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Previewing the New York Giants: Is this the Lions’ toughest game to date?

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Can the Lions prove their worth against one of the NFC’s best teams?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions will head into Sunday as an underdog against a New York Giants team that is riding high after a huge divisional win against the Cowboys. Though the Lions cannot clinch a playoff spot on their own this week, a win would put them in a very favorable spot to not only win the division, but make a run at a first-round bye.

However, this Giants team is essentially looking at the same situation. Now having swept the Cowboys, New York could make a run at the division title if the Cowboys falter down the stretch. But are they equipped to do so? Let’s take a closer look at their team.

New York Giants (9-4)

Schedule so far:

Week 1 - at Cowboys - Won 20-19

Week 2 - vs. Saints - Won, 16-13

Week 3 - vs. Washington - Lost, 27-29

Week 4 - at Vikings - Lost, 10-24

Week 5 - at Packers - Lost, 16-23

Week 6 - vs. Ravens - Won, 27-23

Week 7 - at Rams - Won, 17-10

Week 9 - vs. Eagles - Won, 28-23

Week 10 - vs. Bengals - Won, 21-20

Week 11 - vs. Bears - Won, 22-16

Week 12 - at Browns - Won, 27-13

Week 13 - at Steelers - Lost, 14-24

Week 14 - vs. Cowboys - Won, 10-7

Reasons the Lions should be optimistic:

The Giants’ offense is pretty darn bad. In five of 13 games this season, they’ve scored fewer than 20 points (2-3 in those games). The Lions defense, on the other hand, has been excellent at holding teams below that total. No opponent has scored more than 20 points against the Lions in seven straight games.

Overall, the Giants offense is 25th in scoring, 20th in passer rating, and t-30th in yards per carry. They are highly imbalanced, averaging just 78.7 rushing yards per game (31st) compared to 243.5 passing yards (16th). Eli Manning remains a highly inconsistent passer, throwing for the ninth-most touchdowns, but the sixth-most interceptions in the league this season.

The Giants most dangerous weapon on offense is undoubtedly Odell Beckham Jr., who ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Luckily for Detroit, they have one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the league:

However, Beckham is the type of receiver that can make a huge play out of nowhere. He leads the league for catches of 40+ yards with six, and we’ve seen Darius Slay give up a big play or two this year. Still, both players are playing at their peak right now, so this should be an extremely fun matchup to watch.

Reasons the Lions should be pessimistic:

The Giants’ defense may be the best they’ve faced all year. According to Football Outsiders, this is the fourth overall defense, trailing only the Broncos, Ravens and Cardinals. They’re allowing just 18.8 points per game (seventh) and a mere 5.1 yards per play (sixth).

They’re just as good at defending the pass (second in passer rating allowed, 76.3) as they are in defending the run (third in YPC allowed, 3.6). They have an excellent secondary that should match up well against Detroit’s decent receiving corps.

Oh, and there’s that whole Matthew Stafford injury thing...

Overall:

I think a good case could be made that the Giants are indeed tougher than any team the Lions have faced thus far. By most measures, they’re the best defense they will face all year, but New York’s offense is pretty bad.

If there was a team I’d compare the Giants to, it would be the Vikings. Obviously, the Lions beat the Vikings twice, but Minnesota gave them fits for long portions of those games. The Giants have a better defense than the Vikings, but their offense is also much more mistake-prone. In fact, the Giants have turned the ball over 24 times which is tied for fourth most in the league. For a Lions defense that is suddenly forcing a good amount of turnovers, this could be the x-factor that swings the game in their favor.