5 things to watch: Lions vs. Giants

Detroit welcomes the New York Giants to Ford Field today for a NFC North vs. NFC East matchup. Detroit hopes to get back to their winning ways after dropping two straight at Ford Field and three in a row overall.

Here’s a look at five things to watch in today’s contest:

BREAKING STREAKS

The Lions have lost three straight games to the Chiefs, Packers and Vikings. At 2-3-1 on the year, the Lions are four games back from first place Green Bay in the NFC North. Detroit needs a win at home in the worst way.

The Giants come in riding their own three-game losing streak, as they’ve dropped their last three to the Vikings, Patriots and Cardinals. Things are a little bit more jumbled in the NFC East with the Cowboys leading that division at 4-3. New York is just two games back and looking to put themselves right back in the East division mix with a win today.

This is a game today pitting two teams desperate to break their current losing streaks and eager to get back into the thick of things in the NFC.

BARKLEY VS. RUN DEFENSE

Since the beginning of the 2018 season, Giants running back Saquon Barkley is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and trails only Christian McCaffrey (2,888) and Ezekiel Elliott (2,779) in total scrimmage yards with 2,419.

Barkley is the full package at the running back spot, and the Lions will have to play much better Sunday than they have recently, and especially last week against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (142 yards & 2 TDs), if they hope to contain Barkley. Gang tackling has been a point of emphasis for Detroit’s defense this week.

The Lions enter today’s contest ranked 28th against the run, allowing on average 139.2 rushing yards per game. Can they find a way to step up and play the run better than they have all year? It’s important they do.

TURNOVER BATTLE

The Giants have thrown nine interceptions this year with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones accounting for seven of those. Jones has also fumbled six times. Like most young quarterbacks, he’s adjusting to the speed of the NFL game, and thus has been a bit careless with the football.

The Giants are minus-10 in turnover differential on the year, which trails only Miami (minus-11).

Detroit didn’t generate any turnovers last week vs. Minnesota, but still ranks in the top 10 with 11 takeaways on the year.

Turnovers are one of the key stats every week in deciding winners and losers in the NFL. Can the Lions get after the rookie quarterback and maybe confuse him with some coverages and create some of those game-breaking turnovers?

DIVIDING UP CARRIES

It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell decides to distribute the carries among his running backs today after the team lost their starting running back, Kerryon Johnson, to IR (knee) earlier this week.

Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Tra Carson and Paul Perkins are on the roster. We’ll see later on if all four are active or if they stay with a three-man rotation like we’ve seen in the backfield most of this season.

The Lions have a lot of confidence in the backs they have, and they plan to set up a run game tailored to some of the strengths of the players they have. It could be a running-back-by-committee approach, but if there’s a hot hand early on, they won’t be afraid to ride him.

REPLACING DIGGS

Detroit traded starting safety Quandre Diggs to Seattle this week in a move they believe is the best for the organization in the long term. The trade means we’ll probably see more of rookie third-round pick Will Harris today. He’s been pretty good this year when given the opportunity to play in place of the injured Diggs, or when given other opportunities in sub packages on defense.

The Lions want to see what Harris can do with more opportunities, but we’ll probably also see veteran Tavon Wilson play a role too.

New York comes to town for the first time this season having all their skill position players healthy and playing together. Harris, and whoever is back there in place of Diggs, will have their hands full with trying to contain tight end Evan Engram, Barkley and slot receiver Golden Tate.

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