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Giants-Lions: Five things to watch for

After a demoralizing and pathetic performance against the Seattle Seahawks last week, the New York Giants will probably have a hard time getting amped to play the Detroit Lions on the road this week.

Things have been getting uglier and uglier for the Giants ever since they were eliminated from playoff contention. Between mounting injuries and locker room malaise, the fight in the Giants is all but gone.  With nothing to play for and the Lions still alive for the playoffs, expect the Lions to go full throttle and make this game feel like a trip to the dentist for the Giants.

That all said, let’s examine Giants-Lions: five things to watch for.

With Eli Manning down in the dumps, how will he fare at Detroit in the face of adversity and doubt?

With nothing to play for except pride, it’s tough seeing Manning stepping up and having a good game on Sunday.  With a stitched-together and under performing offensive line, the Lions’ front seven may just make Manning’s day miserable. Expect lots of pressure and with Manning missing Victor Cruz, there is just not much hope for Manning having a good day.

At this point for Manning (who had a career high-five interceptions last week), it’s all about playing safe, conservative football while not turning the ball over. Consider it a victory if Manning doesn’t throw a pick.

How will Prince Amukamara play against Calvin Johnson?

If there has been one bright spot for the Giants this year it has been the play of Amukamara, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. However, he may be facing his toughest test yet, while likely trying to guard perhaps the game’s best wide receiver in Calvin Johnson.

Simply put, Johnson is a beast and is almost un-guardable. If Amukamara can do a decent job of slowing down Johnson, like Jimmy Smith of the Baltimore Ravens did on Monday night, it would go a long way in the Giants scoring the upset.

Who may step up in light of all the Giants injuries?

No Cruz, no JPP, no Peyton Hillis, likely no David Diehl and perhaps no James Brewer; so who might step up in instead?

I’ll touch on replacing Cruz in the next statement, but the absence of Pierre-Paul is no shock and at this point the Giants should sit him out for the remainder of the season as his back injuries have clearly hindered him all year. It would be nice if Damontre Moore can step up and show us something. Yeah, we’ve harped on that before.

With injuries to Diehl and Brewer, look for Brandon Mosley to start at one guard spot. He played in the Seahawks game and wasn’t anything special. With the Lions having an aggressive front, it could give us a real good look at what he can provide the Giants going forward.

With Hillis out, the secondary running back to Andre Brown should be Michael Cox. Cox has played well in spurts before, but he’ll have a challenge going up against the Lions’ tough run defense when he spells Brown.

With Victor Cruz sidelined, could Rueben Randle show some more promise?

With Cruz out for the year with a season-ending knee injury, this will give Randle a chance to shine. Randle’s had a solid season, recording 37 receptions for 571 yards and six touchdowns.  But with Cruz out and the disappointing Hakeem Nicks not giving the Giants much, these last two games can go a long way in establishing where Randle fits in with the Giants plans.

If Manning has time in the pocket there is a good chance that Randle can have a good day considering the Lions are allowing 253 passing yards per game (23rd in the NFL) while giving up 22 passing touchdowns.  If there was one place where the Lions are vulnerable, it’s their pass defense. So, Randle can certainly be the X-factor in this game for the Giants.

How will Andre Brown and the running game fare against Detroit, who are among the best at stopping the run?

After a 17-yard rushing (on 11 carries) performance last week against the Seahawks, things are not likely looking much brighter for Brown this week, as Detroit has been stout against the run all year.  The Lions are allowing only 98.6 rushing yards per game (fourth in the NFL) while giving up just nine touchdowns (tied for 10th in the NFL) on the ground.

The problem for Brown is that he has been the focal point of the offense and with Manning struggling, the Lions may very well load the box and dare Manning to beat them. The matchup dictates that Brown and Giants may be in for another long day.

Dan Stack | Featured Columnist