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Monday Night Preview: Will the New York Giants Bounce Back at Home?

Eli Manning needs to improve in order for the New York Giants to best a surprisingly effective Detroit Lions defense.

This week's Monday Night Football matchup features the Detroit Lions traveling to take on the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. And if we take a look at how each team fared in Week 1, the season couldn't have started more differently for them.

Down 17-15 going into the fourth quarter, the Lions managed to roar past the Arizona Cardinals for a comeback win of 35-23. However, the Giants imploded during their 19-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys

The Lions, per our team rankings, which are based off our nERD metric, are the NFL's 22nd-best squad, while the Giants come in just ahead of them at 20th.

Let's take a look at some positional breakdowns and find out who has an edge in this matchup.

Quarterback Breakdown

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford lit up the Cardinals defense for 292 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air in Week 1.

Among quarterbacks with 200 drop backs in 2016, Stafford ranked 10th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back with 0.18. In terms of Passing Success Rate -- which is the number of drop backs that resulted in a positive NEP -- he ranked 14th with a mark of 48.97%.

As we already alluded to, Eli Manning disappointed in Week 1, finishing with just 220 yards and no touchdowns. If we once again look at NEP to evaluate recent performance, Manning finished well below Stafford with a 0.06 Passing NEP per drop back (0.23 was the league average). That number ranked 24th out of 34 qualified signal-callers, and his 44.91% Success Rate was more of the same story (that also ranked 24th).

Running Back Breakdown

The Lions' running back situation has been muddled for the last few years, and the first game of 2017 proved much the same -- Ameer Abdullah played 36 snaps, Theo Riddick played 21, and Dwayne Washington played 14.

Adbullah may have paced the backfield in snaps, but he performed poorly. The rusher carried the ball 15 times, but only accounted for 30 yards on the ground while adding 3 receptions for 11 more yards. He hasn't had meaningful snaps since 2015 (his rookie season), but his -0.03 Rushing NEP per attempt from that year was just about league average (-0.04).

Meanwhile, Riddick -- Detroit's passing-down back -- has a very defined role within this offense. He only carried the ball once last week, but caught 6 balls for 27 yards. It was more surprising to see Washington get a decent number of snaps. He not only stole six carries from Abdullah, but two of them came in the red zone. Abdullah did get four carries in the red zone himself, but this doesn't exactly simplify this situation for us very much, either.

When comparing snap counts for the Giants' backfield in Week 1, it looks similar to Detroit -- Shane Vereen played 31 snaps, Paul Perkins played 17, and Orleans Darkwa finished with 8. Falling behind early against Dallas, though, the passing-down specialist in Vereen dominated the playing time. However, it is worth noting that he didn't carry the ball once despite logging 9 receptions for 51 yards.

Perkins disappointed mightily in his opportunities to contribute, finishing with 7 attempts for just 17 yards. Darkwa collected just 3 carries for 14 yards, and it seems as though he'll only eat at the value of the other rushers in New York's backfield.

Defensive Matchup

As you can imagine, Detroit played much better than the Giants on the defensive side of the ball in Week 1, and the numbers back it up -- our schedule-adjusted per-play metrics rank the Lions 5th after their win over the Cardinals, while New York is just 24th.

In breaking down the Lions, their rush defense primarily excelled, ranking third in Adjusted Defense Rushing NEP per play, but they also finished eighth with regard to Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. And compared to their excellent 2016, the Giants played below expectation, finishing 25th in passing and 9th in rushing with regard to the same metrics.

Historical Comparisons

According to our models, there is one former contest that correlates 94.59% of the time. Coincidentally enough, it was between the Giants and Lions last year on December 18th.

The Giants were favored in this game and ended up covering the spread with a 17-6 win. The Lions struggled to move the ball and Manning only needed a modest performance to secure the win. He ended up passing for 201 yards and throwing a pair of touchdowns to Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham.

Game Projection

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