Oct 152010
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Detroit Lions at New York Giants, October 17, 2010: The Giants are rounding into form. Offense, defense, and special teams have improved. The defense is playing at an exceptionally high level right now and it will be very interesting to see if this is an anomaly or a new standard. The offense has been moving the ball well but turnovers remain a problem.

The Lions are a scrappy team with some very good players who are solidly coached. While the Lions are 1-4, three of those defeats were very close and the officials handed the Lions a loss against the Bears in Chicago.  Don’t expect a pushover.

Giants on Special Teams: Penalties were a big problem for the Giants on special teams last week, especially in the return game where there were four holding penalties.  Holding penalties on punts and kickoffs put the offense in a bad spot so hopefully the Giants will clean that up.  The Giants – including some veteran starting defensive players – are doing a terrible job of blocking opposing gunners on punt returns.  The good news is that the kickoff returns have been getting a little bit better as Darius Reynaud has approached the 30 yard line a couple of times the last two games.

The punting of Matt Dodge is still worrisome but he was a bit better last week.  His two best games have come on the road.  He needs to start hitting some good punts at the Meadowlands.  For as inconsistent and bad he has been, the punt coverage unit has held up surprisingly well – though the poor punting by Dodge sometimes works in the punt coverage team’s favor.

Where the Giants have really improved the last two games is kickoff coverage.  And Lawrence Tynes seems more comfortable with Sage Rosenfels holding. However, Tynes sprained his non-kicking ankle in practice on Friday and may not play on Sunday.  Another kicker would need to be signed to replace him if he can’t go.  And Dodge may be called to kick off even if Tynes can play.  All of this could have an impact on the game obviously.

The Giants face another very good special teams unit this week. Stefan Logan isn’t very big, but as he showed last week, he can take a kickoff or punt the distance.  The Lions’ kicking game is solid with two very experienced kickers.

Giants on Defense: The Lions have some players on offense who are real threats.  Much depends on the health status of Calvin Johnson, who is battling a shoulder injury.  With his combination of size, athleticism, and play-making ability, he’s a difference maker at wide receiver.  He’s one of those guys who can make a game-changing, high-light reel reception even when he is perfectly covered.

The other key figure is rookie halfback Jahvid Best.  “This guy reminds me of the number 44 that we have (Ahmad Bradshaw), but he’s faster,” said Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell.  “He’s got good hands, he can cut on the dime, he’s a good bounce runner, screen game, he’s really good, so he is a talented young man.  Again, if you watch him on tape he looks like our 44.”

Best is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry, but he has the ability to break a big run.  That said, it’s probably the receiving aspect of his game that is more worrisome to the Giants.  Especially when you combine that with the fact that of the Lions’ top four receiving threats, only one is a wide receiver (Calvin Johnson with 24 catches and 4 touchdowns).  The other three are TE Brandon Pettigrew (26 catches), Best (25 catches), and TE Tony Scheffler (24 catches).  No one else has more than seven receptions.

We really still do not know if the Giants are good at covering backs and tight ends, particularly when there are multiple underneath receiving threats.  With Keith Bulluck (toe) still ailing, the ideal situation for the Giants is to be able to defend the run with nickel personnel rather than the base defense.  The extra safety can be used to help keep an eye on Best or a tight end.

With Matthew Stafford still most likely out, Shaun Hill will start.  The problem with Hill is that he is mobile.  The Giants will probably have to be a bit more disciplined with their pass rush which might hurt their effectiveness rushing the passer.  The offensive line of the Lions is actually not that bad; it is a solid group.

The first key is to stop the run.  Calvin Johnson, if he plays, deserves special attention.  But I think the real key is going to be the ability of the Giants linebackers and safeties to cover Best and the two tight ends.

Giants on Offense: The Lions’ defense is tied for first place in the NFL in creating turnovers.  And the Giants’ have turned the ball over 15 times in five games – that’s an average of three turnovers a game!!!  Other than scoring more points than Detroit, what do you think the #1 offensive key for the Giants is in this game?  Protect the (bleeping) football!

Statistically, the Lions’ defense is not very good.  They are giving up almost 370 yards per game (25th in the NFL), and opposing teams have been able to run (26th versus the run) and pass (24th versus the pass) against them.  But turnovers have kept Detroit in games.  And turnovers have kept Giants’ opponents in games.  Am I repeating myself?  You’re damn right I am.  Protect the (bleeping) football!

The strength of the Lions defense is the defensive line, and the defensive tackles in particular. DT Ndamukong Suh was the second player taken in the draft.  He can stuff the run and rush the passer.  DT Corey Williams has bounced around the League some, but he’s a big guy who can also be difficult to block.  Along with the offensive guards, whoever plays center (the gimpy Shaun O’Hara or the still-green Adam Koets) will have his work cut out for him this week.  In his 10th NFL season, RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch can still rush the passer.  LDE Cliff Avril is probably the weakest link of the group.

The “name” player at linebacker is Julian Peterson, who is on the downside of his career but who can still get after the quarterback.

While the Giants should not eschew the ground game, just like last week against the Texans, I would attack the Lions with the pass.  Louis Delmas is developing into a quality player at safety, but the other starter at that position is our old friend C.C. Brown, a guy who loves to bite on play-action.  The corners have made some plays on the football, but they are an ordinary group at best.  The Giants should be able to create all kinds of match-up problems with Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and Kevin Boss.

Eli Manning is playing at a very high level right now and is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.  But the two interceptions last week were stupid and he has to stop fumbling the football on contact.

Prediction: If the Giants don’t turn the football over, they should win pretty easily.  But that’s a big if.  But I’m not going to change my tune.  I said before the Chicago game the Giants were going to go on a winning streak before the big game against Dallas.  It may not be pretty, but the Giants go to 4-2.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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