The Giants are still in search for their first win of the season heading into Week 4 after falling to the Atlanta Falcons, 17-14, last week on a last-second field goal by Younghoe Koo.
Big Blue will look to avoid starting 0-4 for the second consecutive season when they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in Week 4. The team started 0-5 last year before winning five of seven games to catapult themselves back into the NFC East race.
The Saints are coming off an impressive 28-13 win against the New England Patriots in Foxboro. Jameis Winston threw for two touchdowns while the Saints' defense intercepted Patriots QB Mac Jones three times on their way to the win.
Here are five story lines to follow when the Giants travel to New Orleans:
Searching for that first win
The Giants fell just short of picking up their first win last week, losing on a last-second field goal for the second consecutive week. This was the first time the team has lost consecutive games on field goals as the clock reached all zeroes since Weeks 3-4 of the 2017 season.
The Saints enter this matchup at 2-1 after defeating New England. They also defeated the Green Bay Packers, 38-3, in Week 1 before falling on the road to the Carolina Panthers, 28-7, in Week 2.
Sunday's game will be the first with a full home crowd in New Orleans since their Wild Card Round loss against the Vikings during the 2019 playoffs. Last year's attendance was affected by COVID, while the Saints' first home game this season was played at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville due to damages caused by Hurricane Ida. The Superdome is set to be filled to capacity for the first time in almost two years, so coach Joe Judge knows the Giants will be walking into a raucous atmosphere.
"We expect one of the greatest atmospheres we've ever been in," Judge said about Sunday's game in the Superdome. "For those of us who are kind of historians of the game, you look back on that Katrina game, the first game back in the dome. I would expect this to be very, very similar. That town takes a lot of pride in New Orleans, a lot of pride in their team and the team takes a lot of pride in representing their city, so this is going to be a tough game for us."
Who steps up at receiver?
While the most significant injury suffered during last week's game was the loss of linebacker Blake Martinez for the season, the offense took a few hits as well. Wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton suffered hamstring injuries against the Falcons and were ruled out for the remainder of the game. Shepard leads the Giants with 18 receptions for 223 yards, and the two receivers have caught the team's only two receiving touchdowns this season.
"Those are two key parts of our offense that we don't want to be without, two leaders on our team and hard workers, but we have confidence in guys in the locker room and guys on the roster to turn around and use these guys to keep going forward," Judge said on Monday.
Reinforcements could be coming, as John Ross was designated for return from IR and practiced on Wednesday. Ross would provide a solid deep threat for Daniel Jones with his 4.22 40-time speed. Collin Johnson also played well filling in last week, pulling in five passes for 51 yards, while C.J. Board made a 37-yard catch against Atlanta. Of course, there is also Kenny Golladay who currently ranks second on the team in targets (19), receptions (11) and receiving yards (166).
One player that could be in line for more snaps and touches is first-round pick Kadarius Toney. Through the first three weeks, Toney has registered just four receptions for 14 yards. However, after being on the field for a total of 24 snaps in Weeks 1-2, the rookie receiver saw 46 snaps in Week 3 (66 percent of the team's offensive plays). If Shepard and/or Slayton can't go against the Saints, Toney has a great opportunity to make an impact in the passing game.
"He's working very hard and making progress every week," Judge said about Toney earlier this week. "I think obviously this guy has made some strides for us the more football he has played. If you're asking specifically (if) he's going to take over for Slayton and Shep, I think those are guys who (have) a lot more time in the league, so to say someone is going to just jump in and just replicate completely what we do with those guys, I don't think that's something we're going to look to do. It's going to be more about playing to his strengths, giving him the opportunity to get the ball in his hands and make some plays."
DJ's improved ball security
It is no secret that turnovers have been an issue for Daniel Jones in the past. But after three games, the 24-year-old has looked a lot better protecting the football.
Jones heads into Week 4 with just one turnover, a fumble lost at the end of a 7-yard run against the Broncos in the season opener. He has tossed 104 passes this season without throwing an interception, and enters Sunday's matchup with the fourth-highest PFF passing grade (84.1) in the league. His 782 passing yards has him on pace to shatter his previous high of 3,027 passing yards set during his rookie campaign.
The Saints are tied for the second-most turnovers in the NFL with seven, sharing the lead for INTs with six. The unit has registered at least one pick in every game, including two against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, one against Panthers QB Sam Darnold and three against Patriots QB Mac Jones. The Saints' defense has given up the third-fewest points and sixth-fewest yards through three weeks, while its red zone defense ranks No. 1.
View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.
Finding continuity on the O-line
The Giants' offensive line has already gone through a lot of change, as two of the unit's original starters, Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux, have already been lost for the season. During last week's game against Atlanta, Billy Price (center) and Ben Bredeson (left guard) stepped into the starting lineup.
Price had his strongest performance as a Giant last week, earning a 76.2 overall grade from PFF. The new center played well in both areas, receiving a 73.5 pass block grade and 76.4 run block grade. Left tackle Andrew Thomas also put together a rather dominant performance, getting an 82.3 overall grade, an 84.2 pass block grade and 77.1 run block grade. His 73.9 pass block grade on the season ranks 20th among tackles. Jones was sacked just twice in this game, and the offense gained 100 yards on the ground for the second consecutive week.
The Giants made a move on the O-line this week, signing guard Wes Martin off the Washington Football Team practice squad. Martin, 6-3 and 315 pounds, played in 25 regular season games (10 starts) and one postseason game for Washington in 2019-20. He played in all 16 games last year, including five starts at left guard. Bredeson missed Wednesday's practice with a hand injury, putting his status for Sunday's game up in the air. If he is forced to miss the game, the Giants will trot out a new starting offensive line for the fourth consecutive contest. Martin is currently listed as the backup left guard on the team's unofficial depth chart.
Slowing down Saints offense
The Saints' offense has produced mixed results through the first three games of the season. In their two wins, Jameis Winston has thrown a combined seven touchdown passes with no interceptions, finishing with passer ratings of 130.8 and 110.8. However, in the Week 2 loss against the Panthers, Winston completed just 50 percent of his passes for 111 yards with two interceptions.
New Orleans' offense ranks 14th in points but 31st in yards after being held to under 255 total yards in two of their three games. A big reason for the unit's success in scoring points has been their efficiency in the red zone. The Saints have gotten into the red zone nine times, scoring a touchdown on eight of those trips (No. 2 in the league).
"I think when you talk about their offense the biggest thing is just aggressive – you know, fringe shot-type of team, gadget-type of team, not afraid to go ahead and really roll the dice and take a chance, do a lot of inventive things to keep you on your toes," Judge said about the Saints' offense. "We've got to be very sound as a team this week on defense and make sure we're accounting for who is on the field and what they do."
The Saints' most dangerous offensive playmaker is running back Alvin Kamara. Kamara leads the team with 177 yards on 52 carries, while also catching a team-high 10 passes for 62 yards. The fifth-year running back led the league with 21 total touchdowns last season, finishing with 1,688 yards from scrimmage. The Big Blue run defense enters this matchup ranked 13th in yards and 10th in touchdowns allowed, but Kamara presents the toughest challenge the unit has faced in 2021.
"Kamara is a guy you've got to account for," Judge explained. "This guy is one of the top players in the league. He's a guy that jumps out at you all the time – receiver, runner, screens, whatever it may be. This guy with the ball in his hands is an absolute weapon. We've got to make sure we account for him in everything that we do because of everything that they do with him."
With No. 1 wide receiver Michael Thomas still on PUP, Winston has spread the ball around in the passing game. Five different players have caught touchdown passes, including two from both Kamara and Juwan Johnson. Deonte Harris leads the way with 112 receiving yards on just six receptions, one of which went for a touchdown.