The New Orleans Saints escaped from Atlanta with a win in overtime and now head to the Big Apple to face the New York Giants, who are coming off of their first victory of the season. Drew Brees broke the league record for most completions in a career during the game. He also accounted for five touchdowns, three through the air and two on the ground. He needed to be so proficient because the Saints’ defense allowed 37 points and 534 yards to the Falcons.
Meanwhile, the Giants finally got into the win column with a 27-22 victory in Houston. After falling behind 3-0 early in the first quarter, New York scored 20 straight points in the first half. The Giants held off a late Texans rally to give Pat Shurmur his first win as the team's head coach.
The Giants lead the all-time series 16-13. They hold an advantage of 13-4 for games played in New York or New Jersey. They have won five of the six most recent games at home against the Saints, dating back to 1997. However, the Saints have won five of the last eight meetings overall with the Giants.
New Orleans at New York
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 30 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Saints -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Who will control the line of scrimmage: the Giants' offensive line or the Saints' defensive line?
The Giants' offensive line has struggled to protect Eli Manning. He has been sacked 12 times (fourth most in the NFL) for 105 yards (most in the NFL). He has also fumbled twice.
New York’s line has had not much more success in terms of run blocking. Saquon Barkley, the team’s leading rusher, has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 72 yards per game. However, the Giants rank 21st in rushing yards per attempt (3.9) and 25th in rushing yards per game (87.7). Barkley has scored the only two rushing touchdowns.
The Saints' defense has suppressed the opposition's run game. They have allowed the lowest number of yards per attempt (3.0) in the NFL and has permitted the sixth-fewest yards per game (84.3). Can they force the Giants' offense to be one-dimensional and thereby keep safeties and linebackers back in pass coverage to help the struggling secondary?
2. Can the Saints' defensive backs avoid being torched again?
The Giants have not gained many yards through the air. Their average of 231.7 yards per ranks only 17th in the league. Their leading receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., has averaged eight receptions (fifth most in the NFL) for 90.3 yards per game (12th most in the league) while being targeted by Eli Manning 11.3 times. He has yet to catch a touchdown.
However, the Giants have not faced a secondary as generous as the Saints’. New Orleans has allowed 336.7 passing yards on average per game, ranking as third weakest in the NFL. For total receiving touchdowns, the Saints are tied with Pittsburgh for the most allowed. They have already had three receivers rack up more than 100 receiving yards against them. New Orleans has created just one takeaway thus far, tied for the fewest in the NFL, while also surrendering the most points (34.3 ppg).
3. Will the Giants be able to prevent the Saints from piling up points?
In three games so far, New York’s defense has allowed 20 points twice and 22 last week. That relative stinginess has kept the Giants in every game while their offense has struggled to score. Frankly, New York will have to keep Drew Brees and his crew under 30 points to have any chance to win.
The Saints' offense has been phenomenal, especially in the fourth quarters of games this season. In the final stanzas of their first three games, they have scored 16, 18 and 14 points, respectively. They rank second in scoring (34.7 ppg) in the league. Drew Brees leads the NFL in pass completions (104) and completion percentage (80.6 percent) while ranking third in passing yards (1,078) and passing touchdowns (eight). He has yet to throw an interception. Michael Thomas has the most receptions (38) and receiving yards (398) in the NFL along with being tied for second in receiving touchdowns. Alvin Kamara has the third-most receptions and the ninth-most receiving yards in addition to 37 rushing attempts for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
The Saints' offense has hit its stride despite missing suspended running back Mark Ingram. Against Atlanta, they scored at the end of eight of their 13 possessions (five touchdowns and three field goals). Four of their final five drives ended in touchdowns with the only exception being a possession of just one play: a kneel-down to end the fourth quarter. They are a juggernaut picking up momentum.
The Giants have looked less impressive on offense. Eli Manning is 15th in passing yards (800) and tied for 22nd in passing touchdowns with three. However, Beckham remains one the most talented receivers in the NFL and will further embarrass the depleted and inept Saints secondary. Nevertheless, Drew Brees has more weapons at his disposal and a sturdier line protecting him.
Prediction: Saints 30, Giants 20
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com.