If ever there were a classic "trap" game to be played, the Giants' upcoming matchup against the 1-4 Detroit Lions, a team that has lost its last 23 games on the road, is it.
Yet despite the Lions' struggles coupled with the fact that after this game the Giants will have their first game against a division opponent (Dallas), Giants coach Tom Coughlin and his players say it's foolish to view the Lions as anything other than a formidable opponent.
"I think you just look at the tape and you can see how well they've really played," Coughlin said.
|GIANTS GAME PLAN|
The Giants' running game has gradually become more consistent over the weeks. However, this week, the ground attack is going to face a stout defensive interior, featuring Corey Williams and rookie Ndamukong Suh, that gives opposing rushing games fits.
Detroit has allowed three 100-yard rushers in its first five games, and it seems to have no answer for the outside attacks and misdirection plays. Thus, don't be surprised if the Giants, who last week placed a bit more emphasis on the passing attack, put more of a focus on their running game this week with the intention of wearing down Suh and Williams.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Giants CB Corey Webster and CB Terrell Thomas vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson. Johnson leads the Lions with 291 receiving yards. However, he's nursing an injured shoulder, and his status for Sunday's game will likely be a game-time decision. If he does play, the Giants cornerbacks will need to make sure they get their hands on Johnson to disrupt his timing with QB Shaun Hill. Moreover, since Johnson uses his 6-foot-5 height to his advantage in going up for jump balls, Webster and Thomas will need to ensure they're taking proper angles and timing their jumps to knock away passes from the athletic Johnson.
Giants defense vs. Lions RB Jahvid Best. Best is an all-purpose threat who has the moves and speed to break free into the open field. He has also been extremely effective coming out of the backfield as a receiver, where he is averaging 10.2 yards per reception and is second on the team behind TE Brandon Pettigrew in receptions. One way for the Giants to make Best one-dimensional would be to blitz early, a strategy that would likely remove Best from the receiving equation since he would be required to stay at home to block.
"Just look at the guys they have on film," safety Kenny Phillips added. "This is definitely a team that you can't take lightly because of the playmakers they have -- guys like Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best, and their quarterback (Shaun Hill). These are guys who can make plays on the field, so we definitely have to respect them."
What makes Detroit so dangerous, at least from an offensive standpoint?
"You have a lot to defend," Coughlin said. "They have a lot of big-play people, so you do have to be alert for that and try to figure out exactly what the variety of things they like to do are from the multiple personnel sets that they play."
Then there is the job done by Hill, who has played well in starter Matthew Stafford's absence.
"He gets the ball to the open receiver, (and) he recognizes all the hot (reads) and sight adjustments, (and) the ball comes out early," Coughlin said.
Phillips agreed with his coach's assessment and noted how the Lions have not only been able to move the ball, they also have posted healthy scores.
"They've played every team close," he said. "They put up (25.2) points per game, so they're definitely able to move the ball and score."
As the Giants continue their preparation for this week's game, the players believe that it comes down to following the formula that has been in place since the start of the season, and that is to make sure their shop is in order.
"We can't really worry too much about records, big plays and what they might do," safety Antrel Rolle said. "We have to stay focused and remember to play Giants football. We have a great game plan in place, and we're looking forward to executing it."
SERIES HISTORY: 40th regular-season meeting. Lions lead series, 20-18-1. The teams also met in the 1935 NFL Championship Game, which the Lions won 26-7. The last time the Giants and Lions met was on Nov. 18, 2007, when the Giants 16-10 won in Detroit.
OL Kevin Boothe, who has been on the physically unable to perform list as he has recovered from offseason surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, said that he's fully ready to go after months of inactivity.
Coach Tom Coughlin said it was still too soon to say whether Boothe, who can begin practicing next Tuesday, will make it back onto the roster.
"A lot will depend on exactly where he is," Coughlin said. "If he's ready to practice and ready to go, then we'll give it full consideration. We don't have to rush into that because of the bye week."
With the Giants thin at offensive tackle given the on-going recovery of OT Will Beatty (foot), the return of Boothe would be huge in that he not only can play tackle, but he can also line up at guard and, in an emergency, center.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka (neck) remains out indefinitely. Coach Tom Coughlin said that while the team has not yet established a timetable regarding making a decision on the injured defensive end, it will not wait indefinitely.
Kiwanuka, meanwhile, spoke for the first time since the Chicago game in which he had expressed optimism at being back on the field for the following week.
"I don't look at things any differently," he said. "I'm always going to push myself to get back on the field as quickly as I can. But at the same time, I have to respect the doctor's opinion so the only thing that's changed from that moment is that the doctors decided that it would be better for me to wait a little more time and make sure I'm not going to re-injure myself going back out there."
FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring) is making progress in his return from injury, but the team continues to be cautious. Hedgecock, whom coach Tom Coughlin said ran at partial speed under the watchful eye of the team's medical staff Tuesday, was held out of Wednesday's practice and doesn't appear likely to return to action this week.
LB Keith Bulluck (toe), who on Monday expressed optimism about being able to return to work Wednesday, was held out of Wednesday's practice.
C Shaun O'Hara (ankle/Achilles) returned to the practice field after missing the last three games. The Giants' starting center, who came through his Tuesday workout better than a week ago, was limited to just individual drills in Wednesday's practice.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "I think the one thing we're trying to do is not do too much the first day, and we're just trying to hope for the best and hope it feels the same tomorrow."
While O'Hara said that he hasn't really put his sore ankle to the test in terms of running sprints, he was cautiously optimistic that this time he was truly over the hurdle to where he could increase his practice load and possibly play Sunday against the Lions.