The Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants sport the #2 and #4 offenses in the National Football League but that doesn't mean that they have much in common. They both put plenty of points on the board (#2 and #1, respectively) and they both like to control the clock (#4 and #2) but there's nothing similar about their methods of getting the job done. The Cardinals precision passing game has a way of slicing and dicing opposing defenses with the skill of a surgeon performing a triple bypass. The Giants, on the other hand, chose to physically impose their will on opposing defenses with a ground game that gives 'blunt force trauma' a bad name.
The contradictory nature of the Cardinals and Giants have an interesting way of working against each other. If either unit starts to excel early in the game, it could put significant pressure on the other. If either team can neutralize the other's skill or will, they'll gain a signifiicant advantage. So take your pick on which prevails, skill or will?
If Skill Takes Over: If the Cardinals passing game, led by MVP candidate Kurt Warner, can get off to a fast start and put some early points on the board they'll put immense pressure on the Giants. The Giants aren't inept at throwing the ball by any means but they're certainly not built to play from behind either. The Giants overall offense is ranked pretty high but their passing game ranks just 19th in the league with just under 200 yards per game. Eli Manning has come a long way since he was backing up Kurt Warner as a rookie but he's still not known for taking over a game and leading his team to comeback wins. He's got as many 300 yard passing games in his five year career (6) as Warner has had in the past nine games. The Giants ability to run the ball at will has left them even less dependent on Eli this season and he's only averaging 208 yards per game. If Warner, Fitzgerald and Boldin can jump out to an early lead and take the trio of Giants running backs out of the game, the pressure will be squarely on the shoulders of Eli and the Giants' 19th ranked pass offense.
If Will Takes Over: There are several reasons why the Giants are 9-1 but you can't name to name many before you get to Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. They're the best running game in the NFL and they're a huge reason why the Giants score the most points per game of any offense in the league. They dominate the time of possession (2nd in the league) effectively shortening games and limiting the chances that opposing offenses have of mounting drives. The Giants have a way of physically imposing themselves on defenses, wearing down defenses and rotating running backs so that they're fresh for fourth quarters when they're normally nursing a lead and milking the clock. Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw all average better than 5.0 yards per carry and have combined for more than 1,700 yards on the season. Kurt Warner is a quarterback who tends to get hot during a game and go a quarter or two with just a couple incompletions but if the Giants can hold the ball for extended periods of time they might be able to keep him out of rhythm. It might be just a cliche, but KW and the offense can't score points while they're standing on the sidelines.
The Cardinals and Giants often get to the same results but they chose much different methods. The question we'll find out Sunday is, which method works better? If one gets clicking early in the game, can they neutralize the other?