EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will have to be on high alert when they face the Detroit Lions in MetLife Stadium.
The Lions arrive with a 3-6 record but with enough offensive firepower to give the 7-2 Giants' defense a myriad of concerns.
Detroit defeated Green Bay and Chicago the last two weeks for its first winning streak since Weeks 6-7 in 2020. The Lions haven't won three in a row since Weeks 9-11 in 2017.
The Lions are sixth in yards-per-game (371.3, their highest figure since 2013) and eighth in passing yardage (241.4 a game). After their 21-point outburst against the Bears last week, Detroit is averaging 7.9 points in the fourth quarter, the league's seventh-highest figure. The Lions are sixth in points per game (24.3) and join division leaders Kansas City and Miami as the only teams to score 35+ points three times this season
"They create explosive plays," Giants coach Brian Daboll said. "The other thing they're really good at is down in the red zone, finishing drives. They're an explosive team – no question about it. We're going to have to do a good job of trying to slow them down and make sure we're tackling and not giving up 50-yard runs that they break through, taking care of the deep part of the field and things like that on defense."
While the Chiefs and Dolphins are 3-0 in 35+ point games – and the rest outside of Detroit is 24-1 – the Lions are 1-2 because of a defense that is last in the NFL in both points (29.3) and yards allowed per game (416.2).
Detroit has given up at least 24 points in every game but its 15-9 victory against Green Bay two weeks ago. The Lions start four rookies on defense in linemen Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Pascal, linebacker Malcom Rodriguez and safety Kerby Joseph. Hutchinson, the second overall choice in the 2022 NFL Draft, leads Detroit and all rookies with 5.5 sacks, including three in one game.
"They do a great job," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. "Up front, they have some good pass rushers. Really, at all three levels – those guys do a really good job. They got some skill in the back end that can cover. They're going to challenge you at the line of scrimmage. We've got to be prepared for a variety of things - pass rush, a variety of pressures, win our one-on-one battles on the perimeter. There's definitely a big-time test that we have to be prepared for."
The Giants' defense echoed those words all week. Detroit quarterback Jared Goff was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and two years later led the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl LIII. Running back Jamaal Williams is tied for second in the NFL with nine touchdowns, has rushed for 601 yards – and he's listed second on the Lions' depth chart behind D'Andre Swift (253 yards and two scores). Amon-Ra St. Brown's 49 receptions are 23 more than any of his teammates and he has a 58-yard run and three touchdowns to his credit.
"We're getting ready to go against a really good offense, very explosive offense," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "(They have) a quarterback who was the first pick of the draft and you can see why, an offensive line that's working really well together, and some skilled positions that are some of the better ones we've faced so far."
Martindale faced the Lions in Detroit last season as the Baltimore Ravens' coordinator. Baltimore won on Justin Tucker's NFL-record 66-yard field goal, but Martindale came away impressed with the Lions, particularly Goff.
"If he can step back and just throw it, he's a pure passer," Martindale said. "I think the advantage that we'll have this year is it's going to be at our place, outside, in our kind of weather. It's going to be a tough challenge for us."
"There's a reason why he was the number one overall pick," linebacker Jaylon Smith said. "We were drafted in the same year. It's always good playing, and fun playing against, guys in the same draft class as you. They've got two great (running) backs – really their whole backfield. They got talent across the board. So, for us, it's just about attention to detail, understanding our assignment, and then going out there and playing physical."
Williams has scored two touchdowns in four games this season. His 604 yards are the most he's had in a six-year career (the first four with Green Bay) and he has eight games to play. Smith has two 50-yard runs.
"I think (Williams) is more of an inside power runner," Martindale said. "And Swift, he'll take an edge as soon as he can get one. And he's got the speed to get around that edge."
The Lions were 1-6 when they traded tight end T.J. Hockenson, one of their top offensive receivers, to division rival Minnesota. They've since defeated their other NFC North foes, Green Bay and Chicago, the latter 31-30 last week. St. Brown had 10 catches for 119 yards and picked up eight first downs. He carried the ball once out of the backfield, caught a shovel pass from the slot position, and did most of his damage lining up outside.
"St. Brown is a very good receiver," said cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who will certainly spend much of his afternoon chasing the elusive wideout. "He's good at getting open. He has great routes. He is a great football player even when he was young. I remember him in high school, with me being in California. I feel like his game is just getting better. He's dominant now, but he's been that dominant for a while. He's just overall a very talented football player – not just a receiver – but talented football player."
And he is hardly a one-man band.
"They have a lot of good weapons," Jackson said. "Not just St. Brown in the receiver room, (but also) Kalif Raymond. The running backs are great. They got Jamaal and Swift. Goff is obviously a great quarterback.
"They play for each other. You can see it out there on the field, and they have a lot of fun. So, regardless of their record, they're out there having fun and playing for one another. That's just a good offensive team and scheme that they have for those guys. It's great for them."
Detroit is fifth in the NFL in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 69.7% of their opportunities (23 of 33). The Giants have the second-best defense inside the 20, allowing just 13 touchdowns on 34 attempts (38.2%).
On special teams, the Lions are second in the league with a 26.4-yard kickoff return average. Punter Jack Fox was a 2020 second-team All-Pro. And Michael Badgley kicked four field goals against the Giants in MetLife for the Bears on Oct. 2.
"Good football team," Daboll said.
But the Lions must break one tendency if they are to beat the Giants. Detroit has played six games vs. teams with winning records and lost to all six. The Lions' three victories are against the only sub-.500 teams they've faced.
The 7-2 Giants need to keep those streaks alive.
View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Detroit Lions.
*The Giants have the NFL's most difficult remaining schedule. Their final eight games will be against opponents with a combined winning percentage of .633. The Indianapolis Colts, who will visit MetLife Stadium on New Year's Day, are second with an opponents' winning percentage of .611.
The schedules of the Giants' three NFC East competitors all rank in the top half of the league in degree of difficulty. Dallas is sixth (.573), Philadelphia is 11th (.533) and Washington is 13th (.523).
*The Giants are 7-2 or better for the sixth time in the Super Bowl era. They advanced to the Super Bowl in three of the previous five instances, when they were 9-0 in 1990 and 7-2 in both 1986 and 2000. The Giants were 8-1 in 1989 and 2008 and lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in each of those seasons.
*The Giants and Lions will meet for the first time since 2019 and in MetLife for the first time since 2017. Detroit has won the last two and three of the last four games in the series. On Oct. 27, 2019, the Giants fell behind by 14 points in the first quarter and never led in a 31-26 loss in Ford Field. Their most recent meeting in New Jersey was a 24-10 Lions victory on Sept. 18, 2017. Detroit's second-year head coach is Dan Campbell, a former tight end who played four seasons for the Giants after his selection in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft. The Giants trail in the regular-season series, 23-21-1.