Oh, great. Another chance to be humbled by a Manning on national TV.
The Arizona Cardinals can look at their prime-time game against the Giants in New York on Sunday that way, or they can view it as another golden opportunity to -- sigh -- prove their Super Bowl run was no fluke, that their dominating 27-3 victory last week against the Seahawks in tough Seattle was no fluke, that their return to first place in the NFC West is no fluke.
But it won't be as easy as that super stomping in Seattle seemed to be. As magnificently as the Redbirds played on Puget Sound -- it was the first time they'd held an opponent to three points or less since October 10, 1999, against, yep, the Giants -- the 3-2 Cards will have to redouble their efforts at the Meadowlands, then manufacture a couple of lucky breaks, against a Giants team coming off an embarrassing 48-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Tom Coughlin's boys pride themselves on their D, but gave up their most points in a decade and most yards in more than two to Drew Brees and company. While the Saints QB went 23-of-30 for 369 yards and four scores, Eli's ever-brittle psyche was no doubt bruised by a subpar performance (14-of-31, 178 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) in front of his pop, Archie, and extended family in Eli's first-ever pro game in his hometown of New Orleans.
The Giants (5-1) will be pissed. The game will be outdoors, where the Giants excel, and in the East Coast chill, where the Cardinals don't.
The key (in addition, of course, to slowing NY running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, who already have a combined 800-plus yards in six games) is to get Eli Manning pissed and out of his rhythm. Though he stunk up the Superdome and is our perennial pick for the league's most whiny whiner, Manning overall is having a stellar year with his 60-plus completion percentage and 100-plus QB rating.
But if there's one area where a Cardinals strength could underscore a potential Giants weakness, it's Arizona's defensive line against Manning. DT Darnell Dockett, who's been on a season-long tear, needs to set up shop in Manning's wheelhouse, and the Cards' own giant, 6-8 DE Calais Campbell, has to keep those long arms pumping in Manning's face all night long.
Peyton Manning couldn't be rattled, and that's why the Colts publicy rubbed the Cards' noses in the turf at University of Phoenix Stadium in week three.
Historically, Peyton's little bro can be, and if the Cards can keep Manning under wraps and the Giants under 20 points, they win.
On the road. In the cold.
And it won't be a fluke, either.
Kickoff is at 5:20 p.m. TV: NBC. Radio: KTAR-FM 92.3. More info: www.azcardinals.com.
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