The New York Giants and New Orleans Saints are both franchises that have experienced significant success under their current head coaches and starting quarterbacks, but neither are where they expected to be as we near the halfway point of the 2015 season.
With a combined 7-7 record between them, neither has been a powerhouse in the league despite having elite quarterbacks and coaches who know what it feels like to win it all. But the season has been kinder to one of those teams, and circumstance has them ahead in their division, as the Giants lead the NFC East with a 4-3 record.
The Giants are in a tenuous but fortunate position, at least for now. Despite having the NFL's 27th-ranked offense and 29th-ranked defense, they sport a winning record and a division lead. That has a lot to do with the fact that they are opportunistic on the defensive side of the ball. They allow the yardage, but they have plenty of takeaways.
On offense, the Giants have given up four interceptions and two fumbles, but on defense have secured four fumbles and pulled down a total of 11 interceptions. That's a differential of +9 in the turnover margin, the best in the NFL, two spots ahead of the New England Patriots.
Meanwhile, turnovers were a big problem for the Saints through the first few weeks of the season. But with a +3 and a +2 mark in their past two games, both wins, the Saints have managed to turn things around somewhat. Despite these strong performances, their turnover differential is zero, tied for 16th in the league with two other teams.
But as noted, the Saints have won their last two games, scoring a huge upset over the NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons and downing the Indianapolis Colts. The Falcons were undefeated when they played each other, on top of that. Matt Ryan didn't throw a single interception and matched Drew Brees touchdown throw for throw, but he was sacked five times for a loss of 32 yards and the Falcons lost three fumbles in the game.
The Saints will need that kind of clean play against the Giants. Eli Manning isn't moving the ball as well as he'd like with Odell Beckham Jr. on the receiving end and the running game isn't working as well as the team hoped, but they're getting excellent field position and more than their fair share of second chances thanks to the opportunistic defense.
On paper, the Saints hold the advantage in this one. The Saints have the NFL's fifth-ranked offense, and they move the ball well with Brees, as expected. The loss of Jimmy Graham has hurt the team in the red zone, but Brees remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league. On defense, the Saints don't quite measure up, ranking No. 30 in the league, one spot below the Giants.
Both teams struggle big time against the pass, with the Saints ranked 27th and the Giants coming in at No. 31 in the league, so this one could be high-scoring.
How to watch
When: 1 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin
Online: NFL Game Pass
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SB Nation presents: Drew Brees is the NFL's forgotten QB treasure