Lions-Giants Final Thoughts:Healthy Stafford means a tougher test for Giants; Lions' defensive line spreading the workload; matchup to watch; three Lions rookies to watch and my pick:
QB fully armed: The Giants will see the real Matthew Stafford tonight, not the shadow of himself whose performance in last season's 17-6 loss to the Giants in Game 14 should have been predictable.
As demonstrated by his four touchdown passes in last week's win over the Cardinals, Stafford has his fastball back – along with a full array of options and deliveries at his disposal in whatever situation he chooses to use them.
It's an elite arm, and wide receiver Golden Tate never stops marveling about it.
"I think Stafford could be 45 years old and still sling it harder than most of the quarterbacks out there now," Tate said. "This guy's arm is special, and it seems like it keeps getting stronger and stronger.
"He had to make some adjustments last year. He's one of those guys who wasn't going to make excuses for anything. That's what I love about him."
Last year's Giants game was Stafford's first after injuring a finger on his right (throwing) hand the previous week against the Bears, and his limitations were obvious early – and should not have been a surprise.
On a play in the first half, Stafford had Tate open behind the Giants' secondary for what could have been a walk-in 78-yard touchdown catch and run. But Tate had to wait on an underthrown pass and ended up being tackled at the 11-yard line after a 67-yard gain. Zach Zenner fumbled on the next play.
Late in the game, Stafford tried to throw the ball away but didn't get enough on it. The result was a floater that was intercepted deep in the end zone. At full strength, Stafford could have thrown the ball out of the stadium, much less the end zone.
D-line, fresh legs: It's likely that the Lions will use something similar to the nine-man rotation last week that kept the defensive line fresh.
Starting left end Anthony Zettel played the most snaps, with 46 of the 75. Cornelius Washington and Haloti Ngata were next with 40 snaps each. Four other linemen played between 34 and 39 snaps. Undrafted rookies Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga played 14 and 16 snaps respectively.
"They run like a hockey line shift, and they try to stay fresh and go four-for-four," Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said of the line's sub plan. "A lot of it starts with the way they compress the pockets out there with the defensive ends."
D-line, pass-rush edge? Make what you want of the Pro Football Focus grades – and I'm a skeptic – but based on the Week 1 grades for edge rushers (defensive ends) there's an opportunity for the Lions to use their talent and depth to win the battle up front against a shaky Giants offensive line.
Three of the Lions' edge rushers were ranked in the top 26 overall – Anthony Zettel (8), Cornelius Washington (18) and Ziggy Ansah (26). Four were in the top 25 as pass rushers – Zettel (8), Jeremiah Valoaga (tie 15), Washington (tied 20) and Ansah (25).
Matchup to watch: Lions RT Rick Wagner vs. Giants LDE Jason Pierre-Paul. Pro Football Focus rated Wagner as one of the top tackles for Week 1 while Pierre-Paul was down the list for his performance against the Cowboys.
Pierre-Paul is consistent as a pass rusher and run defender. He was held without a sack against Dallas, but he had one tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. The Cardinals had a league-high 48 sacks in 2016 but were held to one by the Lions.
The Giants' defensive-line rotation is 180 degrees opposite of what the Lions do. Pierre-Paul played 67 of 74 defensive snaps last week. Olivier Vernon, the other starting end, played 72 of 74.
3 Lions rookies to watch:
WR Kenny Golladay: Opponents have the first regular-season video to study on the Lions' third-round pick. Coming off four catches and two touchdowns against the Cardinals in Week 1, he is bound to get plenty of attention from the Giants' veteran – and talented – secondary.
CB Jamal Agnew: A fifth-round pick, Agnew showed poise and skill on two fourth-quarter punt returns in Week 1. On the first, he tracked a 57-yard punt to catch the ball at the nine. A 24-yard return to the 33 gave the offense a good starting point for a drive that ended in Golladay's first TD catch and a 21-17 lead.
The second return was a catch at the 15 and a 13-yard return to the 28. That drive ended in Golladay's second TD.
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter: He played end at Arkansas and was asked to bulk up to play inside when the Lions drafted him the sixth round. He was active with two assisted tackles and a quarterback hit.
Prediction: The 11-point margin of the Giants' 17-6 victory last year looks like a one-sided game. It wasn't. Odell Beckham Jr.'s TD catch with just over five minutes left closed out the scoring.
For this game, the Lions have a healthy quarterback and three key starters on offense who did not play last year – center Travis Swanson and tailbacks Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.
For the Giants, the defense has to carry the load because of continuing problems with the offense – with or without Beckham. It's a good defense, with an outside rush and an outstanding secondary.
The Giants are fighting to keep from falling into an 0-2 hole. The Lions want to get to 2-0 for the first time in head coach Jim Caldwell's tenure.
Pick: Lions 23, Giants 13.