Game Scout: Giants @ Cardinals

The Cardinals' secondary will go a long way in determining if Arizona will be 2-2 or 1-3 following Sunday's contest against New York and a full game preview inside.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/2/11
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

PREDICTION: Giants 33-23

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals have allowed 825 passing in three games - and that's including just 139 against Seattle last week. The secondary is a prime target, and Giants QB Eli Manning is coming off a four-touchdown game as he welcomes WR Mario Manningham (concussion) back to the mix. Arizona has to hope RB Beanie Wells is over his hamstring issue and ready to be the workhorse to protect its defense. QB Kevin Kolb has been effective in the no-huddle offense, but the passing game has been inconsistent out of its base set. Still, the Giants' vulnerability lies in their injury-depleted secondary, provided Kolb's protection holds up.

FAST FACTS: Of Manningham's 14 career touchdowns, 12 have gone for 20-plus yards. ... Arizona is averaging an NFC-best 7.3 yards on first down.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

GIANTS

All summer long as the Giants offense seemed to struggle with its cohesion, quarterback Eli Manning preached the importance of having patience in his revamped offensive unit, which lost six starters from last season and that needed time to gel.

Turns out that Manning knew exactly what he was talking about, as after an initial slow start to the season, the offense found itself in a groove against the Rams in Week 2.

The Giants were able to build upon their momentum last week against the Eagles, and they are hoping to continue the trend this week against the Cardinals.

"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 when asked about what inspired the turnaround on offense.

"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."

It also helps that Manning has made a better effort to cut down on trying to force balls into spots that aren't safe. After throwing two interceptions in his first two games, Manning has done a much better job with his decision-making process.

"To win games you have to protect the football," he said. "I think we're doing a good job of being smart with the ball and making better decisions than we did last year."

As the Giants wrap up their preparations before their game against the Cardinals this week, Manning urged all sides of the ball to continue playing a smart, efficient football game if they want to extend their winning streak to three games.

"We've been playing smart football, not making too many mistakes," he said. "We have to be aggressive. We have to hit some big plays and be smart with the football."

CARDINALS

Running back Beanie Wells suffered a hamstring injury in practice a week ago, and he likely will be questionable for this Sunday's game.

Wells missed the Seattle game last week as coaches decided to be conservative and not risk aggravating the injury.

Wells had increased his workload as the week progressed. On Thursday, he sprinted for the first time in a week and has had no immediate setbacks. The hope is that Wells will be able to do more Friday, but the final test is likely to come Sunday morning before the game.

Wells' availability is critical to the Cardinals, who are not deep at running back. Backup Chester Taylor doesn't have much experience in the offense and he's 32. Alfonso Smith is playing for the first time in his career, and LaRod Stephens-Howling is returning from a hand injury.

At 6-2 and 229 pounds, Wells is the team's biggest back by far, and the Cardinals missed him last week in Seattle. His absence isn't the only reason they converted just 1 of 9 third downs in the second half but it had an impact.

So did the absence of Stephens-Howling. He's the smallest back on the roster, at 5-7 and 185 pounds, but he's tough and quick. He can be hard to find behind an offensive line, and he's deceptively good at running inside.

PERSONNEL NEWS

GIANTS

--LB Jacquian Williams' success as the team's nickel linebacker has caught defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's eye to the point where he plans to gradually increase the sixth-round pick's role. "We've given him some assignments that we probably would not have given other rookies," Fewell said. "He shows exceptional speed and quickness out there. He has very good recall in our defenses. He's not playing great football, but he's playing good, solid football for us."

Fewell predicted that as Williams receives more reps, he can ultimately reach that level of playing "great football" for the Giants.

He said, "Every day is a new day for him. We put in new defenses every week, so it's a thinking process and he's never experienced it before. He has a good football IQ."

--DE Justin Tuck (neck/groin) remained out of practice this week. Tuck, who has been slowly making progress with his injuries, was hopeful of being able to work on Friday on at least a limited basis. While he admits to having concerns in particular about his neck, he said he's hoping that some adjustments he's made with his padding and equipment will help take some of the stress off the area.

-- WR Brandon Stokley, who suffered a strained quad during Wednesday's practice, will likely not play Sunday against the Cardinals. Head coach Tom Coughlin said there is no timetable on Stokley's return.

--DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), who practiced on Wednesday on a limited basis, experienced no setbacks with his surgically repaired knee, so he was back on the practice field on Thursday, albeit in a limited role. The Giants are hoping that Umenyiora will be able to play on Sunday, even if it's just for a few snaps.

--DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who is off to a strong start as Osi Umenyiora's replacement, said he's willing to hand the starting job back to his teammate once he's ready to return to full-time action.

"I knew when he came back, he would get his starting position back. It is cool," said Pierre-Paul.

The second-year player shook his head when asked if he felt that he had earned the starting job. "No, because the way I play, when they put me in, I am going to get a sack regardless.

"You can come off the bench and you can do the same thing. It is just the way you play," Pierre-Paul said. "There are enough snaps -- I am going to get at least 40 or 50 snaps every game because people do get tired."

--LS Zak DeOssie (back) was held out of Thursday's practice as a precaution. DeOssie has had the occasional history of missing practices due to stiffness in his back, but head coach Tom Coughlin did not seem concerned that his long snapper was in danger of missing Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

Meanwhile, LB Mark Herzlich and TE Travis Beckum shared the long snapping duties during DeOssie's absence at practice.

--WR Hakeem Nicks (knee) was added to the Giants' injury report Thursday after sitting out due to some swelling in his right knee. The swelling is believed to have originated in Week 1, when he suffered a hyperextension and bone bruise in the regular-season opener against Washington.

Nicks insisted after practice that he would be ready to play Sunday against Arizona.

--LB Michael Boley, who is off to his best season as a member of the Giants, said that a large part of his success thus far has been his increased comfort level in the defense.

"That's what comes with the territory. The longer you spend in a system, the more acclimated to it you are," he said. "Once we just line up and can play without the thinking it's great."

As a result of his increased comfort level, Boley said that it's been easier to take a leadership role on defense.

"Yeah, you can say that, especially in my room, the linebacker room. I'm the old guy now. We have four rookies in our room so I try to take on that leadership role and communicate with them and help them as much as possible."

--S Antrel Rolle, who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, said he wasn't worried about his emotions this week as he returns to face his old team for the first time.

"No, I am not concerned," he said. "This is the first time for me because I have never had to face a team that I was once with but I am going in there and playing the game at the end of the day. I am going to go and be the same player that I am week in and week out."

--WR Mario Manningham (concussion) participated in a limited basis in Thursday's practice. Manningham has said that he fully intends to play on

CARDINALS

--WR Chansi Stuckey missed practice this week with a hamstring strain. He is the team's fourth receiver and doesn't add much to special teams.

--TE Jeff King has two touchdown receptions this season, one short of a career high.

--RB Beanie Wells has been practicing on a limited basis this week and likely will be questionable for Sunday's game.

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling practiced fully on Thursday since suffering a hand injury in the season opener. He has not played since then.