The Arizona Cardinals got off to a thrilling start to their season on Monday Night Football. Playing just before them, the New York Giants certainly didn't.
After posting opposite results in their respective nationally televised games, the teams meet Sunday as the suddenly desperate Giants limp into their home opener.
Many observers predicted problems for New York this season, but the club's opening performance was worse than most would have imagined. Despite an offseason of change and supposedly upgrading the roster, the Giants played poorly in nearly all facets of the game in a 35-14 rout at Detroit.
Eli Manning and the offense carried their struggles with new coordinator Ben McAdoo's system into the season, managing 197 yards and continuing to look confused and out of sync. The defense, theoretically fortified by numerous free-agent signings, was shredded by Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Lions, who gained 417 yards.
Although coach Tom Coughlin lamented the "nightmare performance," Manning remained fairly upbeat.
''I'm not concerned,'' said Manning, who threw two interceptions that Detroit converted into 10 points. ''From that first game is where you'll learn the most. Looking at a full game and a lot of plays we'll go back and dissect and it'll be great for me to learn where I need to improve, where I need to get better.''
According to top receiver Victor Cruz, one of those areas is play selection. After being targeted only six times and having two catches, Cruz said that he and receiver Rueben Randle (three targets, two catches, one yard) need to have the ball thrown to them more.
''It's about keeping in the mind of our team that this is correctable,'' Cruz said. ''We can come out of this with some positivity for Week 2.''
For that to happen, the offensive line needs to protect Manning better. One of the biggest culprits in last season's 7-9 stumble, the patchwork group that's been hit by injury had plenty of trouble with Detroit's powerful defensive front four and allowed Manning to be sacked twice and pressured consistently.
The line's struggles also led to the Giants getting little going with new top running back Rashad Jennings, who had 46 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Once known for its power rushing attack, New York has reached the 100-yard mark on the ground once in the past six games.
The Cardinals faced San Diego in the game following the Giants-Lions meeting and also looked to be on their way to a disheartening start to the season, trailing 17-6 after three quarters. Arizona woke up just in time, though, as Carson Palmer threw two touchdown passes in the fourth - the second one to rookie receiver John Brown with 2:25 left - to give it an 18-17 victory.
That capped an 11-play, 91-yard drive.
Coach Bruce Arians thinks he saw a continuation from the end of last season, when Arizona won seven of its last nine, including a victory in Seattle, the lone home loss for the Seahawks in two seasons.
''What carries over from one year to the next, because we have a lot of new faces?'' Arians said. ''Well, the belief that we are good enough to get it done carried over, because it was there from the Seattle game and other games last year.''
Palmer was 8 for 12 for 85 yards and two touchdowns in the final period, and the Cardinals managed to run for 109 yards, led by Andre Ellington with 53 on 13 carries. Ellington had an 18-yard run on the final drive despite a painful injury to his left foot that's left him in a walking boot this week. His status for Sunday is uncertain.
Arians' defense limited the Chargers to 290 yards - 52 on the ground. Although he's supremely confident in his team, he's somewhat concerned about the matchup with the Giants.
''The one thing you hate is to go into a team that is wounded,'' Arians said. ''They got beat. They are embarrassed a little bit. I'm sure we are going to get more than their best.''
Arians' team will have to overcome the sudden and unexpected loss of starting outside linebacker John Abraham, who left the Cardinals on Wednesday and is considering retiring. The 36-year-old Abraham sustained a concussion Monday.
He's in his 16th season and ranks ninth on the NFL career sacks list with 133 1/2.
New York has won three of the past four meetings with Arizona, the last of which came on the road in 2011. The Cardinals took the most recent matchup at the Meadowlands in 2009 by a 24-17 score.