A reasonable preview of Sunday’s game between the Giants and Saints will make quick work of describing the teams’ most basic similarities: they can both score on anyone, and anyone can score on them.
The Giants’ defense is ranked 29th, just ahead of the 30th-ranked Saints. The passing defenses of both teams are allowing more than 400 yards per game. In Eli Manning and Drew Brees, both teams have future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who can’t always rely on their running games. So if you’re a fantasy owner and you have a wide receiver on either of these teams -- be it Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, Phil McConkey, whomever -- you’d be wise to start them this week because common sense says this game in New Orleans is going to be a high-scoring contest.
Of course, common sense usually takes a back seat in most Giants games, as we saw last week when the Cowboys ran for 233 yards, dominated the time of possession, held Manning under 200 yards passing with no touchdown passes, and still lost to New York 27-20 -- thanks to the charity work of Dallas fill-in mannequin Matt Cassel (three interceptions), a pick six from Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown by Dwayne Harris, which so enraged Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy that he slapped a clipboard out of the hands of special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
Crazy? You betcha. The Saints don’t currently employ anyone as fated for prison as Hardy, but Sunday’s game should be nuts, if for no other reason than it’s taking place in New Orleans on the day after Halloween, i.e., All Saints Day.
The Saints’ offense leads the NFL with 32 plays of over 20 yards. Meanwhile, the Giants rank near the bottom of the league (28th) in so-call “big plays,” which is a run of more than 10 yards or a pass of more than 25 yards. Considering the Giants just realized last week that Orleans Darkwa is their best big-play running option, this low ranking shouldn’t be that surprising. If they can balance the big-play, over-the-top threat of Odell Beckham Jr. with the between the tackles potential of Darkwa, the Giants might have the kind of offense that could give fits to any defense – even that of their opponent in two weeks, New England.
Is that looking too far ahead? Of course. The landscape of the NFL shifts on tectonic plates every week, and this week’s darling can just as quickly be next week’s afterthought. But the Giants had success in all three phases of the game last week against Dallas. And sure, luck played a part, but luck counts, too. The Giants have been lucky for years to have a quarterback who never gets hurt. They’ve been lucky to have an ownership group that doesn’t panic when things look bleak. And they’ve been lucky that so many teams passed on Beckham in the 2014 draft.
They’ve also been unlucky. For instance, how many teams slap a franchise tag on a player and then have that guy blow off his thumb in a fireworks accident? The number has to be low.
Jason Pierre-Paul returned to the team this week and should be able to return to the field in a few weeks – about the same time as the first-place Giants are expecting to once again receive the services of cornerback Prince Amukamara and slot receiver Victor Cruz.
Just kidding, no one has any clue when Cruz is going to return. If the Giants are lucky, they’ll have all these guys back and healthy for the stretch run.
In the meantime, please hand the damn ball off to Orleans Darkwa this week. And no, not just because of his first name and the location of the game.