Limiting Kyler Murray on the ground is the first priority for the Giants.
John Schmeelk: Fiction – Murray is a clear threat with his legs, but his growth as a pocket passer the past few weeks has been obvious in watching the tape. He is comfortable in Kingsbury’s offense and is taking far fewer sacks than he did earlier in the season. The Cardinals will run vertical routes down the field, and with Christian Kirk’s potential return this week, their passing game can create big plays. Murray has the arm to make all the throws, and his mobility to create more time for those big plays is far more dangerous than him running with the football.
Dan Salomone: Fact – Pat Shurmur thinks the most dangerous thing in the NFL is when a quarterback drops back to pass and then takes off to run. So that might be a good place to start against Murray, who averaged 6.5 rushing attempts per game (third in the NFL among quarterbacks) for 39.7 yards (second) in the first six weeks.
Lance Medow: Fact – Kyler Murray is a dual threat who can extend plays with his legs and doesn’t shy away from picking up yardage himself. This year’s number one overall pick is second on the Cardinals in rushing yards and just 60 behind leader David Johnson. The former Oklahoma standout is averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per carry and has run at least eight times in half of his team’s first six games. That stat alone means you always have to account for his ability to take off.
If he returns, Saquon Barkley will have more yards receiving than rushing in his first game back.
Schmeelk: Fiction – The Cardinals have struggled defensively this season. My expectation is for this game to be close, which means the Giants offense can remain committed to the run throughout. Barkley should be the focus of their rushing attack from start to finish. I would expect him to eclipse 100 yards rushing, and the Giants shouldn’t have to rely on him so heavily in the passing game. With Evan Engram potentially returning this week, and Golden Tate and Darius Slayton at wide receiver, Jones should be able to spread the ball around to different targets.
Salomone: Fiction – It’s always a possibility, but the Giants will look to run, run, run with one of the best offensive players in the NFL back in action. Should he return, Barkley will help balance things out on offense and take pressure off Daniel Jones, who enters his second month as the starter. Additionally, Shurmur doesn’t sound like a coach who will keep Barkley in the shallow end of the pool. “Players that are deemed healthy,” the head coach said, “you try to use them to the best of their ability and maximize what they can do to help impact the game.” Barkley wouldn’t want it any other way.
Medow: Fiction – The Cardinals are 26th in the NFL against the run. They’re allowing 133 yards on the ground per game and the last four starting running backs they faced collected at least 88 rushing yards, including two who surpassed the century mark. Given those numbers and the fact that Golden Tate is back, Evan Engram will likely return and Darius Slayton has emerged as a playmaker in the receiving game, the chances of Barkley doing more damage on the ground than as a receiver are pretty high.
CB DeAndre Baker has been the Giants’ most improved rookie from the first game to now.
Schmeelk: Fact – Dexter Lawrence is playing better than any Giants rookie, but he has flashed strong play throughout the season. Baker had a rough start but began playing better in Week Three. The Giants’ shift to more off-coverage has helped him, and he hasn’t given up any big plays over the top in recent weeks. He still needs to get more consistent in tackling and run support, but he has been a steadier cover cornerback from down to down.
Salomone: Fiction – Dexter Lawrence is playing so well that the 340-pound defensive tackle recently added “Sexy Dexy” to his Twitter handle. For the analytics crowd, Pro Football Focus graded him the top rookie in the entire class through six weeks. That’s not just talking about defensive linemen; that includes quarterbacks and everyone in between. Nothing frustrates quarterbacks more than the pocket collapsing up the middle, and that’s exactly what Lawrence can do.
Medow: Fact – I think DeAndre Baker is getting more comfortable each game in terms of the ins and outs of the defensive scheme and the speed of the NFL. After struggling in the first two games against the Cowboys and Bills, his improvement has been evident. Behind Baker, I’d put Oshane Ximines, who also has shown some flashes in recent games as a player who can apply pressure and get after the quarterback.
Golden Tate will lead the team in catches and receiving yards for the second consecutive game.
Schmeelk: Fiction – This game marks the return of Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, who was suspended the first six games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy. If he is asked to follow a receiver around the field, it would likely be Golden Tate. It will be interesting to see how much the Cardinals feel they can utilize Peterson after being away from the team for so many weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals have played man to man defense only 30% of the time. Will Peterson’s return prompt them to alter that approach? Whether in zone or man, I think Evan Engram’s return will result in a big jump in his production.
Salomone: Fact – Cornerback Patrick Peterson’s six-game suspension is up, but he is only one man, albeit an eight-time Pro Bowler. While he was away, Cardinals opponents had an average passer rating of 121.8, the second-highest in the NFL. Golden Tate, who missed the first four games because of his own suspension, is getting his legs back under him and could be in line for a big day.
Medow: Fiction – The Cardinals have been struggling this season in defending tight ends, so I’d say Evan Engram has the best chance to lead the team in catches and receiving yards. In five of Arizona’s six games, the opposing tight end has led his team in receiving yards and four of those five tight ends have led or tied for the team lead in receptions. Case in point, the Falcons’ Austin Hooper collected eight catches, 117 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals in Week 6. Keep in mind, Arizona top corner Patrick Peterson is returning this week after serving a six-game suspension, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they put him on Golden Tate more often than not.
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