Finally, the powers that be at the NFL scheduling department have given us a real doozy for Monday Night Football. The stumbling, suddenly desperate New York Giants ride a two-game losing streak into New Orleans to take on the most explosive offensive team in the league.
The Saints have Drew Brees and Darren Sproles leading a ridiculous passing attack against a tough Giants front seven. The Giants are no slouches on offense either, led by Eli Manning and a deep receiving corps.
New York needs to get a win to stay on pace with their archrivals, the Dallas Cowboys, in the NFC East. And the Saints want to stay undefeated at home and keep their cushion over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.
Here are five halftime adjustments the Giants must make to pull off the upset:
1. Throw All Day
Let's be real—the Saints aren't necessarily known for their defense. Does it really matter when the offense can put up 60 points? But with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback at the helm and a slew of great receivers, the Giants' game plan needs to revolve around throwing the ball.
Key players in the running game are still banged-up, so Manning needs to focus on getting the ball to Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and company. So far tonight, he looks good. He's hitting receivers with strong, accurate passes in stride. That needs to continue.
2. Pressure Brees
How else are you going to slow him down? Brees has looked great tonight too, and with so many offensive weapons, I'm not sure what can be done to stop him. Luckily, the Giants have some very solid pass-rushers on that defensive line.
The Giants need to really key up some unique blitzes to get to Brees. The Saints offensive line has done a good job of giving him a pocket and time to throw. This game is too important for the Giants to not get production out of Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.
3. Limit the Mistakes
Let's give Will Herring a little credit for his first-quarter interception. That was a heck of an athletic play. Now that we've gotten past that, let's not forget how badly that killed a good-looking drive for New York. Manning needs to make sure he hits his spots; you don't want to waste a possession against the Saints.
The most important aspect of winning this game will actually be forcing turnovers on defense. It's not enough to make sure the offense is playing safely. The Giants secondary needs to try to force Brees into a pick with good coverage, or force a fumble—anything to get the ball back in Manning's hands.
4. Stop Sproles
This little guy must give defenders headaches. Forget that he's half their size, his vision, quickness and toughness more than outweigh his height deficiency. He really is the X-factor for this offense, because he can run, catch and return kicks.
The Giants can't afford to focus solely on him, but covering him out of the backfield will be imperative to their success tonight. When they run play action and Sproles is on the field, chances are he's one of the first two options. They need a linebacker spying on him on those plays or they will get burned.
5. Steal the Momentum
New Orleans is one of the most terrifying places for opponents to play. The fans are loud, passionate and they know they are good. The difficulty multiplies as soon as the Saints have points on the board. Manning and the boys need to not get frazzled by this environment.
The best way to do that is by getting a big takeaway or a big play. That doesn't mean they necessarily have to be risky or make bad decisions, but Manning should take the occasional shot downfield to see if Cruz can come up with a big catch-and-run to take the wind out of the fans' sails.
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