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Giants vs. Lions Storylines: What to watch for

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*Giants.com's Dan Salomone highlights five storylines to follow in Week 15: *

1. CHANCE TO CLINCH


NEWS
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PHOTOS
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VIDEOS
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Guaranteed their first winning season since 2012, the 9-4 New York Giants are still hunting for their first playoff berth since winning Super Bowl XLVI. They have a chance to do so as early as this week, but they need a lot of help to make it happen sooner rather than later. All of the following has to occur for the team to clinch in Week 15: 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).

But the Giants' full attention will be on the game at MetLife Stadium. In their final home game of 2016, they host the 8-4 Lions, who defeated the Chicago Bears on Sunday for their fifth consecutive win as they maintained their lead in the NFC North. Big Blue has won three of the previous four meetings, but Detroit won the most recent matchup, 35-14, at Ford Field in the 2014 season opener.

"Where we go from here, we have to keep stacking successes by handling success," said first-year coach Ben McAdoo, whose team has won seven of its last eight games. "We have to have another great week of preparation like we had last week. Detroit, good team, division leader that is hot, hungry and confident. They're best in the fourth quarter. We have to have a great week of preparation."

2. INJURY REPORT

Running back Shane Vereen, who missed nine games with a triceps injury, was activated off injured reserve and played last week against Dallas. However, after catching one pass for 10 yards, he left in the second quarter with a concussion and is currently in the protocol. Safety Nat Berhe (concussion), linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion), left guard Justin Pugh (knee) and DE Owa Odighizuwa (knee) were all inactive in Week 14. Pugh, who has missed the last five games, was questionable heading into Week 14 and could be ready to go on Sunday.

3. STAFFORD FIGHTING FINGER INJURY

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is expected to 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.

"The good thing about it, he was able to finish the game, went through it, and also that he's going to be able to play in the next game," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "He'll be able to practice and those kinds of things. He feels that obviously he can get it done and also the doctors do as well."

4. OKWARA STEPPING UP

Playing their first game without defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who underwent surgery for a core muscle injury, the Giants called on Romeo Okwara, among others, to step up in his place. Okwara, an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, went on to record a team-high eight tackles (one for loss), three quarterback hits, a pass defensed, and his first career sack. As a whole, the defense didn't blink and put together its most dominant performance of the season against one of the best offenses in the league.

"We anticipated splitting the reps up a little more than we did," McAdoo said of Okwara making his first career start. "With the way he was playing, he was hot. We wanted to let him roll in there."

5. TALE OF THE TAPE

Offensively, the Lions rank 21st in total yards per game (336.2), 14th in passing (252.5), 29th in rushing (83.7) and 17th in points (22.7). Stafford is on pace for the best single-season passer rating (97.8) in his eight years in the NFL. Wide receiver Golden Tate leads the team in targets (106), receptions (71) and receiving yards 820). He is complemented by Marvin Jones, who has 797 yards on just 46 receptions (17.3), and veteran Anquan Boldin, who has a team-high seven touchdown catches. Theo Riddick, who missed last week with a wrist injury, is a dual-threat running back with 728 yards from scrimmage (357 rushing, 371 receiving) and has five touchdowns through the air. 

Defensively, the Lions rank 15th in total yards (350.2), 20th against the pass (252.5), 11th against the run (97.7) and 10th in points allowed (20.6). Linebacker Tahir Whitehead leads the team with 107 tackles, while defensive tackle Kerry Hyder has eight of Detroit's 22 sacks (tied for 28th in the NFL). Detroit has a plus-four turnover differential with 14 takeaways and just 10 giveaways. Only Buffalo and Oakland have turned the ball over fewer times this season with nine apiece.

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