NFL Preview - Arizona (1-0) at NY Giants (0-1)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Giants will try to avoid their second straight 0-2 start when they entertain the Arizona Cardinals Sunday from MetLife Stadium.
The Giants put themselves in a huge hole last season with an 0-6 start and kicked off the 2014 campaign with Monday night's 35-14 rout at the hands of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
Eli Manning had a rough go of it with two interceptions and just 163 yards passing with a touchdown. The Giants were in it at halftime, trailing by only a 14-7 score, but the Lions put the game away with 21 points over the final two quarters.
Manning threw a career and league-leading 27 interceptions last season and has at least one pick in six straight games dating back to Dec. 1 at Washington. Manning hopes to find some sort of rhythm against Arizona's defense and knows it will be tough sledding.
"They're talented. They do a good job doing some good blitzes. They try to get pressure on quarterbacks, they're going to have a full box and not just let you run the ball," Manning said of the Cardinals. "They're confident in their corners and they play a lot of press, a lot of man-to-man and make you earn everything that you get."
Manning, of course, is working with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and gradually adjusting to the new scheme.
"Each week we're going to keep working to get as ready as we can for the upcoming game," Manning said. "I think it's just a matter of it clicking for everybody where we're playing fast and making the big plays and getting to all of our answers. I felt we didn't make mental mistakes really last week. I thought there were some good things, we just have to make a few more plays and we'll be OK."
Manning's 163 passing yards increased his total to 35,508 and moved him past Hall of Famer Jim Kelly (35,467) and into 18th place on the NFL's career list.
The Giants amassed 197 yards to Detroit's 417 and new running back Rashad Jennings posted 46 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He also caught four passes for 50 yards, while tight end Larry Donnell led the receivers with 56 yards and a score on five receptions. The Giants need to get Victor Cruz more involved and the talented wideout ended with only two catches for 24 yards Monday. Cruz is seven catches shy of 250 in his career.
"I think in order for us to be successful, there needs to be an increased number of targets in my direction and other playmakers' directions, just like Rueben Randle as well, in my opinion," Cruz said on a conference call. "That all comes with the continuity. That comes with getting the running game going. That comes with building what we want to build as the game continues. It is just a matter of once we find that rhythm early on, we can get into passing the ball and opening up the plays a little bit."
It took until the fourth quarter in Monday's 18-17 win over the San Diego Chargers for the Cardinals to get going. The Cardinals trailed 17-6 heading into the final period and rallied for 12 points on a pair of touchdown passes by Carson Palmer.
Palmer, who is dealing with a sore right shoulder, is also learning a new system and completed 24-of-37 attempts for 304 yards. He also scrambled a bit for 29 yards on four rushes, and head coach Bruce Arians described his veteran QB as frisky. Palmer even impressed some of his teammates for his ability to make plays with his feet.
"He kept excellent composure back there," Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer said. "To be able to side step left, side step right, step up ... it was just awesome pocket mechanics."
Palmer led his 17th career fourth quarter comeback, including his fourth as a member of the Cardinals. If he passes for more than 300 yards Sunday, Palmer would become just the second QB in franchise history to throw for 300-plus yards in each of the team's first two games of a season, joining Charley Johnson (1965).
Larry Fitzgerald was held to just one catch for 22 yards, so expect more from him Sunday in the Meadowlands. Michael Floyd led the Cardinals with 119 yards on five receptions.
Arizona will face a Giants defense that allowed 341 yards through the air and last started 2-0 back in 2012, when the team began the year 4-0.
The Giants lead the all-time series with the Cardinals, 80-42-2, and are 47-20 at home in this series. New York has won three of the past matchups between the former NFC East foes and claimed a 31-27 victory in the previous meeting on Oct. 2, 2011. Manning, who has started 152 consecutive games, threw for 321 yards and two TDs in that one.
New York and Arizona last squared off in the Meadowlands on Oct. 25, 2009, resulting in a 24-17 win for the Cardinals. Fitzgerald finished with 83 yards on six catches to lead the visitors. He has a catch in 150 consecutive games.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Manning will try to limit the turnovers Sunday and at least won't have to face Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The secondary duo of the Giants are former Cardinals and will face their former team. They both played for Arizona during its Super Bowl run of 2008.
"It's the first team you were drafted to," Rolle said of Arizona. "You built a lot of friendships and a lot of camaraderie with the guys and the players there. I still keep in contact with a lot of them. Obviously, there are things I'm going to miss about living out there and things I have missed about living out there, but you move on. You move and you grow and you leave the past in the past."
Rolle hopes to tighten up a New York defensive backfield that was scorched by Calvin Johnson and the Lions.
Speaking of defensive backs, Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu has been practicing and is nearing a return to the football field. Mathieu tore his ACL last December and did not play in Monday's win over the Chargers. He recorded 65 tackles and two interceptions as a rookie in 2013.
"If he's ready to go for San Francisco (in Week 3), he'll be out there," Arians said. "If he's ready for New York, we'll determine that Friday. He's getting very, very close."
Cardinals running back Andre Ellington posted 53 yards on 13 carries against San Diego, but is bothered by a balky foot. He is wearing a boot to speed up the healing process and will most likely play Sunday.
"A lot less sore than he thought he was going to be," Arians said. "It's much better than we hoped."
The Cardinals won't have linebacker John Abraham against the Giants after the veteran suffered a concussion on Monday. Abraham is mulling over retirement and has left the team. Arizona re-signed Marcus Benard to take his roster spot.
Abraham, who led the team with 11 1/2 sacks last season and has 133 1/2 in his lengthy career, is in the final year of his contract and has five days to return to the team. Sam Acho is expected to start in his place at New York. Thomas Keiser should see an expanded role.
Meanwhile, the Giants registered just one sack of Matthew Stafford thanks to Robert Ayers. They will need to improve the pass rush against Palmer.
Linebacker Jon Beason said it was a lack of execution on Monday.
"I think we need to have more fun, but it is only fun when you are making plays," Beason said. "Once you make a play, we are going to get on a roll. Then we will start flying around and doing it together. When you make mistakes and you don't get off the field on third down, it is demoralizing."
Giants punter Steve Weatherford hopes for a healthy return in New York's home opener and sustained a sprained left ankle in Detroit.
"I would like to see a lot more progress happen between now and Sunday," Weatherford said this week. "But I feel pretty confident that our training staff is going to be able to get me to where I need to be."
Manning is 3-1 in his career against the Cardinals and will improve that mark with a mistake-free showing in front of the home crowd. Manning has no other choice but to make better choices and get his top playmaker in Cruz more involved. Who doesn't want to see that salsa dance from the chiseled wideout? The Cardinals sure don't and will try their hardest to prevent Cruz from shaking his hips. The Giants do not want a second straight 0-2 starts, so look for a better display of defense Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Giants 24, Cardinals 17
09/11 14:12:41 ET