TODAY'S PAPER

Giants enter Arizona aiming to avoid unwanted franchise mark

The 2017 New York Giants have two games left to avoid a dubious distinction.

Since the franchise’s first NFL season in 1925, Big Blue has not lost more than 12 games in a season. At 2-12 entering Sunday’s visit to the Arizona Cardinals, the team must go 2-0 to avoid a record for franchise futility.

In the Giants’ favor is the fact that both of their final two opponents, the Cards and Washington Redskins, enter Week 16 at 6-8. As the team will take things one week at a time, here’s a look at three keys against Arizona.

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Wounded birds

Like the G-Men, the Cardinals were supposed to be better this year. Injuries to All-Pro running back David Johnson and quarterback Carson Palmer put that notion to bed.

Sterling Shepard has caught 11 passes in two games this season for the Giants.

Drew Stanton is back under center for Arizona, replacing ineffective Blaine Gabbert. While the Giants could do little to contain Philadelphia Eagles backup passer Nick Foles last week, expect greater success limiting Stanton and the Cards’ offense, which ranks 27th in points per game.

Sterling reputation

Eli Manning received praise for his throwback effort in the Giants’ 34-29 loss to Philly, but a great deal of credit should be thrown the way of receiver Sterling Shepard. The second-year wideout hauled in 11 grabs for 139 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets.

Shepard has missed time this year with various maladies but when healthy gives Manning at least one capable option on the outside while Odell Beckham Jr. remains on injured reserve. He’ll find the Cardinals still possess a formidable secondary, so it’s critical he rise to the occasion out west.

Sack lunch

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It’s no secret the Giants’ pass rush has been toothless this year, tied for second-worst in sacks this year.

For their sake, it’s a good thing Arizona possesses a turnstile-esque offensive line. Only the Indianapolis Colts have surrendered more sacks than the Cards (49). Top edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon will have a chance to pad their low sack totals, which will go a long way toward securing the team’s third victory.