Three to Focus on: Giants @ Saints, Week 12

| November 25, 2011

After consecutive blowout games, Monday Night Football fans can be thankful for what appears to be a solid matchup as the 6-4 New York Giants travel to the Big Easy to take on the 7-3 New Orleans Saints. The last time these two teams met was during the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning season in Week 6 of 2009. Drew Brees ravaged the G-Men that day with 369 yards and four TDs with Eli Manning unable to keep up, throwing for just 178 yards, a TD and a pick before the team put David Carr on the field. The final score was 48-27, but that was two years ago, and this prime time showdown should at least be an improvement over the last two woeful MNF installments.

The Giants are coming off a disappointing home loss to the Michael Vick-less Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Like the Giants, the Saints have been inconsistent this year, but are coming off a bye week and they are a far more dangerous team in the Super Dome, where they have not lost a game yet. While this game looks like a shootout on paper, both teams have a pass rush that has also affected several of their games, so a high-scoring affair cannot be guaranteed.

 

MVP vs. MVP

Both QBs enter this game with impressive stats and, more importantly, a title so few ever attain: Super Bowl MVP. Entering this game, Drew Brees is our second-rated passer at +53.5 with 3,334 yards and 23 TDs, while Eli Manning is our fourth-highest at +32.5 with 2,952 yards and 18 TDs. Both have had to deal with dropped passes (Brees with 21, Manning with 24) while the younger Manning has thrown fewer interceptions (nine) than Brees (11) and has rallied his team from fourth-quarter deficits or ties in five victories while Brees has twice (not including the Atlanta game that was affected in OT by a controversial 4-and-1 attempt). Despite some great clutch performances from Eli, he still has trouble holding onto the ball; he has fumbled six times this season and lost three of those, including last week as he was driving to try and tie the game up against the Eagles. Brees has not fumbled once this year, giving him a clear edge in this aspect of the game. Ball security will be big in this one.

 

Giants Rushing Attack vs. Saints Defense

The Giants’ running game has been an important part of their offense the last few years, but this season finds them more-than-occasionally struggling to move the chains on the ground; a foot injury to Ahmad Bradshaw (+11.3), sidelining him for three weeks now, hasn’t helped. Against a usually vulnerable Eagles’ run defense last week, the G-Men could mustered only a pathetic 29 yards on the ground between three running backs including Brandon Jacobs – who doesn’t like anything like the bulldozer he once was. The offensive line certainly played a part in this with only right guard Chris Snee grading positively in run blocking on this night (+0.4 run blocking), and he was apparently sick during the whole game.

They will be looking to get their ground game back on track against a Saints’ defense that has perennially struggled against the run in recent years; this season being no different as they’ve given up a league-worst 5.2 yards-per-carry. Free agents Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin, as well as rookie Cameron Jordan, linebacker Scott Shanle and the often-burned-in-coverage Roman Harper have held up their part, with each grading in green for their work against the run this year. But, among others, the inconsistent Sedrick Ellis and PFF-whipping boy Jonathan Vilma have not helped (with Vilma’s -12.6 by far the team’s worst grade in run D). Whether or not the Giants can take advantage of this weakness will be one of the key factors in this game.

 

Saints WR Corps vs. Giants Secondary

The Saints have several receiving threats: rising star tight end Jimmy Graham (+13.7 receiving grade) who leads tight ends with 2.44 Yards per Route Run, and Marques Colston (+7.2) – who has dropped just one of 43 catchable balls that have come his way –  lead the way with former Charger halfback Darren Sproles (+2.2) checking in as the most-targeted back in the league. As fantasy owners know, which of these fellas has a big game is anybody’s guess as Brees is more than happy to spread the ball around, but he’s usually looking for Graham and Colston.

Pass coverage has been a mixed bag for the G-Men this season. While safety Kenny Phillips (+4.4 coverage grade) and cornerback Aaron Ross (+1.3) have fared well and rookie Prince Amukamara looked great in his debut last week (two passes given up on six targets with an INT), others including Corey Webster (-0.5), Deon Grant (-3.5) and Antrel Rolle (-7.4) have struggled. They will also hope to avoid getting Graham or Sproles matched up against their LBs, who have been below-average in their coverage duties. If their performance against Vince Young, who tore them up with a short passing attack, is any indication, they are in for a long night.

 

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