Giants take momentum to another NFC West opponent
GLENDALE, Ariz.—The NFC East seems to always have its way with the NFC West.
The New York Giants already have one victory -- over St. Louis -- in the divisional matchup.
They go for No. 2 when they travel to Arizona to face the inconsistent Cardinals on Sunday.
The East is 4-0 against the West through three weeks of the season, and the Giants (2-1) bring momentum into Sunday's game after knocking off Philadelphia 29-16 last weekend.
Coach Tom Coughlin said beating the Eagles did boost his team's confidence.
"It was a tremendous game," he said, "in terms of the physical nature of the game. So it did help, without a doubt."
The game in Arizona is the first of two straight for New York against an NFC West foe. The Giants are home against Seattle Oct. 9.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said it's good for his division to be facing the tough teams from the East.
"The NFC East is certainly a physical division and they play good football," Whisenhunt said.
"They have a lot of good teams, and the Giants have done very well in that division for a number of years. It's going to ultimately make us a better football team. We are going against good players, tough competition, and if our guys can continue to match up and improve and get better, and we can win some of these games, it's going to make our team stronger."
Arizona (1-2) has come the closest of any of the NFC West teams against the East, losing at Washington 22-21, but that was followed by a 13-10 pratfall at Seattle last weekend.
"There were a lot of mistakes by myself and the rest of the offense," quarterback Kevin Kolb.
"We have to clean things up. The defense played a great game and now we need to put the whole thing together and both sides play well, along with special teams, and go get after the Giants."
The Cardinals had two good offensive games, but shaky defensive performances, followed by a strong defensive showing and bad outing by the offense.
Arizona has changed its defensive scheme under new coordinator Ray Horton.
"It is early but it's time to start trying to click on all cylinders," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "We've got 13 more to go and they're ticking away. But there's no pressure. We're just trying to do what we do better. We're going in the right direction."
Kolb knows the Giants from his time with the Eagles.
"They played fast and confident against Philly," he said.
"I think they are becoming more in sync after those injuries with one another and they are playing better and better every week. They obviously have a great pass rush. They always have. They are good in the back end too. We will have our work cut out for us. I've played against them for a long time. I know their personnel. Hopefully, that can help us, but we'll definitely have to be on our p's and q's to get this one."
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora is expected to play for the Giants after missing the first three games while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Jason Pierre-Paul had filled in for Umenyiora, but expects to relinquish the starting role.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, will welcome the return of running back Beanie Wells, who sat out the loss to Seattle after gaining 183 yards and averaging 5.7 per carry in the first two games.
The Giants return to the scene of their greatest recent triumph, an upset victory over New England in the 2008 Super Bowl.
"I'm sure we'll take a minute to reflect on that," Coughlin said, "but we'll have to really focus on the task at hand."
Eli Manning, that Super Bowl's MVP, acknowledged it "is special" to return to University of Phoenix Stadium, but that feeling will only last an instant as the team prepares for the game in hostile surroundings.
While Kolb is still working at understanding the Arizona offense, Manning has been on a roll.
"Sometimes you're just having the right plays and guys are getting open and having protection and things just working out, seeing things well and hitting the open guys," Manning said.
"It's always a combination of things. Just get in rhythm, get in good down and distance. The guys protected well and we had a good game plan and (were) going to the right places.
Manning tied a career high with four touchdown passes against the Eagles.
In Arizona, starting his 107th consecutive regular-season game, he will test a pair of young cornerbacks in rookie Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson, a second-year pro who spent all of last season on the practice squad.
It will be a return, too, for safety Antrel Rolle, who was part of the Arizona team that made it to the 2009 Super Bowl.
"I have great relationships back there," he said, "and it will be fun to see some old faces and old friends, but at the same time, I'm going into battle."
Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell is coming off a monster game at Seattle, with 2 1/2 sacks, 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits.
"I'm proud of him," said Dockett, who drew double-teams that helped Campbell make those plays. "I'm very proud of him to come in and start doing what he do."