Giants (0-0) vs Lions (0-0)
Giants and Lions both finished up last season with 7-9 records. For whatever reason
both these teams are playing in the opening prime time Monday night slot of our
2014 NFL season. You'll go back to 2011 to find when the Lions and Giants were
last in the playoffs.
The Lions lost their wildcard game and the Giants won
theirs and went on to win it all, but there's been nothing to spark any real national
prime time excitement since then for either team. Maybe the NFL is trying to pump
some life into these two underachievers by featuring them in the spotlight of
Monday Night Football.
This was a beleaguered team with zero
wins in 2008 when they hired on a new head coach, Jim Schwartz. He was the Tennessee
Titans defensive coordinator from 2002 until getting his first shot at this head
coaching position. Schwartz picked up two and then six wins in the following years
and then finished up with a 10-6 record in 2011 to earn the Lions a wild card
shot against the Saints, which they lost. Still, it was the first time since 1999
that the Detroit fans got to see their home team in a postseason game.
team slumped to a 4-12 record the following year when by the end of the season
nine starters were on injured reserve and three others were unable to play. Last
season the Lions started out 6–3, but then dropped six of their next seven games
to end the year at 7–9. That was it for Schwartz and he is now the defensive coordinator
for the Buffalo Bills.
The Lions hired Jim Caldwell who was previously head
coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-11. He has recent Super Bowl experience
and knows how to work with quarterbacks. Caldwell worked three seasons as quarterbacks
coach before becoming assistant head coach. He's worked with Peyton Manning and
Joe Flacco. Coach Caldwell feels that Matthew Stafford has what it takes to bring
a championship to Detroit.
The Giants had their worst start
since 1976 going 0-6 in 2013, but finished up by winning seven of the next ten
games they played. They were 5-0 in preseason this year. So what are you worried
about? Maybe it's what you saw watching the starters on the field working on the
new West Coast offense. If what you see is what you get, then there are reasons
for concerns. It's unlikely that the Lions will agree to switch to the second
stringers if the Giants request it during regular season play.
To help themselves
in the offseason the Giants took on a boat load of free agents. Unlike the Lions
they kept the same head coach and during the draft selected mainly players who
were team leaders in the college ranks. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride retired
and was replaced by Ben McAdoo who coached tight ends and was the quarterbacks
coach the last two seasons in Green Bay. The Giants also replaced longtime tight
ends coach Michael Pope and Jerald Ingram, the running backs coach.
Matthew Stafford had his best
year in 2011 when he threw for over 5000 yards and 41 touchdowns. Last season
Reggie Bush and Joique Bell certainly did their parts for the running game as
well as providing nice targets for Stafford. Bush had over 1000 yards and he and
Bell became the first pair of running backs in NFL history to gain more than 500
yards rushing and receiving. If that's not enough, they used their first round
pick on pass catching tight end Eric Ebron to work with Brandon Pettigrew and
Calvin Johnson is a top NFL receiver who averaged over 17 yards-per-catch
last season. They also signed Golden Tate coming off a great season playing for
the Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Caldwell and new quarterbacks coach Jim Bob
Cooter worked with Peyton Manning and want to impart some of that before the snap
decision making capability to Stafford. The line provides great blocking and protection
and this offense should have another great year, especially if Stafford exercises
proper judgment late in games.
They are very good at stopping
the run and bringing quarterback pressure, but that's where it ends. This defense
is ranked below average in forcing turnovers and even worse at getting sacks.
Jim Caldwell has brought in a new defensive coordinator. Teryl Austin coached
the Baltimore Ravens secondary and that is where the Lions need the most improvement.
However, the talent just might not be there.
Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley,
and Ziggy Ansah will be working under a new defensive system and this could improve
some inconsistencies up front, especially as the Lions seemed inclined in preseason
to include some others as blitzers. All this will make it easier on their secondary.
They signed James Ihedigbo as a strong safety which will allow Glover Quin to
play free safety more. Veteran Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay, coming off his
rookie year, should be the starting cornerbacks.
The starting offensive line is
still not settled and did not look particularly good in preseason play. They picked
up Geoff Schwartz to start at guard, but he'll be out for a number of weeks. The
tight end situation was never really addressed. Eli Manning could really use his
number one draft pick on the field for this game, but receiver Odell Beckham Jr
won't be playing. It would be nice to distract defenders from smothering Victor
Cruz by presenting them with more challenges and that task will go to Rueben Randle
and Jerrel Jernigan.
Rashad Jennings and
Andre Williams will run the ball and they have looked good, but the Lions rushing
defense was tough on running backs last year, actually ranking sixth in that area.
This will be something that has to work for the Giants. The key in this game will
be for the line to block, enabling Jennings and Williams to keep it coming, slowing
down thoughts of a pass rush on Manning.
Can these guys get to Matthew
Stafford in this game? It seems doubtful as they're about as bad at that as their
counterparts and the best man at that job, Justin Tuck, who had 11 of their 34
sacks last season, is no longer with the team. We've heard that Jason Pierre-Paul
(2 sacks) is now one hundred percent healthy, and he believes in himself, and
all that. Things would be better if linebacker Jon Beason hadn't missed all the
preseason games because of his foot injury, but he is expected to play in the
If the front guys can't deliver quarterback pressure then the secondary
will be very busy. The good thing is that they might be up to the task, especially
with the addition of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Prince Amukamara
easily holds his own, as well as safety Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown. Stafford
will have to think twice even if he has time.
Giants and Lions played each other in Detroit as recently as the next to last
game of the 2013 season. The game went into overtime and the Giants came away
with a 23-20 victory that mathematically eliminated any chance the Lions had of
obtaining a playoff shot. The Lions, because of their losing ways over so many
years, have had high draft picks pulled onto their roster. There's lots of talent
on the team that will now be guided by a head coach and two coordinators who have
had Super Bowl experience.
Both teams feel their quarterbacks will be better
because of new coaching additions. Giant fans can look to the fact that the Giants
held Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in check the last time they played and
now there's an improved defense. The Giants offensive line strength is just about
the same as before, but the running game will be better. If Eli can avoid mistakes,
then why can't they win this game?
The Eagles will start their season
at home playing against the Jaguars at 1pm Sunday, the same time that the Redskins
play their away game in Houston with the Texans. Later at 4:25pm the Cowboys will
host the 49ers. On Monday the Giants start at 7:10pm in Detroit against the Lions.
The Eagles are the only NFC East team favored to win in these four match ups.
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Eli Manning leads the league in interceptions (58) over the past three seasons.
last year finished with their first losing season since going 6-10 in Tom Coughlin's
first year (2004).
Giants former coach
Mike Pope was the only coach to participate in each of the Giants’ five Super
Lions Matthew Stafford is tied
for second in the NFL in interceptions (52) over the past three seasons
Matthew Stafford is second in the NFL in completions (1,227) over the past three
Lions Matthew Stafford is second
in the NFL in passing yards (14,655) over the past three seasons.
last prime time season opener was Sunday Night Football in 1991. They lost to
the Redskins 45-0.
Sept 14- Cardinals at Giants.
Sept 21- Texans at Giants.
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