COMMENTARY | The term "must-win" game is thrown around too much in the sports world. However, as it pertains to the Detroit Lions (7-7), their Week 16 matchup is the definition of a must-win game.
The Lions need to win out to have any shot of reaching the playoffs after holding a 6-3 record a month ago and being in full control of their playoff fate.
They face a New York Giants (5-9) team that has had its fair share of struggles and injuries. Eli Manning is leading the league in interceptions (25), and the Giants have used six running backs throughout the season.
Here are three things to watch in the Lions' Week 16 matchup against the Giants:
Defense needs to pick up from last week
Despite losing to the Baltimore Ravens last week, the Lions kept the Ravens out of the end zone and forced them to go 0 for 3 in the red zone.
It was the perfect example of a bend but don't break defense, and the Lions will need to do more of that against the Giants.
Manning has been sacked 36 times this season, something the Lions should be able to take advantage of. They haven't had consistent pressure on opposing quarterback as much as they probably should considering the talent they have on the defensive line, but that could change against a porous Giants offensive line.
Also working in the Lions' favor is Victor Cruz will not play for the Giants as he had surgery to repair his left knee. Cruz leads the team in receiving yards at 998, and it eliminates a deep threat the Lions will not have to worry about.
That will put more pressure on Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks to give Manning viable targets to throw at. If the Lions can get to Manning and force some turnovers, they have a shot at winning this game.
Fix turnover problem
This has been a problem for a good chunk of the year for the Lions, and there couldn't be a better time for them to change their ways.
The Lions are second in the NFC with a -13 turnover margin after turning the ball over 18 times in their past five games. The only team in the NFC worse than the Lions, ironically enough, is the Giants at -17.
The Lions had 13 turnovers in their first nine games, but got lucky on a number of fumbles they were able to recover, and opposing defenses didn't haul in a number of Matthew Stafford's throws early in the season.
It's more mental than physical at this point. Stafford has to do a better job, and the running backs need to hold on to the ball. It's as simple as that.
Brandon Pettigrew out, DeAndre Levy still not practicing
The Lions will be without tight end Brandon Pettigrew, and could be without linebacker DeAndre Levy. Levy is tied for the league lead in interceptions with six and is second on the team in tackles (105) behind Stephen Tulloch.
Pettigrew hasn't always been the most reliable receiver for the Lions, but he has been productive as of late and made some catches that I would not expect him to make.
Levy would be a huge blow to the Lions run defense, and rookie Joseph Fauria will have an expanded role now that Pettigrew is unable to go.
The string of losses and bad play tells me I should pick the Lions to lose, but when facing a team that is even worse at protecting the ball, I just can't pick the Giants.
The Lions will win, but they will make it harder on themselves than it should be. It'll be up to Green Bay and Chicago as to whether or not the Lions have a shot at a playoff berth.
Prediction: Lions win 21-20
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who writes about the Detroit Lions for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Detroit Lions
- New York Giants