You know the story; when playing the Saints, it all starts with Drew Brees. Like with Tom Brady three weeks ago and Aaron Rodgers next week (seriously, NFL? Why not have the Giants also face Joe Montana and Dan Marino in their prime?), the Giants' first goal must be to get pressure on Drew Brees.
Brees is not one of the easier quarterbacks to sack, as he is so often able to dump the ball off to one of his tight ends or running backs quickly enough to avoid pressure. The Giants' pass rush, which had been their strength earlier in the season, has only five sacks in their last three games. If they are going to have any chance at stopping the league's number one pass offense, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora are going to have to make sure their names are called early and often.
2. Jimmy Graham
Remember what it was like to watch Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates in their prime? As great as those guys are/were, neither of them have ever had a season as dominant as the one Graham is putting together in only his first full year as a starter. The former basketball player is currently 5th in the NFL with 873 receiving yards, putting him on pace to put up almost 1,400 yards, which would shatter the single season receiving yards record by a tight end (Kellen Winslow, 1,290 yards).
Equally impressive is that Graham, 24, leads the entire NFL with 47 first downs receiving. He can beat teams on short and intermediate routes with his size (6'6, 260) and his speed allows him to cause damage down field (tied for 7th in the NFL with 14 receptions of 20+ yards). The Giants have a hard time guarding the middle of the field, and if no other team has been able to figure out how to stop this behemoth, I have a hard time believing that Perry Fewell's linebackers and secondary will be the first.
Local Hofstra product Marques Colston will pose similar matchup problems for the Giants' defense, but Graham is the one who gives opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.
3. Darren Sproles
The Giants' defense has been victimized by big plays all year. Well no one has more big-play potential than this explosive 5'6 firecracker, who averages 6.8 yards per carry. Although Sproles leads the Saints with 348 rushing yards, it is his ability to beat teams in the passing game that makes him so dangerous.
Sproles is second on the Saints with 60 receptions (putting him on pace for 96 receptions; a ridiculous amount for an RB), and is averaging 45 receiving yards per game. Drew Brees has always loved to get his running backs involved in the passing game, but never has he had a back as electric as Sproles (you read that correctly, Reggie Bush).
Like Graham, Sproles causes a matchup problem for almost every team, and especially for the banged-up Giants. The young linebackers will have to account for Sproles on every play, because he is always just one little crease away from taking it all the way.