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 arch-rivals, 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 Saints must make to ensure a win:
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, they need to plan around throwing the ball.
The running game looks pretty impressive so far tonight, but the Giants' front seven is no joke. They will make adjustments and limit that productivity. So far tonight, Brees looks good. He's hitting receivers with strong, accurate passes in stride. Brees needs to continue this mastery.
2. Pressure Manning
How else are you going to slow him down? He has looked great tonight too, and with so many offensive weapons, I'm not sure what you're going to do to stop him. The Saints did get an interception in the first quarter, but that was more a product of a fantastic defensive play.
The Saints need to really key up some unique blitzes to get to Manning. The Giants' offensive line has done a good job of giving him a pocket and time to throw so far. This is not a game you want to lose with the Falcons on the rise right on your tails.
3. Limit the Mistakes
Let's give Sean Payton a little credit on the gutsy fake field goal attempt. It failed, but it didn't come back to hurt them and is an enviable trait in a head coach. But in such a close game, you have to imagine an interception or fumble or another coaching faux pas would be deadly.
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 Saints' secondary needs to try and force Manning into another pick with good coverage, or force a fumble...anything to get the ball back in Brees' hands.
4. Use 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 because New Orleans has too many weapons. When they run play action and Sproles is on the field, chances are he's one of the first two options. They need to burn the defense using a mix of run and pass plays to the little guy.
5. Keep 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 Giants are bound to get frazzled by this environment.
The best way to assure that is by getting a big takeaway or a big play. If they continue to put together nice scoring drives, and taking some big shots down field, the crowd will be going crazy. And likely, that will keep the wind in the fans' sails.