertrand Berry and Karlos Dansby are at all times. Berry will try to run pass David Diehl and get after Eli on every play. Expect the Giants to give Diehl a little help with a back or tightend from time to time to neutralize Berry. The Cards use an aggressive 3-4 blitzing scheme copying from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Everyone and any will come from all angels so Eli will have to be able to read defenses on the fly.
Special teams for both team are very good. The Cards Neil Rackers can hit from anywhere and Ben Graham is averaging 49 yards per punt. On the other side the Giants Jeff Feagels will limit the Cards return game with his directional punting and it looks like Lawrence Tynes has figured out his kicking problems. Domenik Hixon will look to repeat his game against the Cards where he averaged 60 yards per kick return.
I expect the Cards to follow in the Saints footsteps and try to wing the ball all over the field. Warner will throw opposite Corey Webster and take advantage of the rest of the Giants secondary. The one problem is that the Cards dont have the running attack to force the Giants safties to come up and respect the run. I dont see the Cards able to run the football against the Giants front seven even with them spread out all over the field. I think the Giants front four de-line takes advantage of the Cards offensive line and forces Warner into a couple of turnovers. This is the wrong time to face the Giants after last Sunday's embarrasing performance in the Superdome. Sorry I wouldnt want to be Kurt Warner this week. Look for both team to move the ball and in a repeat of last years game with the Giants winning by 10 points. The Cards will put up points but I dont see the Cards defense stopping the Giants offense. Final score Giants 34 Cards 24
Warner 320 yards 2 TDs 1 ints 1 fumble lost
Hightower 45 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving
Fitzgerald 10 catches 110 yards receiving
Boldin 6 catches 80 yards
Breaston 6 catches 70 yards
Manning 235 yards passing 2 TDs
Jacobs 20 carries 100 yards rushing
Bradshaw 12 carries 50 yards rushing 1 TD
Smith 6 catches 95 yards 1 TD
Manningham 4 catches 60 yards
Boss 5 catches 60 yards 1 TD
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