By Michael Downes
Coming off a wild win against the Arizona Cardinals, the Detroit Lions travel to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. You can catch the game on ESPN, kickoff is at 8:30 p.m.
The Lions had a rough start to the 2017 season. How they managed to come back from a disastrous first quarter against the Cardinals is beyond me, but the team showed they can be a dominant force. The defense looked stout and the offense showed that once it gets going, it can take over a football game.
The Cowboys gashed the the Giants defense, rushing for 129 yards with running back Ezekiel Elliott leading the way with 104. Quarterback Dak Prescott was also able to take advantage of the Giants defense, racking up 24 yards with his legs. That’s interesting because Prescott’s play-style is very similar to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s as they are both mobile and willing to use their legs to get the first down.
The Lions are going to need all the help they can get to get the run game going. Arizona’s defense held the Lions running backs to so few yards that it had no impact on the game. This is a problem that Detroit has had since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders left. The Lions are taking the running back by committee approach with Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington.
Abdullah got 15 of the 27 total rushes in Week 1, with Washington next in line at six. Abdullah averaged just two yards per carry and no backs eclipsed 30 yards rushing. This needs to change against the Giants. Too many times the passing game has bailed this team out to get a win, but the Giants pass rush and secondary will not allow that to happen.
The Giants have a very good defense even though the Cowboys score doesn’t back that up. With defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, the defense will be able to get plenty of pressure on Stafford, forcing him to panic. When Stafford panics he’ll have to throw to a secondary roamed by cornerbacks Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins and ball-hawking, first-team All-Pro safety Landon Collins who had six interceptions in 2016.
Lions receivers are going to have their hands full. Jenkins held Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant to two catches for 43 yards. Expect to see Jenkins shadowing Golden Tate all game and shutting him down. Marvin Jones Jr. and rookie Kenny Golladay are in a good place though. The Cowboy’s No. 2 and No. 3 receivers torched the Giants secondary for 11 catches for 100 yards.
The weakest part of the Giants defense is easily its linebackers, which is music to Eric Ebron’s ears. This is a game that Ebron should dominate. There is no answer for him on New York’s defense, unless they use Landon Collins to cover him, and that’s doubtful. The Lions game plan should revolve around Ebron, he is still that freak athlete that was drafted, he just needs to become more reliable. This could easily be his 2017 breakout game.
One of the biggest reasons the Giants struggled so much against the Cowboys was the absence of Odell Beckham Jr., who seems poised to play in Week 2. There was a little bit of an uneasy feeling in regards to the Lions’ secondary against the Arizona receivers, but now it’s more of a panic. If Beckham gets his hands on the ball he can score. Doesn’t matter if it’s a screen, slant or post, he’s flat out dangerous. Opposite him stands the monster that is Brandon Marshall, standing at 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, there isn’t a player on the Lions that can size him up. Dallas kept him quiet and he didn’t catch his first pass till after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, but he can wreak havoc at any time.
Much like the Lions, the Giants lack a run game. Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen aren’t premiere backs and won’t have much impact on the outcome of this game rushing wise. They can be dynamic in the passing game, especially Vereen, but even then they aren’t that impressive. The Lions linebacking corps, led by rookie Jarrad Davis, should make quick work of whatever attempt is made.
A lot of the success of the defense is going to fall onto the defensive ends. Giants quarterback Eli Manning is prone to making mistakes, especially under pressure. No quarterback turns the ball over more than Manning. In the last five seasons he’s turned the ball over 83 times (74 interceptions and nine fumbles). If Ezekiel Ansah and Anthony Zettel, who had seven pressures against the Cardinals, can put some heat on Manning, it will be another long game for New York.
Keys to the Game
- This will be a reoccurring thing all season, but the Lions need to start establishing the run game and this is the team to do it against. The Giants linebackers aren’t stellar and speedy backs like Abdullah and Riddick should be able to take advantage of them.
- Utilize Ebron. This is the perfect recipe for him. Much like the running backs, Ebron can impose his will against these backers and it will open up the field for other receivers, making the game easier on Stafford and the offense.
- Get to Manning early. If the Lions can have a repeat of last week and get some early turnovers to break open the lead, the team will be in business. Getting an early lead and making the Giants rely on the passing game will force the team to struggle.
I don’t buy into the hype of the Giants team. I think it’s a solid roster, but Manning has struggled the past few seasons and will continue to against a fairly good Lions defense. It will be a close game, but the Lions end up coming out victorious.