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Giants vs. Lions: 10 things to watch for

12-14-jennings.jpg's Dan Salomone highlights 10 storylines to follow as the Giants face the Lions:


Before they finish the season on the road against Philadelphia and Washington, the New York Giants (9-4) wrap up their 2016 home schedule with the Detroit Lions (9-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

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With last week's victory over first-place Dallas, Big Blue improved to 6-1 at MetLife Stadium, tying the highest victory total since the venue opened in 2010. They were 6-2 in 2012, meaning one more would break the record. The Giants have won three of the previous four meetings against the Lions, including a 28-20 victory at home in 2010. However, Detroit won the most recent matchup, 35-14, at Ford Field in the 2014 season opener.


The Giants still trail the Cowboys (11-2) by two games in the NFC East race, but they hold the first Wild Card spot heading into Week 15 with Tampa Bay (8-5), Washington (7-5-1), Minnesota (7-6) and Green Bay (7-6) on their heels. All of the following needs to happen for the Giants to clinch this week: a victory over Detroit, a Washington loss (vs. Panthers), a Minnesota loss or tie (vs. Indianapolis), and a Green Bay loss or tie (at Chicago). Detroit needs a win and a Green Bay loss or tie to clinch the NFC North.


Out: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) Questionable: S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder), RB Shane Vereen (concussion)

*The Giants have started four different players at left guard this season stemming from Justin Pugh's knee injury in Week 9. But after missing the last five games, the fourth-year starter appears ready to return to game action.


Out: C Travis Swanson (concussion)

Doubtful: RB Theo Riddick (wrist)

Questionable: DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), TE Eric Ebron (knee), LB DeAndre Levy (knee), CB Darius Slay (hamstring), RB Zach Zenner (concussion)


Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will play Sunday at MetLife Stadium despite suffering a middle finger injury on his throwing hand against the Bears last week. Stafford, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2009, played through the injury and scored the game-winning touchdown on a seven-yard run with 3:17 left in a 20-17 victory. Stafford is completing 66.7 percent of his passes this season for 3,447 yards with 22 touchdowns to seven interceptions. "I will have some of the guys upstairs looking," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "If he is functioning differently, then maybe we will change things."


Despite playing in their first game without Pierre-Paul, the Giants turned in their best defensive performance in recent memory by holding the Cowboys to seven points. Undrafted rookie Romeo Okwara stepped up in his place and recorded eight tackles, three quarterback hits, a sack, and a pass defensed. There are still three games to go, but compared to last year, the Giants have gone from last to 14th in total yards and from 30th to seventh in points allowed.


Opposite of their defense, the Giants' offense has dropped from eighth in total yards per game (372.3) to 27th (322.2), and sixth in points (26.3) to 25th (19.6). The No. 1 culprit is ball security. Eli Manning lost two fumbles and threw an interception last week, bringing the Giants' total number of giveaways to 24. Only the Chargers (30), Jets (26) and Jaguars (25) have turned the ball over more frequently in 2016.


In his coaching travels, Ben McAdoo picked up the Rule of 53, which represents the ideal combination of rushing attempts and pass completions for an offense in the span of a game. Dating back to his days in Green Bay, that number moves the chains and gives your team a good shot at winning the ball game. So far this season, the Giants are 2-0 when hitting that number. They had 64 (32 rushes + 32 completions) in Week 2 vs. New Orleans and 55 (27 + 28) in Week 10 vs. Cincinnati. They are 7-4 when not reaching it.


Brad Wing was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his five punts inside the 20, including two downed at the 3 by Dwayne Harris, against Dallas. It was the sixth Player of the Week award won by the Giants this season: one on offense (Odell Beckham Jr.), three on defense (Landon Collins twice and Jason Pierre-Paul), and two on special teams (Wing and Janoris Jenkins). Wing is the first Giants punter to receive the Special Teams Player of the Week Award since Jeff Feagles in Week 13 of the 2005 season.


During their current five-game winning streak, the Lions have outscored their opponents, 44-24, in the fourth quarter and overtime. They overcame a fourth-quarter deficit in four of those games, while the defense has six interceptions in the final two minutes of games this season. Only one of Detroit's nine victories this season has been decided by more than seven points, while five were by a field goal or less. That mirrors the Giants, whose average margin of victory is 4.9 points. That includes two games decided by three points and two more decided by one point.

These five players could make a key impact in Sunday's matchup with the Lions

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