When the Giants travel to New Orleans to face the Saints on Sunday (1 p.m kickoff, FOX), they’ll be heading into an environment that hasn’t necessarily shown them any southern hospitality in recent trips.
New York’s struggles at the Superdome have been much publicized over the years, as they’ve been blown out by an average score of 48-25 in their last two meetings there. The Giants (4-3) will need to do whatever it takes to exorcise the Voodoo that’s possessed them during trips to the Big Easy, as the Saints (3-4) are on a roll and looking for its third-straight win.
The Giants are in sole possession of first place in the NFC East, but it’s a slim margin, with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles each at 3-4. New Orleans needs this game as much as the Giants do, though, not for division supremacy – that goal is likely gone with the Carolina Panthers (6-1) and Atlanta Falcons (6-1) way ahead – but to remain in the crowded wild card race.
It’s a big game across the board, so look for both teams to play desperate and maybe even call and execute plays that their fanbases aren’t accustomed to seeing.
Metro takes a look at key storylines to watch as the game unfolds.
What to watch for:
1. He’s coming home
Odell Beckham Jr. is returning to his native Louisiana for the first time as a professional, so look for the electric wideout to try and put on a show. The former LSU star said he’s trying to make this game feel like any other game, but deep down, he must be itching to make his mark in the Superdome.
“It’s definitely going to be fun being able to go back home, a place that I always wanted to really play in back in high school,” said Beckham, who added he once played for a high school state championship in the Superdome, but it didn’t end well. “You want the chance to play in that stadium … They’re a chaotic team [and] they play very much like their atmosphere — a wonderful place it is to play. I’m definitely excited about it. Just being able to go back home where you grew up, not far from the house, [where] the stadium is only 15 minutes away. I’m definitely excited to go back.”
Beckham has the look of a guy who is itching to get back to his usual self. He was shut down by the Cowboys, last week, when he only registered four catches for 35 yards. That was good for just third on the team in yardage. A part of that was due to him working his way back from a hamstring issue, and the fact that Dallas held the ball for so long (the Giants only ran 19 offensive plays in the second half).
But Beckham is back to practicing fully this week, after missing most of the practices in the previous two weeks and being limited when he did work. He noted he’s “feeling much better” and is ready for his usual workload this Sunday.
2. He completes them
Jason Pierre-Paul won’t be in uniform on Sunday, but he may be allowed to travel with the team, just so, as head coach Tom Coughlin stated, to keep him in a “competitive environment.” Whatever the reason for him tagging along, the defensive end has already provided an emotional boost within the locker room and in the defensive ends’ meeting room. To a man, just having the former Pro Bowler at the facilities again has fostered a positive influence on the Giants.
“Our D-line is more complete now,” defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. “It’s been great having him back. He’s back with the group, and now it’s just a matter of waiting until he’s game ready.”
Pierre-Paul isn’t game ready yet, but he has participated in the pre-practice work before retreating to the side to further work with the Giants’ athletic trainers. The team has a two-game roster exemption for Pierre-Paul. But while it’s unknown when he will make his season debut, his mere presence on the Superdome sidelines will provide a huge boost to morale.
“I’ve only played with for a year, but I know he’s a hungry, aggressive, talented, super agile, mobile, and relentless player. He never gets tired,” noted defensive end Robert Ayers. “That’s just the type of person and player he is. He plays hard all game, every game. He practices hard all practice, every practice. … Him being here with us again gives us a boost. I’m looking forward to seeing him on the sidelines.”
3. Brees-ing through
Saints quarterback Drew Brees seems to be back on track following his early-season slump. He’s out-dueled Matt Ryan of the Falcons and Andrew Luck of the Colts in successive weeks, as New Orleans is riding a season-high two-game winning streak. Brees has thrown for 567 yards and two touchdowns in that span, while completing 66 percent of his throws. He’s hot, and history suggests that a hot Brees is a dangerous one, especially at home. The Giants will still be without the services of cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral), so look for Brees to attack his replacement, Jayron Hosley. The third-year corner has played pretty well in Amukamara’s place, but that was against the likes of a struggling Sam Bradford and third-string Matt Cassel. Brees is on his way to the Hall of Fame, and has amassed ridiculous numbers picking on even the best cornerbacks in the league, so it’s almost a given that he’ll test Hosley and the rest of the banged-up Giants secondary early and often.