- Associated Press - Saturday, September 13, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The Arizona Cardinals are picking up right where they left off last season, and that’s not good news for the struggling New York Giants.

While many consider the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks to be the NFL’s hottest team, the Cardinals (1-0) are right there with them.

They have won 8 of 10 dating to last season - including a win over Seattle - and they opened the season by rallying to defeat the San Diego Chargers 18-17.

The Giants (0-1) are going the other way. They have missed the playoffs the past two seasons and they didn’t show any signs of turning things around in a 35-14 loss to the Lions in Detroit on Monday night.

Not only didn’t the new offense work, the defense was just as bad. It left many with visions of another 0-6 start.

The Cardinals will make a trip to the Eastern time zone off a short week when they play the Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in the first game between the teams in three years.

“Every time you change the number of players we do in the NFL and more each year, it’s hard to know what is going to carry over from year to year,” said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, whose team missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

“The second half of the season we played pretty well and (with) the core group of guys that are back, I think the belief that we are good enough did carry over and it was evident in the fourth quarter.”

Coming off a 7-9 season, the Giants had high hopes after they hired former Packers assistant Ben McAdoo to run their new offense and added depth on the defense. After the opening week, there is concern.

“There is always pressure each and every week to get victories and win in this league,” Giants receiver Victor Cruz said. “We’re not thinking about last year. We’re thinking about what we have now, the talent we have on this team and we feel like we are capable of going 1-1 in this next game and improving to 1-1. We have to prepare and be focused and confident that we can do that as an organization and a team.”

Here are a few items to watch Sunday:

THE UPFRONT BATTLE: The Giants’ offense struggled last week because the offensive line played poorly. The running game was limited to 52 yards on 22 carries, a 2.4 yard average. Eli Manning threw for 163 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was also was sacked twice and hurried nine times. The Cardinals are just as good as the Lions against the run, limiting the Chargers to 52 yards on 24 carries. They held Philip Rivers to 238 yards passing with an interception. The Giants need to pick it up if they want to win, especially left tackle Will Beatty, who was beat several times.

PUNTING: Giants punter Steve Weatherford tore ligaments in his left ankle after being roughed on a play Monday night. He hopes to be ready for the game, but kicker Josh Brown has handled the punting in practice this week. Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib would handle the holding on kicks. Arizona used recently signed Drew Butler on Monday with Dave Zastudil nursing a sore left groin. Butler had one blocked, but he averaged 54.5 yards on the ones he got away.

CARSON AND COMPANY VS. GIANTS SECONDARY: The Giants’ secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense, but it struggled against Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, giving up 346 yards. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns against San Diego. Star receiver Larry Fitzgerald was limited to one catch for 22 yards. Michael Floyd led Arizona with five catches for 119 yards.

ARIZONA LINEBACKERS: Arizona has less than a week to replace John Abraham. The 36-year-old outside linebacker left the team Tuesday after sustaining a concussion in the season opener. Coach Bruce Arians said the concussion was not the main reason that Abraham, the game’s active sacks leader and ninth on the NFL’s career list with 133½, walked away. He led the team with 11 1/2 sacks last season. Sam Acho will move into Abraham’s spot. The Cardinals have lost two other linebackers. Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland via free agency and Daryl Washington is suspended for the season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

FAMILY TIES: Cardinals tight end Darren Fells is going to have a family reunion this week. His older brother is Giants tight end Daniel Fells. A former college basketball player who played abroad after competing for California-Irvine, Darren is in his first NFL season after spending last year on the Cardinals practice squad. He was inactive for the Cardinals opener. Daniel is in his sixth NFL season, his first with the Giants. He had one catch for 7 yards against Detroit.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow Tom Canavan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APTCan

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