If you're looking for the matchup to watch in this week's game between a pair of teams that each have two wins, your best bet would be to zero in on the Giants defense against the Lions offense.
That matchup is concerning for the Giants. Despite losing their top rushing threat, Kerryon Johnson, for the season to a knee injury, the Lions offense runs through quarterback Matthew Stafford, who at 31-years-old is very much in his prime.
Stafford, who is averaging 8.0 yards per pass attempt and who has thrown 13 touchdowns to three interceptions, has the Lions offense sitting in the top 10 both in average yards per game (380.3 yards per game, eighth overall) and passing (277.2 yards per game, sixth overall).
Because of Stafford’s excellence, the matchup between Detroit’s passing offense and the Giants' 23rd-ranked pass defense has the makings for a very long day for the Giants.
Oen probably doesn't have to be an insider to correctly guess that the Lions game plan will be to come after the Giants through the air.
And why not? Besides Stafford's prowess and success throwing the ball, he has a pair of receivers in Arvin Jones and Kenny Golladay plus an intriguing young tight end by the name of T.J. Hockenson who can create fits for opposing defenses.
This week, the Giants signed veteran linebacker Deone Bucannon, the original money backer, to help provide a spark. Expecting Bucannon to be a savior, however, is misguided thinking.
The defense can sure use Bucannon’s coverage skills, but expecting him to fix this until that has struggled to mesh is wishful thinking given the struggles this group has had with the fundamentals--tackling, getting off blocks, playing contain and so forth.
The good news is that Stafford is a stationary target, which should bring out some of the blitz packages and perhaps more pressure.
The only way the Giants win this game is by scoring big on offense. And the only way they do that is getting a big game out of running back Saquon Barkley.
In the town where Barry Sanders made so many highlight-reel plays, Barkley will have to pull some rabbits out of his hat to put the Lions defense on its heels.
If he does, then perhaps rookie quarterback Daniel Jones can settle down and provide some big plays of his own.
The good news for the Giants is that the Lions defense is vulnerable. They are slow in the front seven, and their secondary lacks depth. The Lions could be without Darius Slay, their top defensive back who has been battling a hamstring strain.
The Lions are big and tough in the trenches, where former Giants defensive tackle Damon Harrison will no doubt have some extra fire in the pit of his belly in facing his old teammates.
The way to beat this Lions defense is by spreading the field and giving young Jones some creative schemes to execute.
One thing the game plan should employ is utilizing Jones’ mobility, which the coaches have done a poor job of doing so far. It’s time to open up the playbook and get this kid on the move.
Jones needs his coaches to do more than have him stand in a pocket that, as of late, has been collapsing a little too often. Not having Sterling Shepard (concussion) to go over the middle has also hurt Jones' a has the dropped passes (eight on the year according to Pro Football Focus).
Want more good news for the Giants offense? The Lions don’t have a speed rusher, or for that matter, a big pass rush. They only have ten sacks on the year.
Former Giants Devon Kennard (3 sacks), Romeo Okwara (0.5), and Snacks Harrison (2.0) play a lot of snaps upfront. None of them are speed guys.
The Lions have not gotten much from their big off-season acquisition, defensive end Trey Flowers. Like Kennard, most of Flowers’ rush is of the power variety.
The problem, though, is the Giants offensive tackles, Nate Solder and Mike Remmers, have combined to allow 50 pressures so far. Both veterans have also been susceptible to power. It’s not a good matchup on either edge, which means that Daniel Jones could be throwing from a collapsing pocket.
Coming off of last week’s disappointing and turnover-filled performance, Jones is likely overwhelmed.
He's been probably looking downfield a bit too much, which slows him down some, so a smart course of action would be to take the short stuff int he flats and on the crossing routes, and let his receivers pick up the yards after the catch. Hit a few quick passes early and see if that takes the Lions home crowd out of the game.
Then there is always Saquon Barkley. Last week, Barkley's first game back from injury did not go particularly well. He needs to see things quicker and make better decisions with the ball.
Last week he was also poor with pass blocking. Keeping Barkley in to block is not the answer, but if the Giants want to make the Lions think that will be the case, at least let him chip-block and get outside to where he'll draw some attention as a potential pass target.
On paper, it likely all comes back to the Giants defense versus the Lions offense. Thus far, the Giants defense hasn't instilled confidence in its ability to consistently get off the field and stop opposing offenses from moving the ball at will.
Until the Giants' defense proves otherwise and puts together a solid showing, it might not matter as much what the offense does.
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