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Scouting Report: Eye on Giants vs. Cardinals

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will try to end their two-game losing streak while attempting to upend an Arizona Cardinals team that has won two in a row when the teams clash Sunday in MetLife Stadium.

Losses to Minnesota and New England the last two weeks left the Giants with a 2-4 record, while the Cards earned their first two victories against Cincinnati and Atlanta to improve to 2-3-1. The teams last met on Dec. 24, 2017, a 23-0 Cardinals victory in the desert. Their most recent meeting here was on Sept. 14, 2014, when Arizona pulled away for a 25-14 triumph. The Giants lead the all-time series, 80-44-2.

What is the Cardinals’ biggest strength?

Their rejuvenated offense. Arizona has scored 60 points in the last two games after scoring 47 in the previous three. With first overall draft choice Kyler Murray at quarterback, the Cardinals like to play fast and faster. They deploy four wide receivers more than any other NFL team, and Murray is comfortable throwing and running in the fast-break, no-huddle scheme. Arizona attacks the perimeter with screen passes and runs. David Johnson is the top producer on both, with 30 catches and a team-high totals of 298 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Murray’s favorite target is 16-year veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who is 16 years older than his quarterback. Fitzgerald has 35 receptions this season and his career total of 1,338 is second in NFL history to Jerry Rice’s 1,549.

Which player is key to the Cardinals’ offense?

Murray, for whom the phrase “dual-threat quarterback” was seemingly conceived. He is one of just six players in history with at least three 300-yard passing performances in their first six career games. Murray has completed 64.3% of his passes for 1,664 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 238 yards and two scores (and a 6.1-yards-per-carry average). Murray has very good arm strength and can make all the throws necessary to be a top quarterback. He also extends plays with his legs and can make significant gains if no receiver is open. Murray is the perfect quarterback for the offense installed by new coach and play-caller Kliff Kingsbury.

What is the strength of the Cardinals’ offense?

Arizona has displayed a knack for driving the ball long distances. On average, their offensive possession has started at the their own 24-yard line, the NFL’s fifth-worst drive origin point. Despite that, the Cardinals have made 24 forays inside their opponents’ 20-yard line, which is tied for the league’s second-highest figure. They’ve scored on 22 of those 24 trips. But the one drawback, 13 of those scores have been field goals, against just nine touchdowns. The Cards can put together long drives. If they begin to reach the end zone more often when they get close, the offense will be even more dangerous.

Which player is key to the Cardinals’ defense?

Outside linebacker Chandler Jones has thrived in the 3-4 scheme installed by new coordinator Vance Joseph. A big (6-5 and 255 pounds) disruptor, Jones leads the Cardinals with 4.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. Since moving to Arizona in 2016, Jones tops all NFL players with 45.5 sacks, and he has at least 1.0 sack in 35 games, five more games than any other NFL player. Jones also specializes in separating offensive players from the ball, as his 22 career forced fumbles, including three this season, attest. Chandler Jones will certainly try to do that with Daniel Jones.

What is the strength of the Cardinals’ defense?

Generating pressure. Jones doesn’t work alone. Weakside linebacker Terrell Suggs, in his first season in Arizona after 16 with the Baltimore Ravens, remains an effective defender. His 4.0 sacks place him second on the team, close behind Jones. The Cardinals are a heavy blitz unit that will send linebackers Jordan Hicks, Jones and Suggs, along with linemen Rodney Gunter, Corey Peters (102 career starts), rookie Zach Allen and their frequently-used reserves after opposing quarterbacks. And Arizona’s defense adds an important piece this week with the return of cornerback Patrick Peterson, a three-time All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in each of his first eight seasons. He missed the first six games while serving an NFL suspension. Peterson’s coverage skills should give the pass rushers more time to reach their target.

Which player is key to the Cardinals’ special teams?

Andy Lee has been one of the NFL’s finest punters for 16 years. He missed Arizona’s loss to Seattle with a hip flexor injury but is third in the league with a 49.0-yard gross average and fourth with a 44.8-yard net average. Lee’s long punts frequently flip the field to the Cardinals’ advantage.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

Defensively, contain Murray by keeping him in the pocket and preferably getting him on the ground. On offense, the Giants need to run the ball effectively to slow down Arizona’s pass rush. When they do pass, they must mitigate the pressures by picking up the numerous blitzers.

Statistics you should know:

*The Cardinals have committed just four turnovers, tying them with Chicago and Tennessee for the NFL’s lowest total. Arizona and the Bears are the only teams that have not lost a fumble this season. The Cards have fumbled just once. But while they’re good at protecting the ball, they’re not as proficient stealing it. Arizona has just three takeaways, the NFL’s second-lowest total. It is the only team in the league without an interception. The Giants have two unwanted NFL-highs: seven lost fumbles and 15 giveaways.

*Murray took 20 sacks in his first four games and the Cards were 0-3-1. He was sacked just once in the last two games, and Arizona won both.

*The Cards have run 27 goal-to-go plays. They’ve passed on 19 of them, a 70.4 percentage that is the league’s highest. Cincinnati is second at 66.7. The league average is 46.8.

*Suggs’ 136.5 sacks are the highest total among active players and place him 11th in NFL history. He needs 5.0 sacks to move past four other players and tie Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan at No. 6.

Giants vs. Cardinals Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream.

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