Tale Of The Tape: New York Giants At Detroit Lions
- QuarterbackQuarterbackAfter back-to-back subpar seasons from Eli Manning, this is a critical year in his career. Even though he has led the Giants to two Super Bowl triumphs, it’s difficult to see him holding on to the quarterback position in 2015 if he does not perform well in 2014. Manning had an unacceptable 18-27 TD-interception ratio last season, and that figure has to improve dramatically.The Lions are filled with high-level individual talent, but that has not translated into consistent winning. Matthew Stafford is one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league and he always puts impressive yardage totals on the board. However, he regularly makes big mistakes when the game is on the line and he must show improvement with his decision making in crucial situations.
- OffenseThe Giants are counting on former Raiders running back Rashad Jennings to take some of the pressure off of Manning by providing them with a credible running game. Wide receiver Victor Cruz is the Giants best pass catcher and he has big-play ability. Rueben Randle has size and strength at the other WR position, but he’s not consistent. Tight end Larry Donnell is an unproven commodity.The Lions boast the best receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson. He is capable of running by linebackers and defensive backs, but it is size, strength and wingspan that allows him to win the battle on nearly every ball thrown into tight coverage. Golden Tate is good enough to relieve the pressure on Johnson, while running back Reggie Bush remains a big-play threat.
- DefenseThe Giants ranked eighth overall in yardage allowed last year, but this unit had problems keeping opponents from scoring in crucial situations. The Giants need defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to return to form after his subpar 2013 performance. Strong safety Antrel Rolle is the leader in the secondary after recording 98 tackles and six interceptions last season.The Lions appeared to have an average defense last year as they ranked 16th in yards allowed. However, they were just 23rd against the pass, and that’s not good enough when a team has playoff aspirations. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah had an impressive season with 8.0 sacks and he needs to build off that total. The Lions need to get an All-Pro season out of enigmatic Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle.
- Special TeamsThe Giants should be able to hold their own in the special teams battle most weeks. Steve Weatherford averaged 46.9 yards per punt and has decent directional punting ability. Josh Brown connected on 23-of-26 FG attempts last year and is clearly dependable.The Lions are going with an unproven rookie placekicker in Nate Freese, who earned the job during training camp after kicking for Boston College last year. Sam Martin has a powerful leg and averaged 47.2 yards per punt, but the Lions coverage was quite poor last season.
The Lions have a chance to write a new chapter this year under new head coach Jim Caldwell. This team was known for making big mistakes in clutch situations under former coach Jim Schwartz, and Caldwell will attempt to turn that around. The Lions appear far more explosive than the Giants in this spot.