It’s another interesting week for the 7-7 Detroit Lions this Sunday as they face-off against the visiting 5-9 New York Giants. For the Lions this game is important for the main fact that if the Lions win this game they maintain the possibility of making the playoffs. While a victory doesn’t guarantee a playoff opportunity, it does at least give the Lions a chance.
Now winning this game won’t be easy mainly because the Lions constantly shoot themselves in the foot but if they follow certain keys to victory, there is no reason they can’t come out victorious.
Going into this game, it all starts with the Lions defense. Why? Mainly because the Lions defense is the sole reason the Lions offense has opportunities to win games but the defense is also key because the Giants are just as bad as the Lions when it comes to turnovers. So far this season, the Giants have turned the ball over at least once in every game so far and quarterback Eli Manning is right there with them, throwing 25 interceptions so far this season (leads the NFL).With that being said the defense must not only play well in this game but they must also do their best to force some turnovers.
It all starts with making the Giants one-dimensional, to do that the Lions must contain the run game. To do that the defensive line must control the line of scrimmage, doing that will allow the defensive line and linebackers to make plays in the backfield. If the Lions defense can control the run game of the Giants, they have already won half of the defensive battle.
However, after that the Lions must excel defensively through the air, while the Lions secondary isn’t the worst in the league, they certainly aren’t the best either. Now for the secondary to have success, it all starts with the defensive line creating pressure on Manning. When under pressure, Manning tends to force passes across the middle, while the ball isn’t always intercepted, he certainly gives defenders multiple opportunities to make plays on the ball. However, with that being said, the secondary must be prepared to do their part whether the defensive line creates pressure or not. Wide receiver Victor Cruz is not playing in this game, so that’s one less player to worry about but that doesn’t mean the secondary should relax. If anything, the secondary should be aggressive with the receivers and force Manning to beat them without Cruz. For that to happen, cornerbacks like Rashean Mathis must be aggressive and make the receivers fight for every inch of the field but they must also keep an eye out for those deep threat plays. When it comes to the deep threat, safeties must be prepared to make plays over the top and keep the deep threat contained.
Most importantly, the Lions must tackle, in the last two weeks, the Lions haven’t done the best job of wrapping up and tackling. That needs to change in this game, the Lions are known to allow big plays because of mis-communication or poor tackling. To win this game, they must communicate and finish tackles.
When it comes to the offense, its honestly the same old story. The offense must take care of the ball and score consistently. When it comes to the turnovers it all starts with quarterback Matthew Stafford, he must take care of the ball, seeing that he has thrown 17 interceptions this season. When it comes to Stafford, it all starts with making the correct pre-snap and post snap reads and most importantly taking what the defense gives him. A lot of fans and analysts critique Stafford’s throwing technique and while I feel his technique is awkward at times, it has nothing to do with his interceptions. His interceptions have to do with him forcing the ball, where he has no business throwing it. If he takes what the defense gives him there is no reason for Stafford to be picked off. Since we are discussing turnovers, let me also reiterate that running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell must take care of the ball, when it comes to Bell he only has two fumbles this season but earlier this season Bush had a case of “fumblitis” earlier this season and neither can afford to have fumbles in this game.
Now, when it comes to the Lions being able to score consistently, it all starts with running the ball successfully. When it comes to running the ball successfully it all starts with the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage. Once that happens, Bell needs to do what he does best which is show patience, hit the hole and accelerate up the field. When it comes to Bush, I’d like to see him do the same. He can’t afford to dance his way into tackles because the run game will go no where fast. Running the ball effectively will be huge in this game, mainly because it helps to balance out the offense and help with the passing game.
When it comes to passing game, Stafford will have an opportunity to take advantage of the Giants secondary and the best way for him to do that is to spread the ball around. I definitely encourage Stafford to get the ball to wide receiver Calvin Johnson but he must also continue getting everyone involves such as Nate Burleson, Kris Durham, Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria. They must be able to get open and catch the ball but Stafford must also place the ball only where his target can get it and throw the ball accurately. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, to many times this season, Stafford has forced passes or over thrown receivers and that can’t continue to happen in this game if they plan on having success. However, I will say again that the receivers must play their part as well, the Lions currently lead the league in dropped passes, so even if Stafford does put the pass right on the money, the receivers must make the play and catch the ball.
If the Lions can follow those simple keys to victory, there is no reason for them to not win this game against the Giants. The question remains, will the Lions cost themselves the game, like they have all season long. I mentioned earlier, the Lions are now in a fight to catch the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, while I am not surprised that the Lions are in this predicament, I must say that this situation was avoidable. I say it every week and I will say it again, the Lions should be 13-1 right now with complete control of the NFC North and fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs. Unfortunately for them they aren’t doing that, mainly because they put themselves in unnecessary situations against Arizona, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Baltimore which is why they loss those games and have a current record of 7-7. So if the Lions have any true aspirations of making the playoffs this season, it starts with winning this game. I repeat that winning this game won’t automatically put them in the playoffs but it gives them hope. So we will see what the Lions are made of, I have given them the keys to victory but it’s up to them to execute on those keys, if they want to come out with a win.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com