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Exploiting their weaknesses: The New York Giants

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A look at how the Detroit Lions can exploit the weaknesses of their Week 1 opponent, the New York Giants.

Rich Schultz

Expectations are fairly low for the Detroit Lions' Week 1 opponent, the New York Giants. Just taking a quick look at our sister site Big Blue View, it won't take long to find comments like this:

If Eli Manning cuts his interceptions in half from last year (27 to 14), his QB rating will still be less than 80, and he’d only move from the 37th best passer rating to the 26th.

Or this:

I called it two months ago and was blasted but look how many agree now!!! many will owe me an apology …. At best this is a 6-10 team if they exceed expectations if not worse and it is on JR for years of bad drafts / FA signings … a team void of pro bowl talent. this team in 2015 will have a lot of new faces GM, HC, DC, and scouts as they will be in a total rebuild mode…

So what makes this fan base so hopeless? Why have many of their fans already given up any dreams of a postseason before a single regular-season game has been played? Let's look at the Giants' weaknesses and how the Lions can exploit them on Monday night.

Offense

It is easy to see why Giants fans are worried based on the first-string offense's performance in the preseason. Eli Manning's stat line left much to be desired: 20-for-41, 188 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 5 sacks. You may look at Eli and claim that he is just a declining quarterback who may not have ever been as good as some were giving him credit for, but the truth is, most of his struggles are caused by a poor offensive line.

Last year -- Eli's worst statistical season since his rookie year -- Manning was sacked 39 times, which is nine more than he has ever been sacked in a single season. As a result, he threw the most interceptions he's ever thrown in his career (27) and had his completion percentage drop to the lowest it has been since 2007 (57.5 percent).

In the offseason, the Giants tried to remedy this problem by signing veteran offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Schwartz was ready to anchor the line at left guard, but he unfortunately suffered a toe injury in the third preseason game and has been placed on short-term IR. According to their unofficial depth chart, it appears that second-round pick Weston Richburg will take his place.

On the other side, it's not entirely clear who will be starting at right guard, Brandon Mosley or John Jerry. Mosley is listed ahead of Jerry on the depth chart, but he is dealing with a back issue, so Jerry is more likely to see the field on Monday. Jerry was another offseason acquisition for the Giants, having spent his past four years in Miami. Jerry had an up and down preseason this year and wasn't necessarily expected to start, but Giants fans are hopeful.

At the tackle position, the Giants remain the same as last year with Will Beatty on the left side and Justin Pugh on the right. Both players struggled a lot in the first half of 2013 and improved a bit as the season wore on. But if the preseason is any indication, there is still vulnerability here:

Insta_medium

The game plan is easy for the Lions: create pressure by any means necessary. With such a patchwork interior line, Ndamukong Suh and friends should be creating havoc all day up the middle. Manning is about as evasive as a flagpole, so any disruption should result in a big play for the defense. We saw the Lions blitz fairly often in the preseason, and it may be worth it to continue sending pressure, especially up the middle.

Defense

The Giants' weakness on defense is a little harder to find. It certainly isn't their secondary, where they have a plethora of talent. However, New York seems to be lacking that talent on their once-dominant defensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul is still a big threat, but the Giants are looking to fill the void left by Justin Tuck's departure in the offseason. Second-year player Damontre Moore is hoping to take that role, but I'm not sure he's there yet. The interior of their line features Johnathan Hankins, a second-round pick in 2013 who is capable of stopping the run, and Cullen Jenkins, an 11-year veteran whose best days are well behind him.

The Lions will need to exploit this weakness if they have any hopes of stabilizing their passing game. The Giants' secondary is well above average, and Matthew Stafford will need time for his receivers to break open. This should be the Lions' primary concern on offense. If the Lions get by fine with no needed help from tight ends or running backs, they'll use those extra players as potential receivers, putting a lot of pressure on the Giants' mediocre linebacking crew. But if they need a little help on the line, they should not hesitate to use it. The Lions' receiving corps is talented enough that if they get that extra time, they will eventually break open.

Overall, it is easy to understand why Giants fans are so worried. They have dealt with a lot of unfortunate injuries already this season and are left with a team that is very vulnerable up front on both sides of the ball. That is no way to build a winning team. If the Lions can dominate the line of scrimmage on offense and defense Monday night, they should have no problem tallying their first win of the season.