While the Detroit Lions are 1-4, they play hard-nosed football. Yes, their record is poor, but they are only a few plays from being 4-1 instead. The Giants know they are playing a tough, young, hungry and desperate team eager to prove themselves.
So despite the fact that the Giants have a winning record, and the Lions do not, this Sunday’s game still has a chance of shaping up into a fun, hard-fought and exciting game.
Here are the five questions I asked Dean about the Lions matchup with the Giants and his responses. He has posted a corresponding article with the questions that he has asked me and my responses here.
Benjamin Klein — How concerned should the Giants be with Ndamukong Suh?
Dean Holden — I don't think there's a team left in the NFL that shouldn't be afraid—or at least respectful—of Ndamukong Suh. Despite drawing near-constant double teams, he continues to push the pocket on every play and leads all defensive tackles (not just rookies) in sacks with three in five games.
Suh was able to generate consistent pressure on Brett Favre (he had a sack, but it was erased by a defensive penalty) in Minnesota, even while matched up with seven-time all-pro guard Steve Hutchinson. That answered all the questions I had about him as a rookie. Now the scary thing is that he seems to be playing even better with each game.
Benjamin Klein — Will Calvin Johnson play against the Giants this Sunday?
Dean Holden — Calvin Johnson has a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. Jim Schwartz is mum on his status for Sunday, as is his trend, but I wouldn't expect him to go.
Johnson has been practicing and running routes, but he hasn't been catching passes in practice. In a press conference Wednesday, he showed he currently can't raise his arm above his shoulder.
With the Giants' physical style of play and the Lions getting a bye next week, I imagine Johnson will get the extra two weeks to heal it up properly.
Benjamin Klein — What is the health status of Jahvid Best?
Dean Holden — Jahvid Best has turf toe on both feet. One he's been contending with all season; the other came against Minnesota in Week Three.
They're painful, lingering injuries, but I don't expect them to keep him out of the game for any period of time. He's played through the pain thus far, and both injuries should be close to a full heal.
Still, with the Giants pass rush, you can expect to see plenty of Kevin Smith (the more reliable blocker) in there as well.
Benjamin Klein — Which Lions CB do you see covering Hakeem Nicks?
Dean Holden — Chris Houston is the Lions top corner and will probably draw the coverage assignment on Nicks. Houston played suspect defense for the first couple of games but seems to have grown into his role since the Green Bay game in Week Four.
I expect Nicks to have the upper hand, though. Houston has all the physical skills to stay with his receiver, but he makes too many mental lapses. If Eli Manning can get his intermediate passing game going, it will force the Lions safeties to stay home and not help over the top on deep routes.
If that happens, the Giants can look to try forcing Houston into a mistake in deep coverage. Then again, Aaron Rodgers thought the same thing, and Houston picked him off on a deep route to Greg Jennings. So tread carefully: Houston makes as many big plays as he does mistakes.
Benjamin Klein — Will the Lions defense be more focused on Ahmad Bradshaw or Hakeem Nicks?
Dean Holden — Jim Schwartz's only answer would likely be "we need to stop both of them," but anybody who knows the team knows he has to plan against a passing attack first. The reason is simple: He has a much more talented defensive line than he has a secondary.
In addition, his linebackers are much better at stopping the run than they are in pass coverage. He knows he can count on his line making plays to stop the run, even in a passing situation, simply because they're so good at pushing back the line of scrimmage and attacking.
Furthermore, Hakeem Nicks is just now emerging as the Giants star receiver, and it seems likely that the Giants offensive plan will be focused on him as well. If the Lions can't contain him, they likely can't win.
With the exception of Adrian Peterson, the Lions have done a decent job of containing every running back they've faced, except when they line up as receivers. If the Giants get Ahmad Bradshaw the ball in space, they can take advantage of a general lack of athleticism in the Lions back seven.
A good offensive game plan against this group is a steady dose of outside-the-tackles running and screens to get the play behind the defensive line. Good playmakers can make big plays against this defense if they keep it away from that front four.