|NFL Week 11: Giants at Lions Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 06:43|
Plenty in Common
Both are coming off disappointing losses, but one of these NFC playoff contenders will get back on track Sunday when the teams face off in Detroit - where the Lions are 4-0 this season.
Few expected either team to be 6-3 through nine games, but both have already silenced plenty of critics, who two months ago had reason to believe New York and Detroit would be in for long seasons.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made New York -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 49.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on New York -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The Giants' defense struggled in two losses to start the season, allowing an average of 40.0 points, while the Lions hadn't reached the playoffs since 1999 and had suffered through six straight seasons of double-digit losses - including a 3-13 mark last year.
But both got off to 6-2 starts behind resurgent defenses. The Giants allowed just 13.2 points per game during their six-game winning streak, while Detroit has forced a league-high 28 turnovers and allowed just 10.0 points per game in consecutive victories over Tampa Bay, Chicago and Denver before last week.
That's when things went awry for both, causing each team to fall two games behind their respective division leaders. The Giants, bent on getting revenge on NFC East-leading Dallas after the Cowboys beat them 45-35 in Week 1, stumbled in the second half at home and lost 31-20.
Detroit, meanwhile, rushed for minus-18 yards and allowed four touchdown passes in a 31-21 loss at Arizona.
"We had a lot of things break down in our execution," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "This was all about fundamentals, and those are correctable. That's the good news."
Detroit's Jon Kitna completed 32 of 45 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, but running back Kevin Jones - still banged up with the sore foot that kept him out of the season's first two games - carried the ball just four times.
Jones is expected to play against the Giants, but isn't sure he'll be able to go on short rest on Thanksgiving in a crucial matchup with NFC North-leading Green Bay.
"I love throwing - I'd do it on every play if I could - but it is brutal on our offensive linemen," Kitna said. "They don't get the chance to fire out and punish guys like they do on running plays. We need to be able to do both."
Kitna has a career-best 92.9 passer rating and a winning record through nine games for the first time since 2000 while with Seattle. With seven games to play, he's just two wins away from matching his career high of eight as a starter in a season.
He's also on pace for a career low in interceptions in a full season as a starter with just eight so far, but his two picks were part of five turnovers for Detroit last week against Arizona.
The Giants will try to induce a few more with their signature pass rush, which has produced an NFL-best 32 sacks this year. Kitna has been sacked 37 times this season - seven more than any other quarterback - and also leads the league in fumbles with 11.
Four different Giants - Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan and Mathias Kiwanuka - have at least 4 1/2 sacks this season, but they could only get to Tony Romo twice against Dallas last week. Romo threw for four touchdowns.
"Anytime we don't get the pressure that we want coming out of the game, it is disheartening, and it is a little bit surprising," Kiwanuka said. "But we are not going to dwell on it. It is not something that is going to set us back."
The Giants, whose three losses have come to teams with a combined 16-2 record, are hoping to avoid another late-season stumble after opening the second half with a loss for the fifth consecutive year.
From 2003-06, New York has gone 8-24 in the second half after posting a 21-11 mark in the season's first half. Last year, the Giants went 2-6 in the second half after a 6-2 start.
"Last year was a totally different situation," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Our ideas are this year."
Injuries slowed last season's team in the second half, but the Giants have been relatively healthy this year. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress has a nagging ankle injury that caused him to sit out practice Wednesday, but he hasn't missed a game this year and is tied for fourth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns with eight.
Pro Bowl middle linebacker Antonio Pierce also missed Wednesday's workout because of a mild concussion.
"Since Monday he has had a headache," Coughlin said of Pierce. "He feels pretty good today."
The Giants might try to shift some of the load to running back Brandon Jacobs. New York is 3-0 this year when Jacobs rushes for 100 yards.
Besides Jones, the Lions are also fairly healthy. Cornerback Fernando Bryant (foot sprain) and defensive end Dewayne White (triceps injury) are both questionable, but offensive tackle Jonathan Scott is likely to miss a second straight game with a thumb injury.
The Lions have won the only two meetings between these teams since 2000, both at Giants Stadium. New York has won three straight in Detroit dating to 1988, but the Lions have excelled at Ford Field this year.
The Giants and Lions would be the NFC's two wild-card teams if the season ended today, with both holding a one-game lead over Washington.
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