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Saturday, December 21, 2013
W2W4: Giants at Lions

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

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.