I'm not hearing anyone complain about the NFL's TV ratings of lack of quality play at this point. There has been some really intriguing football played for the past few weeks, and that should continue in Week 15. It was an easy call for me to examine Sunday's Detroit at New York Giants game with both clubs at 9-4.
The Lions' Jim Caldwell entered the season as one of the betting favorites to be the first coach fired because he nearly was after 2015. But the best move Caldwell ever did was to fire offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi during last season and promote quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter. The work Cooter has done with QB Matthew Stafford since then -- and remember that Stafford lost future Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson to retirement this offseason -- has been so spectacular that Cooter is considered a head-coaching candidate around the league even though he's only 32.
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Detroit hasn't won a division title since 1993 and has made the playoffs just twice this decade but would take the NFC North with a win and Packers loss in Chicago (doubtful) OR a tie and Packers loss and Vikings loss or tie vs. Indianapolis. Thus, in my opinion, the Lions will have to wait at least a week. They currently hold the No. 2 seed in the NFC. But the remaining schedule is really tough: at Dallas and home to Green Bay. If I'm the Lions, I'm praying the Cowboys clinch the top seed in the NFC this week and have zip to play for next week.
Meanwhile, the Giants pushed out Tom Coughlin last offseason after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year. They promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo because of his work with Eli Manning. So far so good with New York set to clinch a playoff berth with a win plus all of the following: Redskins loss, Vikings loss or tie and Packers loss or tie. So that's not likely. New York still has an outside shot at the NFC East title, but the Cowboys would take that with a Sunday night win over Tampa Bay if New York loses this.
But it's quite possible we could see a Giants at Lions wild-card round playoff game. That's what it would be if the postseason began today.
Lions at Giants Betting Story Lines
After last season, the Tampa Bay Bucs were so high on their offensive coordinator who was going to be in demand for some head coaching jobs that they fired Coach Lovie Smith and promoted that coordinator, Dirk Koetter. Might the Lions do the same thing to keep Cooter? Stafford has by some metrics been the NFL's best quarterback under good 'ol Jim Bob. Last week against Chicago, Stafford scored the winning touchdown on a 7-yard run with 3:17 left in the 20-17 victory. It was Stafford's NFL single-season record eighth winning fourth-quarter (or overtime) drive this year. Detroit's eight wins after trailing in the fourth quarter are also a league record.
However, I'd be a bit worried about Stafford going forward. He actually wasn't all that sharp against the Bears in throwing for 223 yards, a TD and two picks. That's likely because during the game he dislocated and tore ligaments in the middle finger of his throwing hand. Go try and throw a football without using your middle finger. Stafford will keep playing with a glove on, but that's going to be a problem -- especially, one would think, in chilly cold-weather games with potential precipitation like this one.
As for the Giants, they improved to 2-0 against Dallas this year with a terrific defensive effort in last Sunday night's 10-7 mini-upset. New York made Cowboys QB Dak Prescott look very much like a rookie and held the Cowboys to season lows in points and yards (260). Dez Bryant was a total non-factor with one catch. Even after losing top pass-rushing lineman Jason Pierre-Paul to season-ending sports hernia surgery, that defense was able to get pressure on Prescott.
While McAdoo was promoted because of his offensive work, that unit has underachieved. Manning has been held under 200 yards passing three games in a row. New York averages just 19.6 points, way down from last year. But the defense is leaps and bounds improved after a free-agent spending spree on that side of the ball. It is allowing 18.8 points per game, seventh in the NFL.
Lions at Giants Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New York is a 4.5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 41.5. On the moneyline, the Giants are -225 and Lions +185. On the alternate lines, the Giants are -5 (-105) and -4 (-118). Detroit is 8-5 against the spread (3-3 on road) and 4-9 "over/under" (2-4 on road). Big Blue is 7-5-1 ATS (4-3 at home) and 3-10 O/U (3-4 at home).
The Lions are 6-1 ATS in their past seven vs. the NFC and 5-1 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning record. The Giants are 5-0 ATS in their past five at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The under is 7-0 in Detroit's past seven. It's 5-0 in New York's past five. The road team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Lions at Giants Betting Prediction
First meeting between the teams since Week 1 of 2014, a 35-14 Lions home win. Manning threw for only 163 yards and was picked off twice. Stafford threw for 346 and two TDs, both to "Megatron."
It looks to be a bit messy weather-wise in East Rutherford, which should make this interesting because neither team can run the ball, Stafford is hurting and Manning is struggling. But I have to lean the Giants here because they are home and they have the best offensive playmaker on the field and probably the NFL in receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He scored the Giants' only TD vs. Dallas, a short pass he took 61 yards to the house. Beckham already has nine career touchdown catches of at least 60 yards, the second-most by a player in his first three seasons in the league (Harlon Hill 10 from 1954-56). So give the points and go under the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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