We’re onto Week 2 of the 2017 season and yet it doesn’t really feel like we ever left 2016. Play another game. Win another fourth quarter comeback. But, hey, I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty.
This week’s game against the New York Giants could springboard either team’s season. Here are 10 things I think I know heading into Week 2 against the Giants:
1. I think the Lions need to attack Eli Manning in the same way they did to Carson Palmer. Manning is prone to turn the ball over, especially when things get hairy in the pocket. The Lions should be able to force some turnovers if they can consistently put pressure on the Giants offensive line.
2. I think Odell Beckham Jr. should sit out on Monday night. And it’s not just because they’re playing the Lions (okay, that doesn’t hurt). But the reality is that if Beckham was smart, he wouldn’t step a foot on the field unless a) he was 100 percent healthy and/or b) the Giants extend him to a long-term deal.
If there is one thing that David Johnson’s Week 1 injury proves, it’s that there are no guarantees in the NFL, even for the stars. Beckham was a few inches away from a blown ACL in a meaningless preseason game. If anyone knows how quickly things change, it’s Beckham. And if I were him, I wouldn’t take the risk, especially without the money in the bank.
3. I think the Lions are foolish for giving Dwayne Washington another shot at the kickoff return duties. Washington has the speed to flash as a returner, but so far this season he’s been far too underwhelming. He was benched as the kick returner after he attempted to return a ball that clearly should have been a touchback in the first quarter against the Cardinals. Jim Caldwell feels strongly that Washington can bounce back, but his 17.7 yards per return in the preseason doesn’t exactly exude confidence in my eyes.
4. I think Kasey Redfern’s injury triggered a potentially devastating domino effect for the Lions’ special teams. If the Lions would have lost against the Cardinals I feel like we’d be talking a whole lot more about the Lions miserable special teams play last Sunday. Let’s look at how the dominos fell after Redfern’s injury:
- Redfern fails the punt attempt and leaves the game with a knee injury
- Redfern’s injury forces Matt Prater to punt the ball and Jake Rudock to hold the ball on field goal and PAT attempts.
- Prater punts four times for an average of 34.8 yards per punt.
- Rudock botched his first hold, forcing the Lions to rethink their strategy the rest of the game.
Thankfully Prater did a decent job punting and Rudock got it together holding after initially botching his first attempt. But it could have crippled the Lions if not for the offense and defense stepping up. The Lions signed veteran kicker Jeff Locke on Tuesday. We’ll see if the veteran punter works out until Sam Martin can return to action.
Let’s just hope this doesn’t turn into the kicker situation of 2014.
5. I think the Lions run defense was fantastic in the season opener. I noted last week that Johnson was the only Cardinals player on offense that could really wreck the game and the Lions clearly game-planned with that same idea in mind. The Lions were able to hold Johnson to just 23 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
6. I think the Lions receivers need some extra reps with the jugs machine this week. Both TJ Jones and Kenny Golladay had big catches, but also big drops in Week 1. The Lions need more consistency out of their receivers this year after dropping 28 balls a year ago, ranking third in the NFL.
7. I think the Giants’ offensive line could be a big problem for them this season. Left tackle Ereck Flowers is a mess, guard John Jerry’s best days are behind him, and Bobby Hart—the “best right tackle in the NFL” is dealing with an ankle injury.
There’s still suspicion whether the Lions’ steller Week 1 defensive performance was a product of an improved defense line or shaky Cardinals offense line. We probably won’t have that answer after this week either. The Giants offensive line is technically flawed and lacks the playmakers or depth to improve much over the course of the season. No matter how many weapons the Giants add to their offense, it won’t matter if they can’t protect Eli Manning or open holes in the run game.
8. I think Kenny Golladay opens up the Lions offense in a big way. Not only is he a big target in the red zone, but he also has the ability to stretch a defense. He showed both of the traits in Week 1. Another key for adding Golladay in the lineup is the ability for the Lions to move Golden Tate into his natural position in the slot. Golladay and the rest of the Lions receivers get another tough test this week against a strong New York Giants secondary led by Janoris Jenkins.
9. I think the Giants offensive is too predictable. The west coast style of offense that the Giants run is very vanilla and is based on out-executing opposing teams rather than out-scheming them.
This was the knock on Joe Lombardi when he was the offensive coordinator in Detroit.
Make sure to pay attention to the Giants formations on Sunday, they essentially play 11 personnel ( one running back, one TE, and three wide receivers) all game long.
10. I think Matt Prater is the best kicker in the NFL. The guy hit a 58-yard field goal with a backup holder. ‘Nuff said.