WHEN: Noon Sunday
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz SuperDome
RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge
RECORDS: New Orleans 3-4; New York 4-3
COACHES: Saints, Sean Payton, 10th season (83-52); Giants, Tom Coughlin, 12th season (100-82 in New York, 165-142 overall)
LAST WEEK: Frustrated by the Dallas defense, New York capitalized on three interceptions of backup Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel — including one that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie brought back 58 yards for a touchdown — a 100-yard kickoff return for a score by Dwayne Harris and a late muffed punt by Dallas to take a one-game lead in the snake-bitten NFC East.
OFFENSE: Odell Beckham Jr. remains the focal point of the offense with 42 catches for 524 yards and five touchdowns, but a balky hamstring and a neutral offense has limited him in recent weeks. Beckham hasn’t caught a pass longer than 17 yards in the past two weeks, ever since injuring the hammy. With Beckham limited, Eli Manning has continued to play well by completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and just four picks, but the rest of the receiving corps has been spotty at best. Fellow LSU product Reuben Randle is dangerous, but tight end Larry Donnell has been spotty and Shane Vereen is just pedestrian out of the backfield.
New York’s biggest problem has been the offensive line. Manning has taken only nine sacks, but the Giants are averaging just 95.6 yards per game on the ground with a three-headed rushing attack, and pressure has forced Manning to get rid of it early, averaging just 6.9 yards per attempt.
DEFENSE: New York no longer has the dominant defensive lines that defined its Super Bowl runs. Without Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have just nine sacks, a number that ranks 31st in the NFL, although Big Blue has a solid rusher off the edge in Damontre Moore (3 sacks) and some help inside from Cullen Jenkins (2). What New York has been able to do against opponents’ passing games is take the ball away; New York’s secondary is tied for second in the league with 11 interceptions, and three players have two so far. The interceptions have masked some issues in pass defense; the Giants rank 30th in the league against the pass, giving up 288.3 yards per game, and Prince Amukamara missed the Cowboys game with a torn pectoral muscle.
New York’s issues on the defensive line have made things difficult against the run, too. Despite the addition of hard-hitting safety Landon Collins, New York is giving up 113.4 rush yards per game, a numer that ranks 21st in the NFL, and the Giants hemorrhaged 233 yards on the ground to a Cowboys ground game that struggled against New Orleans. Making matters worse, the Giants have two linebackers, former Saint Jonathan Casillas and U’ani Unga, battling neck injuries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: New York’s special teams have been an asset. Kicker Josh Brown is perfect on 15 field goals, former LSU punter Brad Wing has been solid if not spectacular by averaging 43.8 yards per punt, and the aforementioned Harris is a threat in the return game. Marcus Murphy might need to be careful, too; both of the Giants’ kick coverage units have been excellent so far.