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Lions vs. Giants Preview

The Lions finally got one up in the win column with a demolition job on the St Louis Rams last week.  A few weeks ago the matchup with the Giants looked like another game the Lions might have an edge in, but the G-Men have turned it around in their last two games.

The Giants got off to a slow start but came alive on Sunday Night Football when they battered the Chicago Bears and handed them their only loss of the year.  Last week they easily handled the Houston Texans and the Giants’ resurgence has started with their defensive line which is healthier than it’s been in the last year and a half. 

Lions’ Advantages

  • The Lions’ offensive line has played well against some of the better pass rushing teams in the league and they will be tested again this week.  The Giants have dominated in their three wins, but all three of those teams have terrible offensive lines or were missing key players from their lines.  The Panthers were without Jeff Otah, the Bears line is probably the worst in football and the Texans are missing Duane Brown who is serving a four game suspension.  The Titans and Colts easily handled the Giants’ defensive front and won big against them, and those two teams have very good lines.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Lions have a great line, but it’s definitely better than the three teams the Giants’ defensive front ate for breakfast.
  • The Lions’ offensive skill position players match up well against the Giants’ defense.  Once again, the three team the Giants beat all have bad offenses or were dealing with significant injuries.  The Lions may have to play without Calvin Johnson, or have Calvin in a limited role, but they boast the best pair of tight ends in the league.  Pettigrew and Scheffler open things up for the receivers on the outside and the Lions are using those matchups to their advantage.  Nate Burleson is almost back to full strength and Jahvid Best seems to be dealing with his turf toe injuries well.
  • The Giants’ offensive line was destroyed by the Colts defensive line in the Sunday Night Manning Bowl several weeks ago.  The Giants haven’t played against a premier defensive front since, so the Lions should pose some problems up front for the Giants.  Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis had huge games against the Giants and even though Cliff Avril and KVB aren’t quite in that same class, they have two excellent defensive tackles lined up with them.  Corey Williams is playing like a man possessed and Suh is playing very well for a rookie.  The front four give the Lions the edge in the battle in the trenches.

Lions’ Disadvantages

  • The Giants’ passing game features one of the best three receiver sets in football.  Hakeem Nicks is a big physical presence who is reminiscent of Plaxico Burress (minus the gun in his sweat pants.)  Steve Smith is the ultimate possession receiver capable of going over the middle or making the clutch catch on 3rd and 8.  Lastly, Mario Manningham is the deceptive deep threat that stretches the middle of the field.  Kevin Boss is a decent tight end, but not really a huge threat and don’t forget Ahmad Bradshaw is dangerous coming out of the backfield on screens and flare passes.  Eli Manning has been more consistent the last few seasons, but he’s still not a dominant quarterback.  With all those weapons, he doesn’t really have to be though.
  • Probably the most crucial matchup is the Lions’ linebackers vs. the Giants’ running game. The Lions; defensive line has been fantastic against the run, while the secondary has stepped up in recent weeks too.  The linebackers have been a major liability and are single handedly breaking down the integrity of the run defense.  The missed tackles and poor angles all contributed to Matt Forte’s 80+ yard touchdown on a screen, LeSean McCoy’s 40+ yard touchdown run, Adrian Peterson’s 80 yard touchdown and John Kuhn’s clock milking drive.  Bradshaw is electric in the open field and the Lions are susceptible to big plays if the defensive line doesn’t make the tackle or significantly slow him down.  It’s not the line’s responsibility to make all those plays, but they have to in order to cover for the poor linebacker play.  Every opponent is aware of the Lions’ struggles and it looks like they will continue as the Lions may have to start Ashlee Palmer at middle linebacker this week.  Five games into the season and five players have logged snaps at middle linebacker.  That is going to be a big issue this week and every week.
  • The Lions have had issues with penalties on the road and it is a major issue for them.  In their three road games the Lions have had 28 penalties.  These penalties have taken away first downs, first and goal scenarios, cancelled turnovers and cancelled sacks.  The Lions aren’t a good enough team yet to overcome a lot of mistakes, and there aren’t many teams that are good enough to over come an average of 9.3 penalties a game on the road.  If the Lions are going to have a chance against the Giants they need to eliminate a significant portion of those penalties.

Wild Card

CJ is going to be the wild card this week.  If his injury is a matter of dealing with pain, he’ll be fine and the Lions have the firepower to hang with the Giants.  If he has some structural damage or physical limitations that keep him from playing, the Lions will have a hard time moving the ball and will need a flawless performance from the defense to stay in the game.

Prediction

The Giants have looked good the last few weeks, but they have played terrible or limited offensive lines, with terrible or injured skill players.  If the Lions have Calvin I think they can go toe to toe with the Giants, but they will probably still come up short.  Without Calvin, the Lions will have a hard time covering the spread.  Either way, it seems likely that the Lions are going to limp into the bye week banged up and 1-5.


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