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Giants vs. Cardinals: Preview, predictions, what to watch for

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Giants vs. Cardinals: Preview, predictions, what to watch for 1

Paul’s Pick

The Cardinals roared into MetLife Stadium last season and jumped on the home team right away in a road victory. They are desperate and can score. Be forewarned, Giants. Daniel Jones needs to pick up where he left off (as far as limiting turnovers) and add some zip to the passing game. Maybe the defense can continue to soar. Giants 24, Cardinals 20

Marquee Matchup

Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Giants CB James Bradberry

DK Metcalf got all the pub last week — and there is no doubt the Seahawks’ hulking receiver is a terror down the field — when he drew all kind of ooh’s and ahh’s after he stiff-armed Bradberry on the sideline. But what did it accomplish? One extra yard. Big deal. Hopkins is a far more skilled target and much better and more complete route runner, making this a supreme challenge. Bradberry has been worth every penny shelled out to get him — making plays, limiting damage and showing no discernable ego as he goes about his business. He will have his hands full when matched with Hopkins, who already has 85 receptions for 1,019 yards and five touchdowns. That Hail Mary hookup with Kyler Murray to beat the Bills is the NFL’s play of the season so far.

Four Downs

Good Things Come In Small Packages: You fantasy football owners know it: Kyler Murray rules. His overall effectiveness has waned of late — the Cardinals have lost three straight games — but the numbers keep on coming. The 5-foot-10 phenom is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and already has rushed for 10 touchdowns. He is on pace to become the first NFL player with 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. He is even more elusive than Russell Wilson, who the Giants corralled last week. “This dude is a threat every time he’s got the ball, which is basically every play,’’ Giants coach Joe Judge said. Of particular concern: Murray can fire the ball on target rolling to his right and to his left, a rare trait. “He’s just ridiculously accurate,’’ Judge said.

Finish What You Start: Daniel Jones returning is big news for the Giants, as they cannot hope to win another game with their quarterback throwing for just 105 yards, as Colt McCoy did in Seattle. Now, for the important question: Can Jones make it through an entire game? His right hamstring is healed enough to allow him to play, but it is not 100 percent. Will he be able to run? After all, his mobility is a large part of the offensive attack. “As far as what the plan will be, what I’ll be asked to do when I’m able to get back out there, that’s somewhat of a hypothetical situation,’’ Jones said midweek.

Bigger Is Better: It is called “13 personnel’’ and it is not commonly used: one running back, three tight ends and one wide receiver on the field. The NFL average usage is 4 percent of offensive plays. The Giants use it for 10 percent of their plays — only the Browns (14 percent) use it more frequently. The result? The running game is vastly improved. “It has been a pretty good one for us all year long, both running and throwing it,’’ offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said, “and really probably has a lot to do with how much confidence we have in those tight ends. You talk about Evan [Engram], you talk about Kaden [Smith] and Levine [Toilolo], those guys are really good football players. They’re good blockers. When we throw to them in the passing game, typically they come through for us.’’

Ground & Pound: Garrett, referring to the running game, insisted, “I don’t think ‘turnaround’ is probably the right phrase for it.’’ Very well then. How about, “Whoa,’’ to describe what has gone down. Since the start of Week 6, the Giants average of 4.8 yards per rushing attempt is fourth-highest in the league. The Cardinals, thanks largely to Murray, are third. It took 12 games, but a running back (Wayne Gallman, 504 yards) finally took over the top spot on the Giants’ rushing chart from a quarterback (Jones, 403 yards).

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