The New York Giants (0-1) will look to get their first victory of the season as they take on the Detroit Lions (1-0) in their home opener on Monday Night Football.
They’ll need another dominant defensive performance after Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for four touchdowns in the Lions 35-23 victory last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Not only must the defense be dominant, but the offense must come to life whether Odell Beckham Jr. plays or not.
Here are the five keys to victory for the Giants
1. Throw short slants on first down
Even if OBJ does not play, the Giants have playmakers at the wide receiver position in Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Roger Lewis Jr. So the best way for the Giants to win is to get the ball into their playmaker’s hands, especially on first down.
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Throwing quick, short slants on first down that gain six-to-eight-yards will make second and third downs more manageable, open up the playbook more and help get the offense into a rhythm.
This should also help to get Marshall involved in the offense after he caught just one-of-four targets for 10 yards in the season-opening loss to Dallas.
2. Don’t turn the ball over
The easiest way to lose a football game at any level—high school, college or the pros—is if you beat yourself by turning the ball over. These two teams are evenly matched and the game could be decided by a touchdown or less.
Turning the ball over and giving the Lions’ offense extra possessions is a recipe for disaster.
3. Make Matthew Stafford uncomfortable in the pocket
If you give Stafford time, he can pick apart a defense, even one as talented as the Giants have. The front four, in particular—Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison, Jay Bromley and Olivier Vernon must hit Stafford early and often. Make him move. Get in his face constantly.
If the front four is having a hard time getting to him, expect the Giants to blitz to try and throw Stafford off his game.
4. Use tight ends and running backs to help block Detroit’s defensive ends
One of the things that bode well for the Giants is that one of the Lions best defensive ends, Ezekiel Ansah, is questionable with an ankle injury. While he’s expected to play, it won’t be at full strength.
We know the Giants offensive tackles have struggled against edge rushers. Keeping their tight ends and running backs in to help protect Eli Manning is crucial.
5. Win the special teams battle
Often games are decided by the third phase of the game—special teams.
The Giants need Brad Wing to pin the Lions back deep in their own territory, giving Stafford horrid field position to start. Conversely, the Giants kick returners and punt returners must move the ball into favorable field position for Manning and the offense.
Prediction: Giants 20, Lions 17