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Game 15 preview
Sunday Dec 24, 4:25 PM - Giants at Cardinals

Giants (2-12) vs Cardinals (6-8)
Last week the Cardinals lost to the Redskins 20-15. Kirk Cousins threw two touchdowns in the game for Washington, and Arizona struggled on offense, with all their points coming off five field goals.
The Giants got off to a good start last Sunday against the Eagles, but they couldn't keep it going. Leading at one point in the second quarter 20-7, they saw things turn in the second half, and took a 34-29 loss.

Giants - Eagles Wrap-Up

Arizona Cardinals
How does a team ranked 9th in total offense, 2nd in defense and 1st in the number of sacks, end up with a 7-8-1 record? That's what happened to Bruce Arians Cardinals in 2016. As you might guess from the tie, they lost a number of close games. The special teams unit was a big problem, and even that one tie would have been a win if their kicker hadn't missed on a 24 yard field goal attempt.
This year they've had a new set of problems, injuries. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer and running back David Johnson are not playing. Johnson suffered a wrist injury in the first game of the season, and Palmer broke his left arm in game seven. They relied on Adrian Peterson for a heavy running game following that, and he carried the ball a career-high 37 times for 159 yards. Peterson is now on injured reserve due to a neck injury. Last week's loss eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs.

Arizona Cardinals Offense
The question is where is it? Last week they lost with Phil Dawson kicking five field goals. The week before they won with him kicking four to beat the Titans 12-7. They have not scored a touchdown since the second quarter of their game just before that against the Rams. Filling in for injured quarterback Carson Palmer, backup Drew Stanton lasted just two games before he was hurt. Blaine Gabbert took over, looked good at first, but after five games he has six touchdowns, six interceptions, two lost fumbles and been hit for 23 sacks. Last week with two new offensive linemen starting, Gabbert took 5 sacks, and they went 4-of-19 on third downs.
Stanton was named the starter for this game with the Giants, even while he's still recovering from his sprained knee injury. The Cardinals were terrible all six times in the red zone last week, and the hope is that Stanton's experience will make a difference. Larry Fitzgerald is once again the top receiver. No one on the team comes close to his 92 receptions (tied for 4th in the NFL) for 982 yards and 5 touchdowns. Fitzgerald's done all this while adjusting to three different quarterbacks throwing the ball to him this season.

Arizona Cardinals Defense
As we mentioned earlier, this defense was dominant last year, and they have tried to continue that trend despite not having five starters returning. They've improved over the season, and have played particularly well in the last six games, trying to save the season while their offense struggles. Last week the Cardinals held Washington to just 31 rushing yards, and over the last four games, held each opponent to under 100 rushing yards and 34 percent or less on third downs.
The Cardinals have more than a decent pass rush using outside linebacker Chandler Jones. He has nearly half the team's total sacks with 15, and is the leader in the NFL with that number. Jones also leads the league in tackles for a loss (25), and in quarterback hits (30).
Eli Manning is not elusive, but he is quick, so it falls more on the Cardinals secondary to keep him in check. In that area, it should be noted that last year the Cardinals were confident enough to make Tyrann Mathieu the highest paid safety in the NFL. In this game, veteran cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tramon Williams will be covering their less experienced counterparts, wide receivers Sterling Shepard, and Roger Lewis.

Giants Offense
They showed some spark last week in the game with the Eagles, but it mostly faded out in the second half of that game. While the Giants have averaged just 16.3 points a game this season, they scored a total of 29. They will need a spark to turn into a raging fire this week against a Cardinals defense that has put things together over the past few weeks. They have been especially good against the run, and the Giants didn't do all that well with that last week. Orleans Darkwa gained only 7 yards on 9 carries. Wayne Gallman did better with his 8 carries for 39 yards, so the Cardinals might see more of him.
Once again it will be the same formula for Eli Manning, getting rid of the ball quickly, and relying on Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Shepard had 11 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. It also means Manning throwing short passes to his running backs, while looking to make the connection to Roger Lewis (4-of-10 last week). He did hit Tavarres King with 2 out of 3 passes that both went for touchdowns. King might be the better target, but he's listed as out for this game (concussion).

Giants Defense
You never know what you can expect from a defense that can play lock down hard, and then give up big plays for seemingly no reason at all. The quarterback they're up against, Drew Stanton, has had two starts this season and has completed just 50.6 percent of his passes for 474 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Still, he'll be throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, who catches about 7 of the 10 passes that come his way each game. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple will have to be on the same page covering him. The Cardinals have had good results using undrafted rookie Ricky Seals-Jones in the past five games. Safety Landon Collins is playing through his ankle injury, and will have to be careful with the former college receiver - turned tight end.
Because of injuries, running back Kerwynn Williams became the starter in week 13, but he has missed practice this week. If he doesn't play, the Cardinals may be fielding their fifth different starting running back. Either way, Damon Harrison is tough against the run, and he and Jason Pierre-Paul are up against a shaky offensive line. Linebacker BJ Goodson is out for this game, and Pierre-Paul says he plans to play despite having a broken finger on his right hand. Romeo Okwara was activated from the injured reserve return list, and possibly could help in the defensive end rotation as he had been doing.

Overall
If it's about motivation, both teams seem to have that the way they've been playing. The Giants have been out of the playoffs for a while now, and have gotten used to playing with that thought off their minds. While it's a new development for the Cardinals, they likely saw it coming, and this will be their last game of the season in front of their hometown fans.
The Cardinals this week had four players named to the Pro Bowl, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, outside linebacker Chandler Jones, cornerback Patrick Peterson, and special teamer Budda Baker. Safety Landon Collins was the only Giants player to make the Pro Bowl selection. Can either team feed off the recognition shown to their teammates? A big play here and there and this game could go either way, but you have to give a slight edge to the Cardinals.

NFC East Games
Sunday at 1:00pm Broncos (5-9) at Redskins (6-8).
Sunday at 4:25pm Seahawks (8-6) at Cowboys (8-6).
Sunday at 4:25pm Giants (2-12) at Cardinals (6-8).
Monday at 8:30pm Raiders (6-8) at Eagles (12-2).
The Redskins, Cowboys and Eagles are the NFC East teams favored to win in these games.

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Notes.

Giants quarterback depth remains the same: Eli Manning, Geno Smith and Davis Webb (inactive).

Giants have averaged just 4.9 yards per play this season.

Giants Jason Pierre-Paul has played 91.1 percent of the snaps this season, 2nd among defensive linemen.

Giants rank last in the NFL in total yardage and passing touchdowns allowed, and 28th in points allowed.

Giants have never lost more than 12 games - 1966, 1974, 1980, 1983, and 2003.
Next Game
Dec 31 Redskins at Giants.
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