The Giants enjoyed an undefeated preseason, winning all 5 games they played, often in exciting fashion with late game heroics. Many of the players who contributed to those wins are no longer on the roster or firmly entrenched on the bench, and instead, the players who made those comebacks necessary will be playing the entire game. Game plans have been prepared and installed, intensity is ramped up, and the games count towards the goal of every team taking the field this weekend – The 49th Superbowl, to be played on February 1, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
The Giants travel to Detroit, Michigan for a Monday night opener against the Detroit Lions, a game which odds makers expect them to lose. The points spread has been steadily increasing all week, from 5 points this past Sunday to 7 points today, an indicator that the betting public has been putting their money on the Lions. In order for the Giants to win this game, and they are capable of winning it, here are the keys to victory for the team:
- Run the ball effectively. Detroit’s run defense was 23rd in the NFL last season, but improved to 4th in the league during the 2014 preseason, a possible indicator that the team has improved in that area. While the Giants’ offensive line was out of sync for the entire summer, their run blocking was effective and both starter Rashad Jennings and short yardage back Andre Williams were able to rip off big gains with some consistency. Running the ball with keep the Lions offense off the field, open up play action passes for Eli Manning, and make the Giant offense click.
- Protect Manning. During his limited preseason snaps, Manning was running for his life. He was strip sacked, and his fumble led to a Buffalo Bills touchdown in the first preseason game and even when there wasn’t pressure on him, Manning acted as if it was there. Detroit tallied 11 preseason sacks, in the top 5 of the NFL, and if they are able to pressure Manning effectively, it will lead to mistakes and good field position for the potent Lions offense.
- Protect the Football. One of the area wheres the Giants improved in the preseason was turnovers, averaging just one per game, after turning it over 2.75 times per game in 2013. If the turnovers come early and often, it will be a happy night in the Motor City.
- Pressure Matthew Stafford. No NFL quarterback preforms well when under constant and consistent pressure. The Giants used pressure to win their two most recent Super Bowls and quietly amassed a league leading 14 preseason sacks this year. With their upgraded secondary and linebackers, effective pressure from the defensive line will help create turnovers and do for the Giants what was done to them last season.
- Blanket Megatron. Calvin Johnson is the Lions most dangerous player. If he’s allowed to run loose in the secondary, it will be a long day for the Giant defense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, and Walter Thurmond need to prevent him from getting a clean release off the line and the safeties need to provide help over the top and make Detroit’s other weapons beat them. Golden Tate one on one doesn’t put the scare into a defense that Johnson does and both Jameel McClain and Devon Kennard can match up with Reggie Bush or Eric Ebron. Johnson shouldn’t see single coverage all night.
If the Giants are able to accomplish the five items on the above list, it should prove enough to best the Lions and send them home with an opening day victory. As you saw in the 360 Pick article posted yesterday, it’s too soon to expect miracles from this team and while they will keep it close, Giants360 believes this one will slip away. Taking the 7 points, however, is the smart play, because historically, whenever most people are counting a NFL team out, they prove the most dangerous.
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