While many families across Arizona do their last-minute shopping and wrapping of presents, the Arizona Cardinals will be welcoming the New York Giants to the University of Phoenix Stadium. For those who lack the will to shop or have reached their boiling point, the Cardinals and Giants offer a worthwhile distraction. While the game may not mean anything outside of draft slots, the game does have some interesting storylines heading into the matchup. Here are three things to watch for in the NFC clash.
Will Chandler Jones Get the Record?
Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones leads the NFL with 15 sacks on the year. He is also just two sacks shy of breaking the franchise record of 16.5, set by Simeon Rice in 1999. Jones has done his damage without talented fellow pass rusher Markus Golden. Golden was injured earlier this season and the pass rush has been all Jones.
Jones will primarily face Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers. Flowers is a mountain of a man, standing at 6’6” and 329 pounds. The third year man out of the University of Miami, Flowers has surrendered just six sacks this season. As a whole, the Giants offensive line has surrendered only 30 sacks all season. Jones and the rest of the pass rush will have their hands full trying to get to the quarterback.
Swan Song for Eli?
Just a couple of weeks ago then head coach Ben McAdoo chose to bench quarterback Eli Manning. Benching Manning ended his streak of consecutive games starting at 210 games. Manning is a beloved figure by Giants fans and while the season has not been to expectations, the possibility of Manning leaving the organization has many feeling nostalgic. Manning has done something no other quarterback has accomplished, beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Giants quarterback has done this twice.
There has been speculation that perhaps Manning will retire at the end of the season. If this is the case, Sunday provides a chance for fans in Arizona to say goodbye to a talented quarterback that has accomplished big things on the big stage. If Manning does find himself on an NFL roster in 2018, Sunday provides a chance for everyone to watch Peyton’s little brother.
Battle for the Draft Picks
With a 2-12 record, the Giants have been out of contention for the playoffs since November. The Cardinals on the other hand enter with a 6-8 record, having been eliminated from contention with their loss last week against Washington. Currently New York sits at the second spot in the 2018 draft order. Arizona sit at 11th position, but losses in either of the team’s remaining two games could see a move into the top 10. With both teams seemingly in the market for a quarterback, the winner of this game could be the long-term loser. Both teams are playing for pride, but fans and front office people alike will be keeping an eye to the future on Sunday.
The game itself is meaningless in the story of the 2017 season. The Giants enter with an interim head coach and without a general manager. Arizona enters with questions regarding their roster decisions coming after the season. There will be players to watch and moments to anticipate. In the end the Cardinals will win in a sloppy affair. Cardinals win 23-16.