Saints vs Giants: 5 Things To Watch for on Monday Night Football
This Monday night will be the first Monday night game of the 2011 season for the Saints. They will be facing the New York Giants in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This game will be an interesting matchup, to say the least.
Both teams are in the race for their respective divisions and are talented enough to make a run in the playoffs if they get there. Both teams seem to be forgotten as legitimate NFC contenders and are not mentioned among the leagues best teams. Also, how could we ever forget that Eli Manning is a New Orleans native and will be making another homecoming this Monday night.
This game is surely going to show two talented football teams but will ultimately end in another showcase for the Saints, or, at least, that's what I have already predicted.
I fully expect the Saints to win this game, but there are a few key items I'll be watching.
Let's take a look at five things Saints fans should keep an eye on during Monday Night Football.
Saints Offensive Line vs. Giants Defensive Line
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images
I believe that this is the most important matchup of the night.
It's imperative for the Saints to block Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and company. The Saints offensive line has been playing lights out since their horrible performance against St. Louis in Week 8.
During that game, the Saints allowed six sacks, and Brees was running for his life for most of the game. The Giants have the ability to pressure the quarterback, as they have shown all year. They are currently sixth in the NFL with 31 sacks.
If the Saints want to win this game, then their offensive line will have to continue its play of the last couple of weeks. Since that game against the Rams, the Saints have not allowed a single sack. If the offensive line keeps the Giants' rushers contained, then it will make this game much easier for the Saints.
Saints Front Seven vs. Giants Run Game
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The Giants run game has been pathetic this year. They currently rank 31st in the NFL, averaging just over 83 yards a game. Granted, they have been missing their leading rusher, Ahmad Bradshaw, for most of the year, and he will be out again on Monday night, but they just cannot seem to get their other backs going.
The Saints are notorious for making bad teams look good. The Saints have lost to the Rams and Buccaneers this year, both of which are not impressive teams. The Saints have a knack for letting teams run all over them, despite how good the other team is at running the ball.
The Giants will be very dangerous if they can come in and establish the running game early. Eli Manning and the passing attack are much better when they have the play-action pass at their disposal. If Brandon Jacobs and the Giants come into New Orleans and build off their run game, then it will be difficult for the Saints defense to control the Giants.
It will be very important to see how well the Saints defensive line can penetrate the Giants offensive line and to see if the Saints linebackers can get to the gaps and tackle the ball carrier.
If the Saints shut down the Giants run game early, then the Giants become one dimensional, and the Saints can focus on what they love doing—blitzing.
Saints Pressure Packages vs. Eli Manning
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The Giants are really good at throwing the ball. They come in boasting the NFL's fifth-best passing attack, and Eli Manning is having his best year as a pro.
They key to stopping this attack is to pressure Eli. The Giants' offensive line is good but is getting older and not the most athletic offensive line. Gregg Williams will more than likely send multiple defensive back blitzes early in the game to let Eli and the Giants know that they'll be coming all night.
I look for Roman Harper and Jonathan Casillas to each have a sack or two. I also expect to see Eli get flustered in this game. In 2009, the Saints played the Giants almost to perfection. They got pressure on Eli all day and never allowed the Giants' offense to get into a rhythm.
Williams and the defense will be more likely to send pressure knowing that the Giants cannot run the ball well. This is another reason why the Saints will need to prove early that they can stop the Giants from rushing the ball.
The Saints do not have to necessarily get a massive amount of sacks, but rushing Eli will prove to be effective throughout the game. If the Saints can get to Eli consistently, then we may have another blowout on our hands.
Saints Run Game vs. Giants Defense
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The Saints' run game is almost as important as the Giants' run game. Yes, the Saints can win without running the ball, but a great rushing attack makes everything easier.
The Saints will want to come into this game and establish a rushing attack to keep pressure off of Brees and to keep the Giants' defense honest. I expect to see a lot of carries given to the running backs on the first few drives of the game.
It will be interesting to see how well the Saints can run Sproles Ingram, and Thomas in this one. If the run game succeeds, then it will make it that much easier for Brees to go over the top to anyone of the Saints receiving weapons. It will also open some other options in the screen game and dump off passes. I would also expect to see some play-action passes down the middle to Jimmy Graham.
The Saints run game is not the most important factor in this game because the Saints could win with a pure-passing attack. Even though the Giants can get after the quarterback, they are 21st in the NFL against the run. Running the ball will help out the offensive line and take time away from Eli Manning and the NFL's fifth-best passing attack.
As we all know, the Saints do not depend solely on their run game, but it will be a factor in this game.
Saints Secondary vs. Giants Passing Attack
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
This is another factor of the game that will help some previous mentioned match ups.
I have plenty of confidence that Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper will show up and take care of Victor Cruz and the rest of the Giants receiving corp. However, the Giants are dangerous in the passing attack and seem to always have a tipped ball go their way.
I look for the Saints to play a lot of man coverage during this game, and Jenkins will be a big factor in how successful that is. Gregg Williams will want to bring pressure and leave his corners on islands. Jenkins will probably play over the top a lot, and that will mean that a lot of responsibility will fall on him.
If Jenkins plays well, which I am very confident that he will, then it will help the Saints all the more. If the Saints are also able to stop the Giants' run game and get home when they bring pressure, then the secondary will have an easy job for most of the game.
However, if the Saints are unable to pressure Eli and he has time to find his targets, then the Giants can become dangerous very quickly. Cruz, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and Jake Ballard are all viable receiving threats and have the ability to strain any secondary.
The Saints secondary depends on a good amount of pressure and capitalizing on mistakes by the offense. I look for big plays all day by these guys. I also expect them to give up a couple big plays and a touchdown or two, but they will ultimately win the battle against the Giants' receivers.