Could the Giants do the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers a big favor on Sunday by defeating the Detroit Lions?
On the one hand, as we noted Monday, the Lions are the big (and logical) favorites, so the Bears and Packers shouldn’t be counting on Big Blue to do any dirty work for them.
And all things considered, the Lions couldn’t have a much better matchup on Sunday. Think of all the circumstances in Detroit’s favor. The Giants struggle with pass-rush pressure, and the Lions have a strong defensive line. The Lions desperately need the win, while the Giants aren’t playing for anything. The Lions are at home, while the Giants must make one last road trip in a disappointing season.
Finally, the Giants’ offense was awful in Sunday’s 23-0 loss to Seattle. If the Lions can build an early lead, the Giants will be significantly compromised.
However, the Lions come off a damaging and draining 18-16 loss to Baltimore on Monday night, one that knocked them out of first place in the NFC North. Now, the Lions (7-7) are behind both the Bears (8-6) and Packers (7-6-1). If the Bears win out, they will the win the NFC North with a 10-6 record. If the Packers win their last two games, they will win the division, as they face the Bears in Chicago in Week 17.
The Lions, for their part, can win the North with two wins and one loss apiece by Chicago and Green Bay. However, if the Bears and Packers both win on Sunday, the Lions are out of the postseason.
How Detroit responds on Sunday against New York is anyone’s guess, and though that’s a cliché, it fits well in this case. The Lions are 1-4 in their last five games, and they have surrendered fourth-quarter leads in all four of those defeats. Suddenly, the Lions are in real danger of those missed opportunities defining their season.
Even if the Lions can bounce back from Monday’s disappointment, the Giants could still be competitive. The Lions’ pass defense is one of their weaknesses, and the Giants’ willingness to test secondaries down the field has never been in question. The Lions are allowing 252.9 passing yards per game, and they have surrendered 14 receptions of 40 yards or more.
Though the Giants are out of postseason contention, motivation shouldn’t be an issue, what with numerous Giants players facing uncertain futures beyond this season. A good effort seems likely. Still, if the Lions play their best game, any discussion of intangibles is probably rendered immaterial.
Detroit is scoring about eight points more per game than New York. In short, the Lions have a little bit of a cushion in Sunday’s game. They may not play their best to win. However, their cushion in the NFC North is gone, and we don’t know whether that will take a toll on them.
We also can’t be completely certain that the Giants’ passing game — yes, the Giants’ passing
game — won’t make a big play or two on Sunday.
In a vacuum, the Lions are better than the Giants, but in reality, and in front of a home crowd that knows that Detroit is on the ropes, the Lions don’t quite look like a sure thing.