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Saturday, December 8, 2012
Next-Level Preview: Giants vs. Saints

By Michael Bonzagni, Evan Kaplan and Kimberly Meyer | ESPN Stats & Info

The Giants return to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to play host to the New Orleans Saints in a game filled with playoff implications. After their 17-16 loss to the Redskins on Monday Night Football in Week 13, the Giants lead in the NFC East is down to one game. Despite out-gaining the Redskins in total yards Monday, the Giants were unable to capitalize with touchdowns, settling for four field goal attempts, one of which was missed by Lawrence Tynes. The Giants struggled to stop the run against Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, allowing 207 rushing yards, tied for their second most in the past three seasons. On Sunday the Giants will need to focus on stopping Drew Brees and the explosive Saints offense if they are going to maintain their NFC East lead.

Here are some areas to keep an eye on:

• The Giants’ rush defense had a tough time tackling against the Redskins on Monday, allowing 69 yards after initial contact, tied for their fifth most in the past four seasons. Over their first six games this season the Giants allowed 34.7 yards after contact per game, and were 4-2 in those games. But over their past six games (where they’ve gone 3-3), the Giants are allowing an average of 49 yards after contact per game. Fortunately for Big Blue, they’re facing a Saints team that ranks 28th in yards after contact this season, averaging 43.9 yards per game.

• One of the biggest differences between Drew Brees and Eli Manning in 2012 has been their success in red-zone passing. Brees has excelled in such situations, garnering the highest QBR in the league along with the second-highest completion percentage among qualified quarterbacks. Manning, on the other hand, has struggled, with the third-lowest completion percentage. Brees is averaging a touchdown every three attempts while Manning is averaging a touchdown every 5.7 attempts.

• Manning’s struggles in the red zone may continue against the Saints' defense. The Saints' defense has allowed a 70.8 QBR in non-red zone situations (fifth worst in the league) but a 42.1 in red zone situations (10th best).

• The Saints' defense has allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL (1,846) and are the only defense to have allowed more than five yards per carry (5.1) to opposing rushers. New Orleans has given up a league-high 743 yards and 34 first downs outside the tackles, an area the Giants do not typically attack. The Giants have attempted only 57 outside rushes this season, sixth fewest in the NFL, but when they rush outside, the Giants are effective. New York rushers average 5.3 yards per rush outside the tackles, tied for 10th highest in the league. Ahmad Bradshaw, who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on outside rushes, could have a big game outside the tackles if the Giants choose to exploit this Saints weakness.