The Detroit Lions and New York Giants couldn’t have had more opposite Week 1s. The Lions‘ passing offense looked explosive in a win over the Arizona Cardinals. The Giants‘ offense as a whole looked inept in a disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Here’s what we’re watching for when the two teams square off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday Night Football.
1. Can Odell Beckham Jr. revive the Giants‘ offense? With the star wideout sitting out because of an ankle injury last week, the Giants couldn’t move the ball at all on a Cowboys‘ defense that yielded 231 yards and four touchdowns to the Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian on Sunday evening. Quarterback Eli Manning threw for just 220 yards, no touchdowns and one interception in the season-opening loss to the ‘Boys, and New York’s leading wideout ended up being Roger Lewis, who gained just 54 yards on four catches. The Giants have to believe the loss of Beckham was the reason for the ineptitude. Beckham will play Monday. If he can’t be a force, or at least a player who defenses’ need to tilt attention toward, the Giants could be staring down an 0-2 start.
2. If Beckham can play effectively, the Giants still need better play out of their offensive line. Tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart struggled against Cowboys pass rushers, and the unit as a whole failed to make running lanes for Giants tailbacks. New York ran for just 2.9 yards per carry and gave up three sacks in the passing game. The Lions‘ front seven isn’t much more or less fierce than the Cowboys‘, so tonight’s game should be a good indicator to Big Blue if poor O-line play is going to be a season-long trend.
3. Matthew Stafford was brilliant in the Lions‘ season-opener, but at some point, the Lions wouldn’t mind giving him help in the form of a competent running game. Detroit wants Ameer Abdullah to be the feature back, giving him 15 carries to Dwayne Washington‘s six against the Cardinals. Yet Abdullah logged just 30 yards with those touches. Stafford has done a good job maneuvering the Lions to wins despite the lack of a running game. Seeing if Detroit can find one — whether that’s with Abdullah, Washington or Theo Riddick getting the carries — will be interesting to watch, particularly against a Giants defense with one of the top run defenders in the league in defensive lineman Damon Harrison.
4. The Giants will be looking to find their bellcow as well. Paul Perkins drew a lot of offseason chatter, but that’s fizzled after an average preseason and a season-opener in which he logged just 16 yards on seven carries. Backup Orleans Darkwa fared a little better against the Cowboys, recording 14 yards on three touches. Though New York is certainly going to be looking for more tonight.
5. It didn’t take long for Kenny Golladay to have his breakout game. The Lions rookie wideout scored two touchdowns and added 69 yards on four catches last week. Golden Tate has carved out a niche as Stafford’s No. 1 target, but the No. 2 spot looks to be up for grabs. Neither Marvin Jones nor T.J. Jones, who combined to catch four balls for 69 yards and a touchdown last week, provides the big-play ability that the 6-foot-4, 213-pound Golladay does. Can he repeat the performance against a Giants secondary with more weapons than the Cardinals‘?