Giants look for 8th win as they host improving Lions
East Rutherford, N.J. — The Detroit Lions and New York Giants have been hanging out in the same neighborhood of the NFL for the past seven years, at least in terms of the standings.
Neither team has made the playoffs since 2016. The Giants were 4-13 last season, while the Lions were 3-13-1.
When the teams meet on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, fans are going to notice a difference. The Giants are 7-2 under first-year coach Brian Daboll and closing in on the playoffs. The Lions are a deceptive 3-6 under second-year coach Dan Campbell.
Both teams are making progress. The Giants have done more, but the Lions are not that far off. They have won two in a row, and four of their losses have been by four points or less.
"They are at a point right now where they haven't been able to win the close games and we've been able to," Giants safety Julian Love said. "We know that this team is a good team and we can't take them for granted on what their record is because they are a tougher team than what their record shows."
The Giants simply find ways to win. Five of their seven victories have been by six points or fewer and the other two were by eight-point margins.
Campbell is confident the Lions are on the right track.
"I know how close we are, so winning helps everything and that gives everybody a pep in their step," he said. "You're able to recover just a little bit sooner, getting ready for the next opponent. But I'm not — nothing that we've done has surprised me to this point over these last two weeks. We've made more plays than the opponent to win the game and we didn't do things that ultimately cost us the game."
Along came Jones
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is having a career year. The fourth-year quarterback is 156 of 237 for 1,596 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions, the last one in Game 3. He has also run for three TDs and 387 yards, the second-highest rushing total on the team behind NFL leader Saquon Barkley's 931.
The Lions attempted to address a weakness at receiver in the offseason, signing D.J. Chark to a $10 million, one-year contract and trading up to draft Alabama's Jameson Williams at No. 12 overall. Chark returned to practice Wednesday, starting a comeback from an ankle injury that has kept him out of the lineup for nearly two months. Jameson isn't expected to make his debut until next month, returning from a knee injury in college football's championship game. Chark and third-year pro Quintez Cephus are on injured reserve. Josh Reynolds has missed two straight games with a back ailment and standout Amon-Ra St. Brown missed two games earlier this season with injuries.
Still, Detroit has made plays in the passing game with players such as Kalif Raymond and Tom Kennedy taking advantage of opportunities they would not have had if the team's top receivers were healthy.
The Giants had 47 rushing plays and gained 191 yards in last week's win over the Houston Texans, who have the NFL's worst run defense.
Don't be surprised if they roll out the same package against the Lions. Detroit has the second-worst run defense, allowing 160.9 yards.
New York employed a hurry-up offense most of the game, and it used a jumbo package in third-and-short situations, bringing in three extra linemen: Nick Gates, Matt Peart and Jack Anderson.
Barkley had a career-high 35 carries for 152 yards and a TD.
Motor City Dan
Detroit is coming off its first road win in two seasons under Campbell, and its first two-game winning streak. Campbell insisted he never lost confidence in himself or the team during a five-game losing streak this season that dropped him to 4-19-1 with the Lions.
Daboll isn't surprised. He interviewed Campbell for a job in Miami in 2011 at the request of then-coach Tony Sparano, and the first impression was great.
"He's slamming chairs on the ground and hitting walls and going through all these drills," Daboll recalled. "You guys know him: He's a fantastic person, great family. It was an entertaining interview."
Campbell got the job, showed up for work at 5:30 a.m. and went to the gym.
When the Giants signed former Lions WR Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million contract in the spring of 2019, they were expecting big things.
This would be the 29-year-old's first game against his former teammates. It will be interesting to see if he plays. He has two catches for 22 yards and no touchdowns this season, and 39 overall and no TDs as a Giant.
Golladay was benched in the second half last week. He was listed on the injury report with a hamstring problem.