as a force to be reckoned with and as a strong contender in the playoffs.
Even though the Giants relied on Eli Manning's arm more today than they have in the past few weeks, the playcalling was still reflective of the Giants overall plan to stay balanced between the pass and the run. With 33 pass attempts and 26 rushes, they were able to keep the Cardinals guessing on defense, which only made Eli Manning's job easier.
The Cardinals had 52 pass attempts and only 15 rushes, which definitely made Steve Spagnuolo's job easier. The Cards made no attempt to prevent the Giants from pinning their ears back and getting after Kurt Warner, although the Cards offensive line handled the pressure well.
After all the debate before this game, it all ended up coming down to the special teams. Domenik Hixon came through in a big way with three long kickoff returns for 180 yards that gave the Giants excellent field position. The key to the game for the Giants was their ability to use the short field to their advantage and they scored each time they got the ball after a kickoff.
It is a mark of the best teams that they are able to adjust on the fly and tweak their game plan to take what they're given. The running game didn't produce any big plays, but the Giants got 7 first downs rushing, so they were still effective without the big plays.
The Giants also managed to defeat a strong passing team on the road, and rested Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress for next week's game in Washington against the Redskins. Strong efforts the next three weeks against divisional opponents would clinch a playoff spot for the Giants, and could even give them a first-round bye. The Redskins and Cowboys have been improving of late, but still have weaknesses the Giants can exploit. The Eagles are self-destructing faster than a top fuel dragster with a blown engine.
All in all, the Giants should have no trouble clinching a berth. The Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys, Panthers and Vikings all have winning records, but the Giants should be favored in each contest. The Cowboys still have the Giants, the Ravens, and the Steelers on their schedule, with the Seahawks and the Eagles. The Redskins still have the Giants and the Ravens, along with the Bengals, Eagles, and 49ers. The careening Eagles have the Giants, Cardinals, Redskins and Cowboys, and the Browns, which seems to give the Redskins the advantage over the Cowboys and Eagles as far as the wild card spots go.
We could see a repeat of last year's playoffs where three NFC East teams make it, but too many other teams (Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Vikings, Bears) are playing well enough to preclude that without some stunning collapses.
Whoever their opponents are, the Giants message is simple: We're going to run, run some more, and for a change of pace, we'll run. We're going to get after your quarterback, smother your rushing game, and knock your receivers around. Tighten your chinstraps and make sure your cup is adjusted, because your going to get it right in the mouth every single down. And if you let us, we'll even pass, too.