*Giants writers debate Big Blue topics heading intp Sunday's matchup in Arizona: *
There has not been a better draft class since 2004, which included Eli Manning and Larry Fitzgerald.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Without going through the details of all the draft classes since 2004, I will point to my favorite draft class of the last 15 years: 2011. Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, and J.J. Watt were all picked in the top 11. Those aren't just great players; they might be the best players at their positions. It wasn't a good quarterback draft (Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, and Blaine Gabbert in the top 12), but the position players were phenomenal. There were also steals late with guys like DeMarco Murray, Justin Houston and Richard Sherman.
DAN SALOMINE: Fact - It's doesn't get much better than Manning, Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, and the late Sean Taylor in the top five. Robert Gallery, the No. 2 pick, might not have the name recognition, but he was still a 100-game starter as an offensive lineman. The depth of this class, however, is what makes it truly special. That year also produced Ben Roethlisberger, Vince Wilfork, Chris Snee, Jared Allen, and the list goes on.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - If we were just considering the quarterback position it's an easy fact as this draft class is considered one of the best all-time with Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger all going in the first round. You'd be hard pressed to find a draft class since 2004 that can showcase that caliber of talent at quarterback. Throw in other first rounders: Larry Fitzgerald, the late Sean Taylor, Vince Wilfork and then Jared Allen in round four I'd still say this class tops the list in the last decade. You'll likely find other classes with more Pro Bowlers and players who have flashed but 2004 contains a great deal of substance…Hall of Fame type of substance.
Chandler Jones is the biggest threat to the Giants on Sunday.
A look at the key playmakers from the Cardinals roster heading into Week 16
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Chandler Jones is the real deal. He has the long arms and explosive burst as a pass rusher that will likely be lined up over Ereck Flowers. He has an array of moves and is excellent at getting to the quarterback. He is right up there with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Von Miller, Khalil Mack and DeMarcus Lawrence as the best pass rushers the Giants will face this year. He can wreck a game, something the Giants will try to avoid on Sunday. Expect to see some help on Flowers' side and for the Giants to continue to try to get the ball out fast.
DAN SALOMINE: Fiction -It seems like the Giants face a premier pass rusher in every game this season, but they don't see a Honey Badger every week. Tyrann Mathieu might not be at his All-Pro level this season, but he is a big play waiting to happen and can strike anwhere on the field. He only enhances Patrick Peterson, a future Hall of Fame cornerback.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Chandler Jones leads the Cardinals with 15 sacks and is an extremely disruptive player. Thanks to his production, he's heading to his second Pro Bowl and first as a member of the Cardinals. With that being said, Arizona also has an extremely talented secondary with each of the five starters making at least one Pro Bowl so you have to take that group into consideration as well. Given the various playmakers on defense, I think the Cardinals' biggest threat is on offense in the form of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Even in his 14th season in the NFL, the 11-Time Pro Bowler is still performing at an extremely high level and is more than capable of posting big numbers. Despite playing with three different quarterbacks this season, Fitzgerald leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and targets by a large margin. He's engine that sparks the offense and the Giants can't afford to let him continually move the chains.
Wayne Gallman will lead the Giants' backfield in carries vs. Arizona.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -We've seen this building for a while. Gallman has been getting an uptick in carries the last few week and I think it continues into this game against the Cardinals. He has put his "jack of all trades" game on display showing power, quickness and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He just has to make sure he holds onto the football. It's always dangerous to judge what happens at the very end of a season, but Gallman has earned the right to prove he could become a three down back.
DAN SALOMINE: Fact -While the rookie has quietly taken over in the last two games, Manning said they are still waiting for him to break that long one. Gallman could do it in the familiar confines at University of Phoenix Stadium, where he played in back-to-back years for Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Despite the fact that Wayne Gallman is coming off one of his most productive games of the season, he only received eight carries last Sunday against the Eagles but still finished one behind Orleans Darkwa. I think the Giants want to evaluate some of their young prospects over the last two games and Gallman fits that bill. Keep in mind, this time last year was when Paul Perkins saw an increase in his workload and took advantage of his opportunities. I wouldn't be surprised if a similar game plan is put in place with Gallman. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan indicated the team has been pleased with Gallman's blocking and ability to handle pass protection assignments. That's usually an indication they have faith in keeping him in the game on passing downs meaning he'll likely see more snaps and more opportunities for touches.
Sterling Shepard will have his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -There's a chance Shepard draws Patrick Peterson, who might even follow him into the slot. Many outside corners won't go inside but Peterson is willing to do it. He is still one of the top cornerbacks in football and if he is assigned to Shepard he should hold him to under 100 yards There's also the chance the Cardinals try something very unorthodox and put him on Evan Engram, but wherever Peterson goes, it will be a fun matchup to watch.
DAN SALOMINE: Fact -Shepard entered his second season wanting to improve his yards after catch, and despite missing four games, he already has two more plays of at least 25 yards than he did in 16 games last year. I think last week's performance against the Eagles gave some confidence to the passing game, which they hope to bring to Arizona.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The Cardinals are just 6-8 on the season but overlooked in that record is how strong their defense has been playing over the last few weeks. Since Week 10, Arizona leads the NFL in pass defense and, as I referenced in an earlier answer, the Cardinals have a lot of weapons and depth in the secondary, most notably one of the best corners in the league, Patrick Peterson. Since Week 1 when the Lions' Golden Tate posted a 100-yard game against them, the Cardinals haven't allowed any other player to reach the century mark. That tells you all you need to know.