The Giants will attempt to stretch their winning streak to three games Sunday when they face the Arizona Cardinals in University of Phoenix Stadium. The Giants are 2-1 after victories the previous two weeks over St. Louis and Philadelphia. Arizona is 1-2, having won its opener at home against Carolina and falling the last two weeks at Washington and Seattle by a combined four points. The Giants lead the regular season series, 79-49-2. They are 2-0 in University of Phoenix Stadium, where they beat New England in Super Bowl XLII and defeated the Cardinals the following season. The Cardinals won the teams' most recent meeting, 24-17, on Oct. 25, 2009 in Giants Stadium. The Giants are 10-7 in Arizona since the Cardinals moved there from St. Louis following the 1987 season. The Cardinals are 21-12 at home under Coach Ken Whisenhunt.
OffenseThrough three weeks, Arizona is ranked 18th in the NFL with an average of 347.3 yards a game. The Cardinals are 18th in rushing yards (94.0) and 16th in passing yards (253.3). They are 22nd in point scored with an average of 19.7 per game. Arizona is first in the NFC and third in the NFL with an average gain of 7.3 yards on first down. The Cardinals like to use a lot of motion and shifting before snapping the ball.
The Cardinals start seven players on offense who did not start in 2010, most prominent among them quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on July 29. The offense is growing around Kolb. Last year, Arizona had just two passes of more than 40 yards. The Cards have three already this year. Kolb has completed 62.5 percent of his passes and threw 70 and 73-yard touchdown passes in the first two games. He is accurate when he throws deep, has good touch on his shorter passes and makes plays under duress. Kolb has proven to be a solid game manager. His backups are John Skelton and Richard Bartel.
Leading rusher Beanie Wells was inactive in the loss at Seattle with a hamstring injury, but is expected to return for the Giants. Wells, who took over for the traded Tim Hightower as the team's No. 1 back, has good vision, balance and explosiveness and has big-play capability. He has the speed to turn the corner and outrun defenders. Alfonso Smith played most of the game last week and finished with 54 yards. He is a one-cut-and-go runner with impressive initial quickness, size and speed. LaRod Stephens-Howling missed the last two games with a right hand contusion. He likes to slide behind the line of scrimmage before choosing a hole and taking off. Stephens-Howling is also a reliable receiver. Former Chicago bear Chester Taylor was inactive in Week 1, but started last week. He is a dependable veteran backup who is quick getting up the field. Look for the Cardinals to use a spread formation to try to get favorable matchups before running the ball.
All six of the Cardinals' 2011 draft choices have played in a game, including fullback Anthony Sherman, a fifth-round choice who is a competitive blocker and a soft-handed receiver.
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the NFL's very best wide receivers, a player who has been to the Pro Bowl every season since 2005. Blessed with unique skills, Fitzgerald is an excellent route runner, a savvy reader of coverages and is skilled at fooling defensive backs with double moves. Fitzgerald is a consistent deep threat and has rare jumping ability. The other starter is Andre Roberts, who has scary speed and is a deep threat to score any time he touches the ball. He hits his top speed right away and can suddenly change direction. Early Doucet has strong hands, legitimate deep speed and a knack for finding voids in the defense. At 6-5, Stephen Williams has a big strike zone is a big target. He has deceptive quickness and the strength to shield corners. Chansi Stuckey has the skills to be a productive slot receiver.
In 2010, no team used its tight ends less often than the Cardinals, who went the entire season without a touchdown reception from that position. They strengthened the group by signing free agents Todd Heap and Jeff King. Heap, the former Baltimore Raven, is a two-time Pro Bowler who is one of six active tight ends with at least 400 receptions. He has the versatility to line up all over the formation and he's a craft route runner once the ball is snapped. Kolb has been getting the ball to him more each week. King, who played five seasons in Carolina, rotates with Heap and is the Cardinals' best blocking tight end. Third-round draft choice Rob Housler has had limited snaps.
Arizona had an experienced and durable offensive line that features two new guards. The best of the group is left tackle Levi Brown, who has started 59 consecutive regular season games. He is a sturdy anchor in the run game. Left guard Daryn Colledge played last year for the Super Bowl champion Packers. He has 83 consecutive starts and is a smart and aware player who reacts quickly to blitzes. Center Lyle Sendelin (57 consecutive starts) is a tough competitor who takes good angles in space. Right guard Rex Hadnot (who has played four different positions while making 80 consecutive starts) is a powerful player with a finisher's mentality. Brandon Keith is the least-experienced lineman after starting for the first time in 2010. He is a much-improved player who has become a more consistent every-snap performer.
DefenseThe Cardinals have their third defensive coordinator in five years in Ray Horton, who spent the previous seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The unit is ranked 27th in yards allowed (397.7), including 16th against the run (122.7) and 25th vs. the pass (275.0) Horton runs a complicated 3-4 scheme that he simplified last week after Arizona allowed too many big plays in its first two games. The Cardinals are a big blitz team under Horton. Arizona's defense has plenty of experience except at cornerback, where both A.J. Jefferson and first-round draft choice Patrick Peterson started their first career games in Week 1.
Tackle Darnell Dockett is the Cardinals' best and most disruptive defensive lineman. A three-time Pro Bowler, Dockett is a relentless player who has missed only one game in his eight-year career. He has a knack for knocking down passes as the line of scrimmage. The nose tackle is Dan Williams, a former first-round draft choice who excels in run defense, but is removed in the sub packages. The third starter is Calais Campbell, an imposing figure at 6-8 who makes plays along the line of scrimmage. Veterans Vonnie Holliday, Ronald Talley and Nick Eason and rookie sixth-round draft choice David Carter (the backup nose tackle) have all contributed in the defensive line rotation.
Linebackers Joey Porter (a 13-year veteran) and Clark Haggans (12) join Dockett and Campbell to give Arizona four solid pass rushers in sub defenses. Porter's sack of Tavaris Jackson last week was the 98th of his career. He needs two more to become the 26th player with at least 100 sacks (since they became an official statistic in 1982). Porter locates the ball quickly and is a sure tackler. Haggans, the left outside linebacker and sub defensive end, is a smart, instinctive, physical player. On the inside, Paris Lenon is an intelligent and productive every-down linebacker who led the team with 127 tackles last season. He makes the defensive calls and gets everyone lined up. Daryl Washington and Stewart have each started games at the other inside position. Washington is a rapidly-improving second-year pro who makes plays against both the run and pass, including an interception of Cam Newton that led to a Cardinals touchdown on opening day. He was inactive two weeks ago in Washington with a calf injury. Bradley, a former Eagle, started and played in the base defense last week in Seattle. He is a big, physical inside backer.
The star in the secondary is strong safety Adrian Wilson, a four-time Pro Bowler who missed all four preseason games with a torn biceps muscle. He is one of 10 players in NFL history with at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions. Wilson is an impact player in the box that must be accounted for on every play. He also has unique skills on the blitz, which he disguises well; Wilson's 19.5 sacks since the 2005 season are 7.5 more than any other safety. Free safety Kerry Rhodes was the only NFL player with at least four interceptions and four fumble recoveries in 2010. Rhodes is an alert defender who plays the ball well when it's in the air. Peterson immediately stepped into the starting lineup. He is fast and athletic and switches direction with exceptional quickness. Jefferson, a second-year pro, is a former practice squad player who pressures receivers and is quick to recover. Richard Marshall, who started all 16 games last season for the Panthers, is Arizona's nickel corner. He is a versatile player who always seems to be around the ball. Michael Adams also sees playing time.
Special TeamsWith the imposing Campbell in the middle of the line, no team blocks kicks as frequently as the Cardinals. They have blocked an NFL-high eight field goals since 2008 and led the league with three in both 2009 and 2010. Peterson returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown in the opener against Carolina and is averaging 18.4 yards a return. Jefferson and Stephens-Howling each average 30.0 yards a kickoff return. Former Giant Jay Feely has hit 81.5 percent of his career field goal attempts and is skilled at springing a surprise onside kick. Punter Dave Zastudil missed the 2010 season with a knee injury, but he is a veteran directional punter with a good hang and distance ratio.