By Steve Silverman
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The New York Giants are playing out the string and seemingly have little to play for, despite the protestations of head coach Tom Coughlin.
They go to Detroit Sunday before closing the season at home against Washington. The Redskins have been even worse than the Giants and have been sitting quarterback Robert Griffin III in an effort to save him for the offseason.
Yeah, right. That may be Mike Shanahan’s public relations story, but the Redskins’ coach simply wants to anger owner Dan Snyder. Shanahan would like to move on to another team, but he would like to collect his full Redskins salary before he parts ways with the team.
But there’s a lot more to the Lions’ game than meets the eye. If there is any competitive fire left in the Giants, it will come out against Detroit because the Lions are choking on their own blood right now.
The Lions had their ticket punched to the playoffs at midseason. Or so it seemed. They were scoring points in bunches and they had Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush providing an excellent 1-2 punch. They had a mean and nasty defense that featured defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
That should have been enough in the NFC North, considering the Green Bay Packers were playing without Aaron Rodgers and the Chicago Bears had seen their defense disappear.
But the Lions have lost four of their last five games and if the Packers and Bears both win their Week 16 games (vs. the Steelers and Eagles, respectively), the Lions will be dead.
What the Giants need to realize is that there is blood in the water as they get to Ford Field. The Lions are almost certainly going to have an offseason filled with regret, and the Giants will be tested in this game.
They may have endured a brutal season, but is there enough professionalism left to take down an opponent that doesn’t appear capable of standing on its own legs?
It’s called killer instinct, and the Giants teams of the past had plenty of it. Throughout the Tom Coughlin regime, the Giants have been able to take down struggling opponents.
Obviously, the Giants are not going to be at their best. Any time they take the field without Victor Cruz (knee) in the lineup, they lose much of their explosiveness. Eli Manning’s season can’t get over soon enough as his 25 interceptions are not something that Coughlin and the coaching staff can accept.
But for one game, the Giants have a chance to play the role of spoiler/executioner. The Lions suffer from a lack of leadership and intelligence because head coach Jim Schwartz has shown that he is not capable of making the right decisions when the game is on the line.
Schwartz has lasted five seasons in the NFL because he gets along well with his players and seems to know what he is doing Monday through Saturday. However, he becomes bollixed on Sundays. He loses all sense of discipline and perspective, and he generally encourages his players to show off their macho sides on game day.
The idea of playing in the NFL is to finish the game with more points than your opponent. Schwartz doesn’t appear to live by this credo. He wants his players to dish out punishment and show that they are not about to take any guff from opponents.
The Lions have taken more undisciplined penalties than any other team in football throughout Schwartz’s tenure. Whether it’s a motion or offside penalty before the snap or an unnecessary roughness or a late hit call after the play, Schwartz’s team never seems to learn.
Couple that with a quarterback in Matthew Stafford who almost always tries to throw the ball into tight coverage when the game is on the line and that’s why the Lions seem to lose every big game.
If there is a pulse on the Giants’ sideline, they will take advantage of the Lions. Detroit makes too many mistakes to play in the postseason and it’s up to the Giants to put them out of their misery.
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