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Giants at Lions Preview: Stopping Calvin Johnson, Turning Over Matthew Stafford Key For Giants Pulling Upset Against Detroit

  By Brad Carroll  
There isn't much intrigue to the final two weeks of the season for the New York Giants. The Giants were eliminated from the postseason race long ago, but unlike other teams around the league that could be going into an offseason of upheaval, Big Blue will likely stay the course. There won't be any major changes in the front office. The coach isn't on the hot seat. And the quarterback, despite throwing the most interceptions in the NFL this season, isn't going anywhere either.

The Giants have missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons, but the base is there for a team that could contend for a postseason spot next year as is. Of course, there will be differences between this roster and the one that will take the field next September.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, once thought a building block, will be gone barring a major change of direction for the Giants. Running back Andre Brown could be playing elsewhere too. And safety Antrele Rolle, who has had one of the best seasons on the entire team, could be too expensive to keep around. But, all in all, the Giants aren't going to have to make any franchise-altering decisions.

But the games go on and the Giants can play the role of spoiler for the final time this season, as they travel to Detroit for a game with a Lions team fighting to stay alive in the NFC North title race. The North, just like the East, will be won by a team that might not deserve a playoff spot, but nonetheless is up for grabs. The Lions trail the Bears by a game and the Packers by a half-game for first place.

If the Giants can upset the heavily-favored Lions, they likely end whatever hope Detroit had at winning the division. With a game against Washington next week, this is the last time the Giants will play in a game with meaning, so that should be a rallying cry with the team.

Here's our in-depth look into the Giants road matchup with the Lions Sunday.

New York Giants (5-9, third place in NFC East)
at Detroit Lions (7-7, one game back in NFC North)

The Spread: Giants +10; Lions -10

Major Injury Report: GIANTS: Out, WR Victor Cruz, RB Peyton Hillis, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, S Cooper Taylor. Doubtful, G David Diehl. Questionable, G James Brewer, WR Jerrel Jernigan. LIONS: Out, TE Brandon Pettigrew. Doubtful, CB Darius Slay. Questionable, WR Calvin Johnson, LB DeAndre Levy, CB Rashean Mathis, CB Chris Houston.

GameDay Staff Picks: Brad: Lions 28, Giants 7. Craig: Lions 34, Giants 20. Matt: Lions 35, Giants 17.

How Giants Can Beat Lions
Covering Calvin Johnson: The Lions wide receiver is the best in the game but has struggled the last two weeks, much to the chagrin of his fantasy owners everywhere. Johnson had just three catches for 52 yards against Philadelphia in the snow two weeks ago and brought it six passes against the Ravens last week even though he was targeted 14 times. The Giants would be lucky to hold him down for the third straight game. The Giants should put cornerback Prince Amukamara on Johnson the entire game, but that's not how they run the defense in the secondary. The Giants have a right corner and left corner, meaning Trumaine McBride could cover Johnson during the game. McBride is 9 inches shorter than Johnson. So, if Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford sees that matchup on the outside, he could just heave it in the air and let Johnson win the jump ball. Johnson is able to win those against the best corners in the game, so he could have a field day against McBride. If the Giants don't allow Amukamara to follow Johnson from side-to-side, they have to have a safety over the top to help out. If the Giants can somehow keep Johnson in check, they could ruin the Lions playoff hopes with an upset victory on the road.

Force Turnovers: Stafford is one of the game's better quarterbacks, throwing for 4,211 yards and 28 touchdowns, but he has been a turnover machine this season. Stafford has thrown 17 interceptions, including nine alone in the last four games. He threw three picks in an 18-16 loss to the Ravens last week and threw four in a loss to the Buccaneers a month ago. The Giants have intercepted just 13 passes this season, but could get more than a few opportunities to make a big play with a turnover against Stafford and the Lions. The Giants defense has actually played well since its 0-6 start to the season but needs to force turnovers to put their struggling offense in position to score. Or, better yet, take an interception back to the house for six points. While Eli Manning can't turn the ball over on offense, the Giants need Stafford to make a couple of bad throws to stay in the game with Detroit.

Block Somebody: The Giants offensive line, already ravaged by injury and struggling to keep Manning off the ground, will face a tremendous defensive front from Detroit, which has 28 sacks this season. Giants guard David Diehl made the trip to Detroit but is doubtful to play, meaning two backups could start at guard against the Lions. The Giants offensive line has already allowed 36 sacks, the most Manning has ever been taken down in a season. It could get even worse Sunday. With Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah rushing the passer, Manning could be under constant pressure. That, of course, could lead to turnovers, something the Giants can't afford if they are to pull the upset. Manning has already thrown an NFL-high 25 picks. Suh and Fairley have combined for nine sacks, while Ezekiel Ansah has seven on his own for the Lions. If the Giants offensive line plays as it has this entire season, which has been terrible, it could be another long day for the Giants offense.

Three Lions To Stop
QB Matthew Stafford (has thrown nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions over last five games, four of which were losses); WR Calvin Johnson (has 12 touchdowns and is one of just two players who average more than 100 yards receiving a game); RB Reggie Bush (has 286 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his last two games).

NFC East Games
Dallas at Washington, 1 p.m.
New York Giants at Detroit, 4:05 p.m.
Chicago at Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m.


  1. Calvin Johnson is a game-time decision for Lions.

  2. Calvin Johnson is active and will play today.