Calvin Johnson is questionable for Sunday's game, a huge story going into this one. Credit: Getty Images
The Giants’ season is over, but they insist they’ll play out the string with pride, passion and the will to win.
Head coach Tom Coughlin noted his team not only has an obligation to continue to play hard for the integrity of the sport, but even more so for their own self-respect and the pride of their fanbase.
“I think there’s a responsibility to our team to play your best, be your best — always. That’s what we’re in this business for, to do the very best we can and not listen to what people tell you about why you’re playing and the questions that you get asked in this situation,” Coughlin said. “It’s our responsibility to play as well as we can, the competitiveness of it, the pride that goes with it. What kind of statement do you make as a man in terms of you living up to your responsibilities and the example you set for others? ... There’s an awful lot to play for.”
The Giants (5-9) may not have as much to play for as the Lions (7-7), as the former were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, while the latter is still in the hunt for the NFC North crown. But New York has taken on the role of spoiler and would like nothing more than to crush Detroit’s postseason dreams as well.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Megatron watch
If the Lions are to take over the division, they’ll need their best player, wideout Calvin Johnson, to get on the field. Johnson, who’s amassed 81 receptions, 1,449 yards and 12 touchdowns, has not practiced at all this week due to a knee injury. Should the man nicknamed “Megatron” suit up, he’ll seek to destroy a banged-up Giants secondary. And the man that will likely draw a majority of Johnson’s attention will be cornerback Prince Amukamara. While Johnson confessed he’s not very good with names, Amukamara didn’t take offense, but added he’s eager to accept the challenge of the league’s top receiver.
“My approach is the same. I treat everyone like they’re the best and I happen to be going up against one of the best this week,” said Amukamara, adding it’ll likely take the entire secondary to slow down Johnson. “He’s 6-foot-6, 230 [pounds] or more. Most DBs [defensive backs] are 5-foot-10, 5-foot-9, so he already has an advantage. Plus his speed, so he definitely has all the tools and he’s definitely been putting them to work for years now. ... But I’ve been seeing that [double-coverage] a lot on film where a couple teams just basically have two guys over him.”
2. Staff report
The man responsible for getting Johnson the ball is quarterback Matthew Stafford. The gun-slinging Stafford is once again posting big numbers this year (4,211 yards and 28 touchdowns), but he’s also been known to give away the ball too much as well – as his 17 interceptions attest to this year.
Amukamara marveled at Stafford’s natural ability, but also that Stafford can be had — specifically because the quarterback isn’t afraid to take chances down the field and will sometimes throw the ball from awkward angles.
“If you have a receiver of that stature that can make you look good, I would throw it up to him and force sometimes, too,” said Amukamara. “Stafford’s a great quarterback, because he does all the throws [like] the back shoulders, the deep ball ... [and] sometimes they’re off-balanced throws, too.”
3. Rush hour
The Lions possess one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, as they feature three young and aggressive pass rushers in defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh (5 1/2 sacks) and Nick Fairley (3 1/2 sacks) and rookie first-round defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (seven sacks). The Giants’ offensive line, meanwhile, is one of the poorest pass-blocking units, as quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked 36 times. How well Big Blue’s franchise passer is protected will go a long way in determining if the Giants can pull off the upset.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.