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Scouting Report: Eye on Giants vs. Lions

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Two teams with matching three-game losing streaks will try to reverse their fortunes Sunday when the Giants face the Detroit Lions in Ford Field. The 2-4 Giants lost to Arizona last week, 27-21, while the Lions dropped a 42-30 decision to the Minnesota Vikings, who had defeated the Giants two weeks earlier.

Each of the last two Giants-Lions games were played on Monday nights. The Lions won each of them, 35-14 on Sept. 8, 2014 in Detroit and 24-10 on Sept. 18, 2017 in MetLife Stadium. The Lions lead the all-time regular-season series, 22-21-1.

What is the Lions’ biggest strength?

Their ability to play every one of their opponents tough. Each of Detroit’s first five games was decided by four points or less. Their two losses before the Minnesota game were by a combined five points. The Lions were within five points of the Vikings at the two-minute warning before the visitors scored a late touchdown. In the last three weeks, they battled likely playoff teams Kansas City, Green Bay and Minnesota. Against the Packers, Detroit led from the game’s fifth play until the final snap, when Mason Crosby kicked a 23-yard field goal to conclude a controversial drive. The Lions have many good players on both sides of the ball and are an all-day challenge for any team.

What player is key to the Lions’ offense?

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who might still have the NFL’s strongest throwing arm in his 11th season. Last week, Stafford reached 40,000 passing yards in his 147th career game, the fastest in history by four games (Matt Ryan, 151). One of the league’s best deep throwers, Stafford is playing as well as he ever has, completing 62.4% of his passes and throwing for 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Both Stafford’s passer rating (101.7, which is almost 13 points higher than his career rating of 89.0) and yards-per-attempt (8.03) are personal bests. When he drops back to pass, Stafford knows exactly which defender he wants to attack and where he wants to throw the ball. And he spreads it around; eight different receivers caught passes last week.

What is the strength of the Lions’ offense?

Detroit is always in attack mode. The Lions’ first play against Green Bay was a flea-flicker. It gained 66 yards. Detroit has scored 27 or more points four times this year after reaching that total four times in the entire 2018 season. They are eighth in the league with an average of 380.3 yards a game and sixth with 277.2 passing yards a game. Stafford throws to an excellent group of receivers that includes Marvin Jones, Jr., who scored four touchdowns last Sunday. He has a team-high 30 catches. Kenny Golladay (25 receptions, four scores) is one of the NFL’s best young receivers on the outside, and Danny Amendola is experienced and productive in the slot. Tight ends Jesse James and T.J. Hockenson, this year’s first-round draft choice, and running back J.D. McKissic are all factors in the passing game.

What player is key to the Lions’ defense?

Although it lost safety and defensive captain Quandre Diggs – who started all five games in which he played but was traded this week to Seattle – the Lions’ secondary still has Big Play Slay and Big Play Tray – cornerback Darius Slay and free safety Tracy Walker. A two-time Pro Bowler, Slay is a shutdown corner who usually covers the opposition’s best receiver. He has missed one game and Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury. Slay has an NFL-high 94 passes defensed since entering the league in 2013. Walker has a team-high total of 50 stops (43 solo) and five for loss and has recorded at least five tackles in every game this season.

What is the strength of the Lions’ defense?

Lions coach Matt Patricia spent six seasons (2012-17) as New England’s defensive coordinator and has brought the very successful Patriots Way to Detroit. The Lions identify what you do best and focus on taking it away. They held 2018 league MVP Patrick Mahomes without a touchdown pass, one of just three times that’s happened in his 24 career starts. Detroit makes its opponent earn every yard. Patricia wants to stop the run and prevent big plays and touchdowns, primarily from inside the 20. But injuries along the line have weakened the run defense. And Detroit is tied for 17th in red zone defense, allowing 14 touchdowns on 25 opposing possessions (56.0%).

The Lions’ front seven includes three former Giants – tackle Damon Harrison and end Romeo Okwara (who have combined for 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks) and linebacker Devon Kennard, who leads the team with 3.0 sacks.

What is the strength of the Lions’ special teams?

Detroit has two special teamers who have hurt the Giants in the past. Two years ago, Matt Prater kicked a 56-yard field goal that was then the second-longest ever vs. the Giants. His leg is still strong; this season he has made all four of his attempts from 50 or more yards, a distance from which he is 50-for-65 in his career. In the same 2017 game, then rookie Jamal Agnew scored on an 88-yard punt return. In Week 3 in Philadelphia, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The Giants need to shut him down this week.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

Prevent explosive plays by Stafford and Co. and avoid letting them get off to a big start. Offensively, when the Giants get inside the 20, they need to score touchdowns and not settle for three points.

Statistics you should know:

*In 2018, the Lions finished 10th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 110.1 yards a game. This season, they are 28th, giving up an average of 139.2 yards per game, including 153 yards a game during their current three-game losing streak.

*Stafford likes to throw deep; Detroit has 41 pass attempts and 28 completions of 20 or more yards this season.

*Of Golladay’s 25 receptions, 22 have produced first downs, an 88% rate that is second in the NFL to Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin’s 88.4% (38 of 43). Seven of Golladay’s eight third-down catches have resulted in first downs.

*Current Giants receiver Golden Tate had 13 100-yard games in his 4½ seasons with the Lions. That is the second-highest total among receivers who have played with Stafford. Calvin Johnson is first with 37.

*Nine of Slay’s 18 career interception have been in the fourth quarter.

View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Detroit Lions.

Giants vs. Lions Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream.

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