New York Giants vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction

Can Drew Stanton revive the Cardinals' offense in crisis?

Two of the NFL’s struggling offenses come together Sunday with an eye toward 2018 when the New York Giants take on the Arizona Cardinals. The Giants and Cardinals, both eliminated from playoff contention, have combined to average 33.9 points per game. That’s just a tick better than the league-leading Eagles, who put up 31.3 per contest all by themselves.

 

But this matchup is about more than who can actually score a touchdown to win. Players on both sides are auditioning for jobs starting with the two quarterbacks – Eli Manning (above, right) and Drew Stanton – both of whom could be with different teams next year. The Cardinals also are still fighting to avoid a 10-loss season, a blemish which would be their worst record under head coach Bruce Arians.

 

Which lame duck team will bring better effort and prevail out in the Arizona desert?

 

New York at Arizona

 

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 24 at 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Cardinals -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can Eli Manning keep rolling? And will he actually play the whole game?

Manning had his best outing of the season Sunday against the Eagles. Throwing for a season-high 434 yards and three touchdowns on 37 completions, the 36-year-old proved why he’ll still be a viable NFL starter somewhere in 2018.

 

With stars David Johnson, Carson Palmer, and even Adrian Peterson hurt for the Cardinals, that leaves Manning as the most influential offensive player on the field Sunday behind Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. If a shaky offensive line, which has allowed just one sack of Manning during the past two games, continues to fend off the pressure, their quarterback could have another monster performance. Watch out for Pro Bowler Chandler Jones; the league leader in sacks (15) needs a zero for the Giants to have a chance.

 

Key to Manning’s renaissance Sunday was the ability of rookie tight end Evan Engram and wide receiver Sterling Shepard to spread the field. Both men have taken a step forward in their development, combining for 19 catches last week. A similar performance in this case could lead the Giants to their third win of the year.

 

But there’s also a caveat here for bettors and Giants fans alike. Rookie Davis Webb, the 22-year-old, third-round draft pick took some reps with the first-team offense this week. With the Giants’ season long over, interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo will likely throw Webb in at some point, either this week or next, to determine whether he fits into the Giants’ long-term plans.

 

That means Manning could be on a short leash regardless of overall performance. One interception or bad series could be the break to install Webb and see what he’s got.

 

2. Can the Cardinals score a touchdown with Drew Stanton?

What an awful question to ask, right? But the Cardinals’ offense has gone cold with Blaine Gabbert under center, without a touchdown for 10 straight quarters. The team went 1-1 during that stretch, but the loss was costly; five field goals against a wounded Redskins team cost Arizona the game and officially eliminated the team from playoff contention. It also may have cost Gabbert a contract extension after a few weeks of promising performances.

 

The offensive slump caused head coach Bruce Arians to reinstall Drew Stanton under center this week against the Giants. The 33-year-old Stanton has suffered through injuries of his own this season, a sprained knee sidelining him after two games relieving Palmer.

 

Stanton, the longtime Cardinals backup, was actually called into service the last time these two teams met in 2014. He wasn’t quite Joe Montana, throwing for only 167 yards without a score, but the Cardinals did fight through it to beat the Giants 25-14.

 

At some point, the law of averages predicts this offense will break through. But to do so, Stanton’s going to have to find a way to feed Fitzgerald (right) the ball. He has just 10 catches for 104 yards during the Cardinals’ woeful offensive stretch, dropping him to 11th in the NFL in receiving.

 

That said, Fitzgerald is just 18 yards away from 1,000 and that milestone should motivate both him and the Cardinals’ offense. The question is whether Stanton can sneak by a Giants secondary that remains one of the best in the league... when they actually show up to play. Fitz will be the focus as the Cardinals’ woeful running game is limited behind Kerwynn Williams.

 

3. Can the Arizona defense make a big play?

The lone bright spot for the Cardinals in a disappointing year has been the defense. They rank seventh overall in the NFL at 313.3 yards per game and are sixth against the run. The Cards haven’t allowed a 100-yard rushing performance in a month and gave up just 31 on the ground against the ‘Skins last week, a season low.

 

Those are tough numbers to crack for the Giants whose rushing attack has struggled all season long. Assuming Orleans Darkwa is easily contained, than Manning will be tasked with beating the Cardinals in the air. That’s where cornerback Patrick Peterson, just selected to his seventh straight Pro Bowl, can step in and tip the scales.

 

Peterson is the type of player who capitalizes on Manning’s once-a-game interception mistake. And in this low-scoring game, it could be a pick-six like that makes the difference.

 

3. Can the Arizona defense make a big play?

The lone bright spot for the Cardinals in a disappointing year has been the defense. They rank seventh overall in the NFL at 313.3 yards per game and are sixth against the run. The Cards haven’t allowed a 100-yard rushing performance in a month and gave up just 31 on the ground against the ‘Skins last week, a season low.

 

Those are tough numbers to crack for the Giants whose rushing attack has struggled all season long. Assuming Orleans Darkwa is easily contained, than Manning will be tasked with beating the Cardinals in the air. That’s where cornerback Patrick Peterson, just selected to his seventh straight Pro Bowl, can step in and tip the scales.

 

Peterson is the type of player who capitalizes on Manning’s once-a-game interception mistake. And in this low-scoring game, it could be a pick-six like that makes the difference.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Giants showed signs of life last week but the Cardinals have the better team and a .500 record to play for. Bruce Arians has kept the team competitive despite Carson Palmer’s season-ending injury in Week 7. Arizona has never finished worse than 7-8-1 since Arians became the head coach in 2013.

 

Combine that with the Giants’ willingness to audition rookie quarterback Davis Webb, potentially as early as the second half of this week. If the Cardinals jump out early, Eli Manning will likely be benched and then you just don’t know what you’re going to get out of a 22-year-old with no NFL experience. That’s more than enough to tilt the game the Cardinals’ way for their first home victory against the Giants in 13 years.

 

And if it comes down to it? The Cardinals’ Phil Dawson, who connected on five field goals last week, has been the more productive and accurate kicker compared to Giants rookie Aldrick Rosas.

 

Prediction: Cardinals 24, Giants 10

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

Event Sport: 
NFL
Event Date: 
Sunday, December 24, 2017 - 16:25
Event Location: 
University of Phoenix Stadium, 1 Cardinals Dr, Glendale, AZ 85305
Away Team: 
Home Team: 

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