1) Canal Street Chronicles: At 4-3 after seven games, the New York Giants are a bit of an enigma. There is the team that lost two close games to start the season by surrendering late leads. Then we saw the team that seemingly found its stride and won three in a row, including an impressive 24-10 victory at Buffalo. Finally, there's the team that couldn't do anything in Philadelphia and sort of just got by the Romo-less Cowboys. Who are the 2015 New York Giants?
Ed Valentine: The Giants are an imperfect team with personnel deficiencies on defense and several big-name players missing from the lineup due to injuries. They call themselves a gritty, scrappy team that plays hard, and it's what they hang their hats on. They have played only one truly bad game this year, a blowout loss to the Eagles. They get contributions from up and down the roster, they've done a good job on special teams and they've done well (+10) in turnover differential. It's not a great team, but it is a tough one that doesn't quit.
2) CSC: These days, when we talk about the Giants, especially for Saints fans (among whom there are plenty of LSU fans) we almost immediately think: Odell Beckham Jr. How has the second-year wide receiver played so far this season? Any chance of a repeat of his stellar rookie year?
EV: Beckham's production hasn't been the same as it was during his rookie season. Then again, his first 12 games were better than anyone in the history of the game, so that had to be expected. He leads the Giants with 42 catches, but his yards per catch (14.3 to 12.5) and receptions per games (7.6 to 6.0) are down. Teams are doubling him almost constantly, playing a safety over the top or rolling coverage his way. The Giants have been able to hit the underneath stuff to him, but the way he is being played is making it difficult for them to take shots down the field to him. He is a great, great player and the guy the Giants have to get the ball to.
3) CSC: Could you tell us about one player for the Giants on each side of the ball that we may not have heard about and yet who is likely to have an impact on the game in the Superdome on Sunday?
EV: Nikita Whitlock is probably the most fun guy on the entire roster to watch. He plays fullback. He's a former collegiate nose tackle (Wake Forest) and the Giants also use him occasionally as pass rushing defensive tackle. The amazing thing is he's only 250 pounds and no one has figured out how to block him yet. Seems like he's always in the backfield.
Another guy to watch is former Tulane RB Orleans Darkwa. He got his first carries of the season last week and ran eight times for 48 yards, including a 15-yard TD. It will be interesting to see how the Giants work him in to a backfield that now has four runners.
4) CSC: You have super powers and the ability to take other people's identities. Right now you are Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan: how would you go about stopping the Giants' offense? On the other side of the ball, if you became Sean Payton, how would you attack the Giants' defense?
EV: Well, first you have to allocate two guys or roll coverage to Beckham. You want to force turnovers, but the Giants have been stingy about those so far. Pressure Eli Manning and he will make an errant throw occasionally. Difficulty is the Giants are throwing the ball very quickly, and they are very good at that. Attack the edges of the Giants' offensive line, as tackles Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse have struggled some. I would press all of the receivers to disrupt the Giants' rhythm passing attack, too.
To attack the Giants defense, I would put the game in Drew Brees' hands. The Giants (9 sacks) cannot rush the passer. They just can't. They've also had a difficult time covering a lot of the underneath stuff. You can also probably find a big play attacking Jayron Hosley, who is playing corner instead of Prince Amukamara. Do yourself a favor and stay away Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (two picks last week). No reason to go there with all the other options you have.
The Giants have struggled in recent weeks against the run, as well. They started the season playing the run really well. So, you should be able to move the ball. It is, however, an opportunistic defense. They can create turnovers.
5) CSC: Prediction time for you: Who wins this game and more importantly: why?
EV: I think this is a very difficult game for the Giants. They have gotten blown out the last two times they played in New Orleans, and while they have won four of five I'm never sure which Giants team will show up. This team can look really good and really awful, sometimes in the same game. I'm picking the Saints. The Giants won a tough game in Buffalo, but Tyrod Taylor is not Drew Brees and I'm not sure how the Giants will handle the environment.
Many thanks to Ed for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out additional Saints-Giants coverage from the "enemy's" point of view at Big Blue View.