The Arizona Cardinals defense has had it's ups and downs this season but they've continued their uphill improvement under Ken Whisenhunt. The defense is on the verge of breaking into the top ten in yards allowed per game (299.8) which is a far cry from the 29th ranked unit in 2006 (349.4). The biggest improvement on defense has been the front seven's ability to contain opposing running games. They currently rank seventh in the league allowing just under 90 yards per game and 3.8 yards per rush, but this Sunday they'll face a three headed monster intent on grinding out yards, chewing up clock and wearing down any opponent standing in their way. The Giants running game is nothing short of amazing but it's not the only part of the offense that can hurt a defense. Eli Manning and the his group of weapons haven't gotten much publicity this season but they're an efficient unit that is capable of putting points on the board and rarely puts the defense in bad situations. The Cardinals offense will most likely score some points this weekend but the game might just hinge on whether or not the Cardinals defense can slow down the Giants' #1 scoring offense.
When the Giants Run: Write in down, chisel it in stone and take it to the bank, the Giants are going to run the ball on Sunday. They're going to line up a power-I formation and run right at the heart of the front seven of the Cardinals. If they're successful they'll run some more and if they're unsuccessful, guess what, they'll just keep running. The Giants have one of the best, if not the very best, offensive lines in the league and they open holes for a talented trio of backs. The Cardinals ability to contain or slow down the Giants running game will be a huge on Sunday. The Giants are built to run the ball and their offense isn't nearly as proficient when their running game is 'slowed down,' and By 'slowing down' I mean less than 200 yards rushing. When they rush from over 200 yards (5 times) the offense averages 37.2 points per game and as you might guess they're undefeated. When they don't reach 200 yards on the ground, they average just 21.2 yards per game and their only loss was one of those games. The Cardinals will have to find a way to slow down the Giants on the ground and I'd imagine the first step will be keeping Adrian Wilson in the box the entire game. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Clancy Pendergast roll out some new defensive fronts that incorporated Bryan Robinson and Alan Branch on the field at the same time or one that added Calais Campbell to the existing line. This might also be a game when Whisenhunt decides to keep Robinson, Watson and Branch all active so that he can rotate them out more often to stay fresh. The Cardinals will have to do something that the Giants aren't expecting and haven't seen yet to slow them down.
When the Giants Pass: As you'd probably guess, Eli hasn't had to do much to win games recently. He's still performing well when they need him to but when you run the ball as well as the Giants do, the QB tends to get overlooked. Eli's still averaging 30 attempts per game but he hasn't thrown for more than 200 yards since early October. One thing that's interesting though is that Eli got off to a fast start this season completing 63.6% of his passes and tossing six TDs versus just one interception in the first four games. Since his fifth game though he's completed just 57.5% of his passes and throw nine TDs and six interceptions in a six game span. One thing that works in Eli's favor though is that his offensive line gives him great protection and he's only been sacked multiple times in a game once since the second game of the season. When Eli does throw the ball, the does a great job of spreading it around to a host of receivers. They've got three receivers with 30 or more receptions and Derrick Ward (RB) is fourth on the team with 27 receptions.
The Giants can hurt a defense in a multitude of ways but first and foremost is somehow, someway slowing down their seemingly unstoppable running game. Their offense is built around running the football and the improved Cardinals defense will have to hold it's own against the league's best if they want to give the offense a chance. What can the Cardinals do to slow down the Giants or can they?