Team that rushes successfully should win close game
Posted: Monday September 19, 2005 11:30AM; Updated: Monday September 19, 2005 11:49AM
The Saints plan to rely on running back Deuce McAllister this season.
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The NFL is using this game to help raise funds for Hurricane Katrina relief, and the Saints' displacement will be the main show tonight. But if you took that away, this could be an intriguing matchup of two teams who looked somewhat impressive in Week 1. The Saints knocked off the Panthers, who beat the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots on Sunday. And the Giants blew out the Cardinals, despite a mixed performance by second-year QB Eli Manning.
The Saints Win If ...
... they sustain the energy that has been carrying them through this difficult and unprecedented season. The players have faced many distractions, but they channeled their emotion into a stellar performance last week. For the last several years, the Saints have had talent, but have let mistakes and lack of focus make them a mediocre team. This year, New Orleans has the personnel to make the playoffs even though it doesn't have any true home games.
The Saints have said they are going to commit to the run this season and last week they stayed true to that promise. Deuce McAllister carried 26 times for 64 yards and two TDs. The Giants' defense allowed just 31 yards rushing in Week 1, but that might have just been because of the Cardinals' ineptitude.
The key to the Saints' defense is their talented group of defensive ends -- DarrenHoward, Charles Grant and Will Smith. That trio will test the Giants' offensive line and could create a couple of turnovers from Manning, who hasn't proved he can handle consistent pressure.
The Giants Win If ....
... they put aside the distractions and get all their starters on the field. If this was a normal home game, you'd have to give a slight edge to the Giants, but tonight's contest is an exception to any rule. Plus, defensive end Michael Strahan, tight end Jeremy Shockey and offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie are all questionable with injuries.
Eli Manning completed 10 of 23 passes for 172 yards, two TDs and two INTs last week in a win over Arizona.
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After missing the final two preseason games, Manning looked shaky at times during Week 1 -- and that was against the Cardinals. The Saints will do whatever they can to make Manning uncomfortable, which means the Giants will rely on running back Tiki Barber to move the ball. The Giants ran the ball almost twice as much as they passed in the second half against the Cards and they scored 21 points on offense -- in addition to two special-teams TDs -- during that span. And the Saints ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing defense last season.
The Saints were 5-3 on the road and 3-5 in the Superdome last season. Over the last three seasons, they're 13-11 away from home. So at least they have a fighting chance on the road this season.
Emotions will run high for both teams, which should make for a messy first half. Both teams will try to establish the run and grind out a win. Last week, the Giants' special teams sealed the win over the Cardinals, but the Saints are very strong in that department. This game will come down to which quarterback makes the last mistake. Even though New Orleans' Aaron Brooks has been in that role many times, it's Eli's turn to blow it down the stretch.