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Lions At Giants: When Detroit Has The Ball

(sports Network) - Matt tafford may be the Lions’ quarterback of the future, but the team hasn’t fared badly with Shaun Hill (1218 passing yards, 8 TD, 7 INT) at the controls in the present. The well-traveled backup has averaged over 280 passing yards and thrown for eight touchdowns in his four starts directing an offense that comes in sixth in the NFL in yards gained through the air. Calvin Johnson (24 receptions, 4 TD) is the unquestioned No. 1 target whose commanding presence helps to free up the rest of the receiving corps, but Detroit won’t exactly be up the creek if the imposing wideout isn’t able to go on Sunday. Veteran counterpart Nate Burleson (6 receptions, 1 TD) is now mostly healthy after missing a pair of games with a sprained ankle and had four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew (26 receptions, 1 TD) and Tony Scheffler (24 receptions, 1 TD) are both capable pass catchers who must be accounted for, and rookie running back Jahvid Best (241 rushing yards, 25 receptions, 5 total TD) has shown to be extremely dangerous as a receiver in open space. The speedy youngster hasn’t been as effective running the football, averaging a pedestrian 3.5 yards per rush attempt thus far, and the Lions are putting up just 82 yards per game on the ground (27th overall). The front line has done a solid job in protection, though, having surrendered sacks on less than four percent of the club’s pass plays, the fourth-best mark in the league.

Detroit will need to mount at least a semblance of a running game on Sunday to prevent the Giants from teeing off on Hill with their relentless pass rush. New York has been able to terrorize enemy quarterbacks even with steady end Mathias Kiwanuka (11 tackles, 4 sacks) sidelined indefinitely with a neck problem, as fellow linemen Osi Umenyiora (13 tackles, 6 sacks) and Justin Tuck (32 tackles, 4 sacks) have each raised their games a notch over the past two weeks. Umenyiora has notched five sacks and forced four fumbles during that time span, with Tuck recording four sacks in addition to helping anchor a run defense that ranks ninth in the NFL (98.6 ypg). The Giants have been even better against the pass, having permitted a league-best 146 yards per game through the air and a 55 percent completion rate. Safeties Antrel Rolle (31 tackles), signed as a free agent in the offseason, and Kenny Phillips (25 tackles, 1 INT), who missed most of last year with a knee injury, have both been difference-makers in a secondary that’s been terrific at eliminating the big play.