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Eye On the Lions: Breaking down the matchup


* scouts the opposing offense, defense, and special teams: *

A look at the expected starters for the Lions on Monday night

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will play their first home game of the season against the same team they faced in their 2016 MetLife Stadium finale last December. But the Detroit Lions team that will visit Monday night is significantly different than the squad the Giants defeated, 17-6, in Week 15.

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Four of the five offensive linemen who started for Detroit in that game are no longer on the roster, and the one who remains – Graham Glasgow – has moved from center to left guard. Rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Lions' come-from-behind 35-23 victory against Arizona in the season opener. Running back Theo Riddick, inactive last season, had a touchdown among his six receptions on Sunday. Defensively, the Lions added end Cornelius Washington, linebacker Jarrad Davis, the team's first-round draft choice, and moved Tahir Whitehead to the weak side.

What is the Lions' biggest strength?

Adhering to the successful formula that enabled them to finish 9-7 and earn a wild card playoff berth last year. On offense, Detroit tries to control the clock with Ameer Abdullah's running and Riddick's receiving, which ideally sets up big plays in the passing game. Defensively, the Lions are a pressure team that forces turnovers (four in the opener, including three interceptions of Carson Palmer passes).

What player is key to the Lions' offense?

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who might have the NFL's strongest throwing arm. He threw four touchdown passes against Arizona and engineered his 27th fourth-quarter comeback victory in the last five years. Stafford wasn't at his best against the Giants last year because of a finger injury, and still passed for 273 yards. He's playing behind a much-improved line, and he is not afraid to run the ball, rushing for 207 yards and two scores in 2016.

What is the strength of the Lions' offense?

The passing game, with Stafford throwing to numerous athletic receivers who can run: Golden Tate (10 catches against the Cardinals), Marvin Jones, Jr., Golladay, tight end Eric Ebron, plus Riddick, the NFL's best pass-catching running back. Detroit most often lines up with three wideouts and a tight end. The offense is designed for the receivers to gain big chunks of yardage after catching the ball, and perhaps no group is better in the NFL than Detroit's. According to the Lions, Tate's 1,946 yards after catch since the beginning of the 2014 season led the NFL. The Lions' short passing game is an extension of their running attack, and late in games Stafford has a knack for completing long throws off play-action.

What player is key to the Lions' defense?

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who has the ability to be a game-wrecker. A 2015 Pro Bowler, he sacked Eli Manning in the Giants' victory last season. Ansah missed the entire preseason with a knee injury but is feeling good, which is bad news for Detroit's opponents. Although he usually lines up the on the right side, Ansah is sometimes moved to different spots as the Lions look to create a favorable matchup.

What is the strength of the Lions' defense?

The ability to exert pressure, force turnovers, and limit big plays.  Kerry Hyder led Detroit with 8.0 sacks last season, but is on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles tendon in the preseason opener. The Lions still have a creative rush package, and players who can execute it successfully. One of them is tackle A'Shawn Robinson, who led all interior linemen with seven batted passes in 2016. The Lions intercepted five passes in the last two minutes of games last season, and they scored 19 of their 35 points against Arizona off of turnovers, including a touchdown on Miles Killebrew's 35-yard interception return. .

What is the strength of the Lions' special teams?

Detroit has exceptionally good coverage teams, but no one is more valuable than kicker Matt Prater. Last year, he kicked a career-high 31 field goals and scored 124 points. His only three-pointer Sunday was a 58-yarder, the longest ever by a Lions kicker in a home game. More significantly, he took over the team's punting duties after Kasey Redfern tore two knee ligaments while trying to run for a first down after a bobbled snap (the Lions signed Jeff Locke to replace him). Prater punted four times for a 34.8-yard average, and placed one kick inside the 20. Not bad for a debut on the fly, which earned Prater his fourth NFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award.

Statistics you should know:

*The Lions won their opener after trailing in the fourth quarter, 35-23. Nothing new there. In 2016, Detroit won eight games after overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit, the most by a team in a single season in NFL history.

*Thirteen of the Lions' last 18 games have been decided by seven points or less.

*In 2016, the Lions set a franchise record with only 15 giveaways (10 interceptions, five lost fumbles).

*The alltime regular-season series is tied, 21-21-1.

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