Detroit Lions: 10 keys for a week 2 win over the New York Giants

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Eric Ebron #85 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a play in the game Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field on September 10, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Eric Ebron #85 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a play in the game Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field on September 10, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions will get the national spotlight on Monday night in week two against the New York Giants. Here are the 10 keys for Detroit to start 2-0.

As a Detroit Lions fan in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Detroit Lions on national television is a holiday for me. We Detroit fans know the city’s sports teams can be overlooked sometimes and even ignored. When the Lions have a primetime NFL game, the eyes of the country focus on the Detroit Lions and I love those games the most.

This Monday night game is a huge showcase for the Lions to prove they are a legitimate playoff contender against the feisty New York Giants. Here are the keys to a week two victory.

1.Blitz Eli Manning

Last week the Lions got after Carson Palmer and forced three interceptions. They must do the same thing to quarterback Eli Manning. Manning was flustered in the week one loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys showed multiple blitzes from different angles and flustered Manning by sacking him three times. The Lions need to do the same thing. The Giants offensive line is a weak spot and Detroit should be able to get some pressure sending only four. However, this is a game where aggressiveness will be rewarded. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin needs to dial multiple blitzes and force Manning to make plays to beat Detroit.

2. Target Eric Ebron

If you want to see Lions fans argue, just bring up tight end Eric Ebron. You ask ten different Lions fans how they feel about Ebron and you will get ten different answers. Against the New York Giants, Ebron needs to be a factor and a significant part of the game plan. The one weakness of the Giants defense is the middle where the tight end can be a factor. Tight end Jason Witten had seven catches for Dallas last week.

This is the perfect game for Ebron to get comfortable and find a rhythm. Matthew Stafford needs to find Ebron on crossing routes and when Ebron sits in soft zones over the middle. Ebron can make plays after the catch and this is the perfect game to use Ebron as a number one option.

3. Don’t overreact if Odell Beckham Jr. plays

The Giants looked lost offensively Sunday night without wide receiver Odell Beckham and his big play potential. The Cowboys played tight on the Giants’ receiving corps and Manning was never comfortable. Beckham practiced for the first time since his injury but was limited and said his bad ankle is a 6-8 week injury (he injured his ankle on August 21st).

Beckham is questionable for Monday night’s game but if he plays Detroit should not change much of the game plan. Beckham is explosive and a nightmare after the catch but he won’t be 100 percent healthy. The Lions kept Beckham in check last year by holding him to 64 yards on 8 targets. Slay can keep him in check and can cover him one on one.

4. Theo Riddick is your friend

The New York Giants are not too complex defensively. They will play tight quarters on the outside with cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple and use four defensive linemen to go after the quarterback. They will mostly play zone and let safety Landon Collins roam to make quarterbacks pay for a mistake. This is where using Theo Riddick in the passing game will be crucial. Riddick is excellent at being a safety valve and finding open spots in zone coverage. He will be key on third down when New York is aggressive. Stafford can rely on Riddick too much at times but this is the perfect game for Riddick’s skill set to thrive. I also believe the Lions will use him on early down screen plays to keep the defense honest.

5. Key on Shane Vereen on third down

With Odell Beckham’s injury, the favorite target for Eli Manning becomes running back Shane Vereen. In 21 career games with New York Vereen has been targeted 110 times from his running back position. Vereen plays more as a wide receiver than a running back (he had 10 targets but zero carries in the week one loss to Dallas) and Manning loves to use him as a check down on third down. Vereen can beat linebackers on angle routes and in the flats. He can also be difficult to wrap up and will make defenders miss.

The Lions have to spy on him when it is third down. This is a key game for middle linebacker Jarrad Davis to make sure everyone has their assignment and the linebackers know who has Vereen.

6. Stay on schedule

The Giants flourish on third down defense, finishing third in 2016 stopping teams on third down. The Cowboys had success on third down in week one (converting 8-15) by avoiding third and long and staying on schedule. The Lions must do the same thing. The Lions do not have the rushing game that Dallas has but must get yards on first down and eliminate sacks and negative running plays.

This is a game where offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter needs to get the ball out of Matthew Stafford’s hand quickly with hitches, screens, and slants. The Lions should not abandon the run but last week did not have success running the ball on first down. Detroit should use their quick passing game to get positive yardage on first downs and keep the chains moving.

7. Run away from Damon Harrison

Defensive tackle Damon Harrison is one of the best interior linemen in the NFL. He is a run stuffing machine that derails game plans. Pro Football Focus awarded him as the best run stopper in football the last two seasons. Harrison isn’t just a space eater. He’s a dangerous playmaker that attacks and cause havoc in the backfield. He can line up anywhere on the interior and is really dangerous when he lines up at nose tackle over the center. The Lions should not screw around against New York. There is no need to try and attack Harrison. When the Lions run, they need to locate Harrison and run away from him. He can destroy running plays on first down and get you behind schedule.

8. Use no huddle to keep the Giants off balance

The Lions went no huddle a lot against Arizona, using it around 50 percent of the time on Sunday. The Lions have used no huddle since Jim Bob Cooter became offensive coordinator but usually run the play clock down towards the end. Matthew Stafford will survey the defense and make adjustments based on what him and Jim Bob Cooter digest from the defense.

One way to attack the Giants defense would be switching tempo to keep them off balance. Without Odell Beckham Jr. the Giants offense isn’t lethal. They do not have a big playmaker and will need long, sustained drives to score. By switching tempo, the Giants will struggle getting set and Detroit might get some mismatches on the outside that are favorable. This could also help the running game. If New York struggles to get set this will provide Detroit a chance to get leverage blocking and open holes for Ameer Abdullah.

9. Watch Brandon Marshall in the red zone

A big talking point in New York this week is the lack of targets Brandon Marshall had in week one. Despite having one catch last week the Lions still need to keep an eye on him. Marshall is a physical 6’4 wide receiver with 82 career touchdowns. He can out-muscle smaller cornerbacks and high point the football. He doesn’t have elite athleticism but still be a featured weapon in the red zone. It would be beneficial to have a safety play over the top on Marshall’s side inside the 20 and help the cornerback covering Marshall.

10. Be aggressive and take chances- If the Detroit Lions lose Monday night it will not be the end of the season. It’s only week two and the Lions’ big opening win against Arizona in week one took some pressure off. The Lions have a tough schedule in the new few weeks with the defending NFC champions coming to Detroit in week three and road games against the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints before the bye.

This is a game where being conservative will not cut it. Head coach Jim Caldwell needs to game plan to be aggressive on defense by getting after Eli Manning and taking chances on offense. Detroit should target Marvin Jones Jr. down the field for big plays. Get Matthew Stafford in rhythm and run some no huddle to keep New York off balance.

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This is a tough game for the Lions. The Giants have a ferocious defense and trying to win in East Rutherford is never easy. If the Lions is the aggressor and protects the football, they can start the season 2-0 and be ahead of schedule for a playoff run.