Out there on the NFL schedule horizon, four consecutive games against NFC East opponents are coming up fast for the Giants. First, though, Big Blue faces the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on Sunday -- a game that can’t be overlooked a few days before the Giants look to become the football version of the crazy uncle who ruins Thanksgiving, at least for Cowboys fans in Dallas.
The Lions (3-6) have trouble stopping opponents, but they can score, too, and have put up 30-plus points four times this season, tied for the most in the NFL. They are riding a two-game winning streak after beating the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
The Giants (7-2) have the second-best record in the NFC and are second in the NFC East, and both are things few would have forecast prior to the season. Grabbing an eighth win Sunday would propel them nicely into a four-game stretch that looks like this: at Dallas, Washington Commanders at home, Philadelphia Eagles at home and at Washington.
Here are five things to watch when the Giants host the Lions:
That was Brian Daboll’s assessment of the Lions offense this week, and he’s right. Detroit averages 24.3 points (the Giants score 20.8 per game) and can move the ball on the ground or in the air. They have 42 plays that have gone 20-plus yards, the fourth-most in the NFL.
Jared Goff might not be the sexiest name in NFL quarterbacking, but he’s got two games with 300-plus yards passing and also two games with four TD passes this season. He’s also ranked eighth in TD passes and ninth in passer rating and yards per game. He's got notable targets in Amon-Ra St. Brown (49 catches) and Josh Reynolds (26 catches). The Giants have held teams to 19.2 points per game -- ninth in the NFL, so far.
Seeing Red (Zone)
Let’s narrow the focus even more on this side of the ball – Something’s gotta give when the Lions move into the red zone against the Giants. Detroit has made 33 trips into their opponent’s red zone this season and scored 23 touchdowns, a 69.7 percent success rate. That’s ranked fifth-best in the NFL. Goff has thrown 12 TD passes in the red zone and Jamaal Williams has eight rushing TDs in deep.
But the Giants have been exceptionally stingy when their opponents have ventured inside the 20-yard line. In 34 red zone visits, opposing teams have only scored 13 touchdowns (38.2 percent). That’s second-best in the NFL behind only the Denver Broncos (28.6 percent). Perhaps the game turns on which team makes the plays in Big Blue’s red zone.
This is kind of an every-week thing to watch now. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence continues to be a disruptive force in the middle all season and his development in the pass rush is soaring. He’s already reached career highs in sacks (five) and quarterback hits (16) with eight games remaining. Both numbers lead the Giants, and he’s also sixth on the team in tackles.
In last week’s win over the Houston Texans, Lawrence had a sack, five QB hits, five tackles and a pass defended. Lawrence and Leonard Williams form a daunting combo in the interior of the defensive line. The Lions' top center, Frank Ragnow, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a toe injury. If Ragnow doesn’t play, they might mean increased effectiveness for Lawrence at nose tackle against Ragnow’s replacement.
The ‘D’ in Detroit is not for Defense
The Lions are allowing 29.3 points per game, 416.2 yards per game, and 6.46 yards per play. All are the worst in the NFL, and that means there probably will be opportunities for Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones. Barkley was leading the NFL in rushing until Derrick Henry passed him Thursday night and he’s coming off a 35-carry, 152-yard monster of a game last week.
Jones had a career-best 153.3 passer rating in the win over the Texans, the highest rating by any player who threw more than one pass in a game in the NFL this season. He is limiting turnovers – he hasn’t thrown an interception since Sept. 26 against Dallas and has thrown just two all season, tied for the fewest in the league among starters with Tom Brady. Decent company, we’d say.
The Giants need to keep Aidan Hutchinson (5.5 sacks, tops among rookies) off Jones, though. Is this the week the Giants break their streak of 37 consecutive games without scoring 30-plus points? Maybe. And maybe they’ll need to, based on Detroit’s ability to score.
Old home week
Lions head coach Dan Campbell was a tight end for the Giants for four years (1999-2002) of his 10-year NFL career, catching 43 passes over that span, including five touchdowns. He is the sixth former Giants player to later coach against his old team, a list that includes someone you might’ve heard of – Hall-of-Famer Tom Landry, the former coach of the Cowboys.
Campbell and Daboll worked together on the Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff and Daboll this week recounted a memorable job interview with the exuberant Campbell, who was acting out drills. "Obviously, he was very passionate, tough as nails you could tell," Daboll told reporters. "He was out of breath in half that interview with the stuff he was doing. Yeah, great guy."