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this week's game

Epic Giants-Saints Matchup Too Early in Season to Achieve Total Epic-ness

It's a shame that the Saints and Giants are playing so early in the season. With apologies to the Minnesota Favres, these are the best teams in the NFC, and while tomorrow's game could have a big impact on playoff seeding, it's too early to know exactly what those ramifications will be. An epic matchup in, say, week 15 would just feel more appropriate (and more epic). More than anything, Sunday's game will determine the conference's "team to beat" — not an insignificant title, but also not one that necessarily wins you the Super Bowl. (You'll recall the Giants spent much of last year as the "team to beat," right up until they started to get beat.) Still, this should be fun.

Some things to look for: The Giants' great offensive line will have to be especially great on Sunday, because under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the Saints like to blitz. A lot. As in, almost 50 percent of the time. This isn't a great week for Eli Manning and his heel to have to run around a lot, so good protection is even more important than usual. And when he does throw the ball, he has safety Darren Sharper to worry about. When he was with the Vikings, Sharper picked off Manning four times in three games, two times returning the INT for a touchdown. More recently, you might recall Sharper's ninety-nine-yard TD interception return against the Jets.

We'll also learn a lot about the Giants' defense this week. They've really only played one halfway-decent team this season, and in that game against Dallas, didn't have a particularly strong showing, at least in terms of stopping the run. New Orleans is an offensive juggernaut that, led by Drew Brees, hasn't trailed once all season. Our guess is that the D is up to the task. They won't admit it, but they've had this game circled for four weeks now.

Photo: Getty Images