Just two short years ago, the New York Giants won the Super Bowl. This season, those days seem like ages ago. The Giants have slopped and struggled their way to a miserable 5-9 record this season, and are on the outside looking in with regards to the NFC playoff hunt.
Sunday, they visit a Detroit Lions' team which has sustained a major collapse of their own, falling out of the top spot in the NFC North. In spite of all the Giants' problems, they still play solid defense and have enough offensive weapons to steal a game, especially one against an inconsistent Lions team. What makes the Giants unique in 2013? Here's a scouting report.
Giants' Offensive Difference Maker: Rueben Randle, WR. Eli Manning hasn't played well in 2013 with regards to accurately distributing the football to his wide receivers, but he has found a new target in Randle, who's scored six touchdowns on the season while putting up 571 yards. The Lions' defense did well to contain the Ravens' big targets earlier this week, but they will have another big test with Randle and Hakeem Nicks. It will be another case of hoping to survive a decent passing game if either Chris Houston or Darius Slay cannot play.
Giants' Defensive Difference Maker: Antrel Rolle, S. Not only does Rolle lead the Giants in interceptions with six, he leads the team in tackles as well with 86. Does that speak to how injured and terrible the Giants have been most of the season, or how good the young Rolle is? Probably a bit of both. Either way, the Lions will need to be aware of his presence over the middle of the field. Matthew Stafford has been turnover prone lately, and Rolle will be waiting to take over with big hits and a ball-hawking mentality.
Giants' Major Problem: Turnovers. The Lions have met their body double in the Giants, who put the ball on the ground or in the hands of the opposition slightly more than Detroit. The Giants are last in the NFC with a -17 turnover differential, while the Lions stand at -13, second to last. Combined, the teams stand at a stunning -30. That's a special combination of ineptitude. For now, though, New York has been a bit worse than Detroit at giving the ball away, and that's something to watch in a tough road environment.
Giants' Major Strength: Team defense. Though the offense has had plenty of problems in 2013, the defense has been steady as ever under Tom Coughlin. They rank 10th in total defense, and come in 12th in pass defense only allowing 229 yards per-game. The Giants also hold their own on the ground ranking 13th, allowing around 107 yards per-game. This won't be a week off for a Lions' offense which has struggled to move the ball against similar rated defenses (Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore). The Giants can still rush the passer and defend well enough to win a close game.
Intangibles: Motivation. Many believe the Giants have given up and are starting to mail in their season. Similarly, despite the fact that the Lions are still in the playoff hunt, they've sustained two tough setbacks, including Monday night's crushing defeat against Baltimore. How will they react? If the Lions play flat, the Giants could steal a game that few think they'll win. Should the Giants have actually given up and the Lions play motivated, a blowout could happen. All will depend on the level of motivation for both teams in this game.
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