New York Giants: reggie bush

Halftime thoughts: Go figure this

December, 22, 2013
DETROIT -- They lost their top wide receiver to injury last week and are down to fourth-stringers on the offensive line. So of course, the New York Giants look as good as they've looked on offense at any point so far this year. They're showing good run/pass balance, using the run game and moving quarterback Eli Manning around to keep him away from pressure. They're moving the ball, they're 5-for-8 on third downs, they haven't turned it over and they didn't give up a sack until there were 27 seconds left in the half. They hold a 13-3 lead over the Lions at halftime.

Doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, considering they have been one of the worst offenses in the league and are playing this game severely shorthanded. When the inactives were announced 90 minutes prior to kickoff, right guard David Diehl was on the list. He was replaced in the starting lineup by untested 2012 fourth-round pick Brandon Mosley, who lasted only one series before breaking his hand and being replaced by Dallas Reynolds. So that's the third different starter they've had at right guard since Chris Snee's season-ending injury.

But somehow, the protection is holding up. Cruz's replacement, Jerrel Jernigan, is playing tough downfield against a depleted Detroit secondary and Manning is getting just enough time to find him and Hakeem Nicks. The Lions have turned the ball over twice on a Reggie Bush fumble and a Matthew Stafford interception. The Giants cashed in the first of those with a Manning-to-Jernigan touchdown pass, and cashed in the second with a 52-yard Josh Brown field goal.

The Lions obviously have a lot of problems right now. After a brutal home loss to the Ravens on "Monday Night Football," they have spent the first half of this game shooting themselves in the foot. They have squandered an opportunity to win the NFC North with division-rival quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler having missed significant time due to injuries. And while the Lions desperately need this game (and help) to keep their postseason hopes alive, New York is the team that looks as though it's playing for something. Detroit also is missing starting cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston and saw backup cornerback Bill Bentley and starting safety Louis Delmas head to the locker room with head and elbow injuries, respectively, that leave them questionable to return. So there's reason to believe the Giants can keep the offense coming in the second half if they can keep protecting Manning with their banged-up line. Detroit is also missing many of the playmakers who could generate turnovers in the secondary, so there remains a chance that the Giants could go turnover-free for the first time this season.

W2W4: Giants at Lions

December, 21, 2013
Because the schedule says so, the 5-9 New York Giants travel this weekend to Detroit to play the 7-7 Lions in a 4:05 pm ET game Sunday. Here are a couple of things to watch for in the game:

Restricting Reggie. There's been so much talk this week about how the Giants plan to cover wide receiver Calvin Johnson and very little about their plan of attack versus dynamic Detroit running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. The Giants have been fairly stout against the run this year. They've only allowed two running backs to reach 100 rush yards in a game against them -- Carolina's DeAngelo Williams in Week 3 and San Diego's Ryan Mathews in Week 14. But both Bush and Bell are factors in the passing game, too, and the Giants have been susceptible to that all year. Last week, for instance, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch rushed for just 47 yards but caught six passes for 73 more. Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte are among the other top running backs who succeeded as receivers against the Giants in spite of struggling against them as runners. So the Giants must be on the lookout for Bush and Bell when they escape the backfield on Matthew Stafford dropbacks.

Containing Calvin: That said, the big-play threat remains the 6-foot-5 Johnson, who is coming off two straight disappointing games and is liable to post huge numbers at any time. The Giants say they're not planning to put 6-foot cornerback Prince Amukamara on Johnson exclusively, instead splitting the field with their corners as they prefer to do. That means 5-foot-8 Trumaine McBride will see Johnson some of the time, and that's a matchup on which Stafford is likely to pick liberally.

Stopping Suh: Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley headline a fearsome Detroit defensive line that has to be licking its chops knowing that Giants quarterback Eli Manning already has absorbed 36 sacks this season. The Giants could be without guard David Diehl, who is listed as doubtful for the game due to a knee injury. That would mean backups James Brewer and Brandon Mosley at the guard spots against one of the best interior pass rushes in the league. Gadzooks.

Jernigan's chance: With slot receiver Victor Cruz out for the rest of the season following knee surgery and fellow wideout Hakeem Nicks appearing to play at half-speed all season, Jerrel Jernigan could play a significant role in the passing game Sunday. He replaces Cruz in the slot, and he showed the coaching staff something Sunday when he had to go in after Cruz got hurt. Head coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride both lauded Jernigan's toughness against Seattle's physical secondary, and he's likely to find the matchups more favorable this week in Detroit. If Manning has to unload the ball quickly, as it appears he will due to the protection issues, Jernigan could see a lot of targets and has a chance to make his case to be on next year's team with a big performance.

Big Blue Morning: Cruz's season is over

December, 20, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: The Giants announced Thursday that wide receiver Victor Cruz had gone to see Dr. James Andrews to have his left knee checked out and that Andrews performed a surgical procedure on the knee. It was called an "arthroscopic debridement," which as I understand it means a cleaning up of loose cartilage or bone in the knee. So that's much better news for Cruz than if he'd had to have a ligament repaired, and there's no reason to think he won't be able to participate in the offseason program or be ready for the start of 2014. But obviously, since he just had his knee operated on 10 days before the final game, he's out for the rest of this season. Cruz was the only player on the Giants' offense having any kind of a respectable season, and there's good reason to believe that, as a result of this news, the final two games will be even more unwatchable than the first 14 were.

Behind enemy lines: It seems all we've been talking about with Giants defensive players this week is Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. But they have a pretty good running back, too, in Reggie Bush, who's about to crack 1,000 rushing yards and is a serious threat in the passing game as well. The Giants have been good at limiting even the best running backs between the tackles, but they have been susceptible to running backs as receivers on the outside. But the Lions have their own problems. Bush himself says the team for which he plays lacks discipline. And Jeff Chadiha writes that it's time for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to show more in the big spots.

Around the division: If the Cowboys lose early Sunday, the Eagles could clinch the NFC East with a victory Sunday night against the Bears. If the Cowboys win Sunday, or if the Eagles lose Sunday night, then the NFC East will come down to one Week 17 game for the third year in a row -- Philadelphia at Dallas this time. Regardless, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy says he wants to carry the offense in this game. The way the Bears have defended the run this season, that sounds like a good plan.

Around the league: I think expanding the NFL playoffs is a terrible idea, because there are enough bad games as it is and not enough really good teams to fill a 12-team playoff field. But others disagree, and we asked around.