By Michael Ferro

The Detroit Lions are heading into the final weeks of the season still atop the NFC North, and could be poised to steamroll into the playoffs. For Lions fans, this isn’t something heard often, but before Detroit can win its first division title since 1993, they will need to travel to New Jersey to take on the New York Giants.

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Considering how badly the Lions performed at home against the struggling, last-place Chicago Bears on Sunday, beating the New York Giants away from home will be no easy task. Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell will need to adequately prep his team and hope quarterback Matthew Stafford’s hand is healing nicely, as the injury obviously had a negative effect on the QB’s passing game against the Bears on Sunday.

Giants Season Record: 9-4

The Giants have the same record as the Lions at 9-4, and New York is 6-1 when playing at home. Detroit is also 6-1 when playing at Ford Field, but they’ll be in New Jersey this Sunday, and the Lions are 3-3 on the road. With Detroit having struggled against last-place Chicago and New York taking down top-tier Dallas in Week 14, the stats themselves would likely favor the Giants.

Then again, Detroit has proven that while they are certainly one of the most unlikely first-place teams, having won so many games in the final moments, they also have an unquantifiable type of magic this season. Just when the Lions are counted out, they fight back.

Giants on Offense

While the story of the year for Detroit has been the prowess of Matthew Stafford, over in New York, Eli Manning has still been putting up the respectable numbers that he’s well-known for. He’s passed for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns, though his completion percentage is slightly lower than Stafford’s and he’s also thrown 13 interceptions thus far.

In the passing game, Manning’s No. 1 target has been WR Odell Beckham Jr., who has caught 79 receptions for 1,109 yards and nine touchdowns. While Beckham did drop two crucial passes in New York’s last game, he made up for it by scoring a major touchdown. In the running game, the Giants have the Lions easily beat thanks to the likes of Rashad Jennings, who has 136 carries this season for 459 yards and two touchdowns.

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Giants on Defense

During their very impressive win over the NFL-best Dallas Cowboys, the Giants showed that their defense has the ability to shut down just about anyone. Except for allowing Dallas to score one touchdown thanks to a missed pass coverage, New York was stout and defiant.

Asking Matthew Stafford to take the entire Lions offense and put it on his back once again—especially with an injured throwing hand—might be just a little too much to ask this time around. Here’s hoping that Detroit has some of that magic left from earlier in the season.

Players to Watch: Odell Beckham Jr. & Eli Manning

Despite two dropped passes during the game against Dallas, Odell Beckham Jr. was simply electric. Once again, he displayed the unmatched speed that he is known for and caught four receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown.

While Eli Manning did not have the best of games, only going 17-28 and 193 yards, he’s proven more than once this year that if the conditions are right, he’s still got gas in the tank. Against a Lions defense that struggled mightily against a terrible Bears team, Manning will look to have a big day.

Outlook 

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The Giants just proved that they’re the actual giant killers, having beaten the best team in the league in the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and breaking the Cowboys’ 11-game winning streak. As they look to make a final play for the top spot in the NFC East, you can bet the farm that the Giants will be more motivated than ever to take down a Lions team that must have surprised even itself with its poor play against Chicago.