New York Giants vs. Arizona Cardinals: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 24, 2017 at 12:11 AM
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NEW YORK GIANTS (2-12) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (6-8)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, University of Phoenix Stadium. TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth.

SERIES HISTORY: 126th regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 80-43-2. The series, which dates back to 1926, is the third-oldest rivalry for the Cardinals behind only the Bears and Packers, but the Cardinals have faced the Giants more than any other opponent. This game will be the eighth since the Cardinals joined the NFC West in 2002, with Arizona holding a 4-3 edge. The Cardinals have won the past two meetings on the road but have dropped the past two at home.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown five interceptions in his last six games. He will want to be careful against a Cardinals defense that has six picks in its last seven games. For the most part, Manning has been better about not throwing interceptions, but he needs his receivers to run sharper routes and be where they were supposed to be when the ball is released.

Look for the Cardinals to blitz repeatedly and try to catch Manning off guard. Arizona has the league's sack leader in Chandler Jones, who should be aided by the returns of veteran defensive linemen Corey Peters and Josh Mauro from ankle injuries.

Keep an eye on safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has been picking up his play for the last several weeks and also loves to get in on the pass rush when possible.

With Kerwynn Williams dealing with a quadriceps injury and still-healing ribs, the Cardinals can't expect to get much out of their play-action packages. They won't have a very viable running game if Williams can't go and the team is forced to rely on Elijhaa Penny and D.J. Foster. That's going to likely put a bit of a strain on quarterback Drew Stanton, who finds himself back in a starting role after five weeks.

The Giants need to win the battle in the pit against the Cardinals, who have allowed a league-worst 111 quarterback hits and whose 49 sacks allowed are the second most behind the Colts (53).

Giants defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul have been banged up this season. Pierre-Paul is back to wrapping his damaged right hand in a protective club so bringing down opponents has been trickier. Pierre-Paul has five sacks and one forced fumble in his last four road games.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Giants CB Eli Apple. Apple will have other responsibilities, but when the second-year pro is anywhere near Fitzgerald, he will have to watch out for some of Fitzgerald's many tricks. The Cardinals' top playmaker knows how to gain leverage and adjust his body to make some of the toughest catches in the league, and he will be Drew Stanton's primary target in what could be the future Hall of Famer's final home game.

--Giants LT Ereck Flowers vs. Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones. Jones has been a one-man wrecking crew this season. Among his 51 tackles are 25 for a loss, which leads the league by a mile, and a league-leading 30 quarterback hits. Jones is also the league leader in sacks (15), a half-sack better than Calais Campbell of the Jaguars. Flowers, meanwhile, has been better this year, but he still hasn't turned the corner and played like the ninth overall pick in the draft.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

NEW YORK GIANTS

--Out: LB B.J. Goodson (ankle), WR Tavarres King (concussion)

--Questionable: S Nat Berhe (hamstring), S Landon Collins (ankle), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger)

ARIZONA CARDINALS

--Out: LB Josh Bynes (ankle), TE Troy Niklas (ankle), G Earl Watford (ankle)

--Questionable: S Antoine Bethea (knee), WR John Brown (toe), LB Karlos Dansby (knee), LB Gabe Martin (hamstring), DT Olsen Pierre (illness), WR Chad Williams (illness), RB Kerwynn Williams (quadricep, ribs)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cardinals QB Drew Stanton. He takes over as the starting quarterback after serving as the backup the previous five weeks behind Blaine Gabbert. Coach Brue Arians said Stanton, who initially lost the job due to a sprained right knee, gives Arizona its best chance to win its final two games. Stanton has a better grasp of the offense and isn't nearly as prone to turnovers and indecision as Gabbert. Look for Stanton to make quick, short passes to get the offense into a rhythm and then take a few deep shots. Stanton likely will throw to Fitzgerald as often as possible.

FAST FACTS: Giants QB Eli Manning threw for 434 yards last week, his ninth game with 400. In two career games at Arizona, he has 561 yards (280.5 per game), five TDs and no interceptions. ... RB Orleans Darkwa ran for a TD in Week 15 and has a career-high four rushing TDs. ... WR Sterling Shepard tied a career-high with 11 receptions and had 139 yards and a TD last week. In his past four road games, he has 385 yards (96.3 per game) and a TD. ... Rookie TE Evan Engram has three TDs in his past four road games. He is tied for the lead among NFL rookies with six TD catches, ranks second with 710 yards and third with 63 receptions. He is one of two rookies in franchise history with 60 catches, 700 yards and five TDs (Odell Beckham Jr.) ... S Landon Collins ranks third among NFL safeties with 98 tackles. He has 21 tackles in his past two road contests. Since entering the NFL in 2015, he is one of two players (Luke Kuechly) with 300 tackles (331) and eight INTs (8). ... Arizona QB Drew Stanton is 4-1 in his past five starts. ... RB Kerwynn Williams has 246 scrimmage yards in his past three games. He aims for his third in a row at home with at least 85 yards. ... WR Larry Fitzgerald ranks second in the NFC with 92 catches. He has eight seasons with 90 receptions, most in NFL history. He needs 18 yards for his ninth season with 1,000. ... Rookie TE Ricky Seals-Jones has three TDs in his past five games. He is one of four rookie tight ends with 200 yards (201) and three TDs (3).

PREDICTION: Stanton and the Cardinals will play it safe, and Manning's penchant for throwing picks will prove the difference.

OUR PICK: Cardinals, 17-13.

--Chris Cluff

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