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Lions vs. Giants preview: Don't force Stafford's hand

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Matthew Stafford

James Hawkins breaks down Sunday's Lions-Giants game at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m., Fox/WJR).

Giants to watch

Odell Beckham Jr., WR: Despite averaging career-lows in catch percentage (59 percent) and receiving yards (85.3), the third-year pro ranks among NFL leaders in receptions (79, t4th), receiving yards (1,130, 4th), TDs (nine, t4th), and catches of at least 20 yards (15, 7th) and 40 yards (six, 1st).

Eli Manning, QB: The two-time Super Bowl champ hasn’t posted eye-popping numbers, but has been able to do just enough, completing 62.9 percent of his passes for 3,290 yards, 23 TDs and 13 INTs. He’s been effective the past six games, throwing 15 TDs.

Landon Collins, SS: He has emerged as a star in the secondary and has become a valuable piece of the defense. Collins, in his second year, leads the team with 100 tackles and 13 passes defended, and is tied for second in the league with five INTs, including one returned for a TD. He also has three sacks and a fumble recovery.

Intangibles

Stafford’s hand: After injuring the middle finger on his throwing hand, Lions QB Matthew Stafford is mulling whether to wear a glove and may have to battle the elements at MetLife Stadium. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of precipitation, winds reaching 15 mph and temperatures in the mid- to low-50s.

Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Giants

Ground game wanted: With QB Matthew Stafford nursing an injured finger, the Lions need to effectively run the ball. Detroit rushed for 114 yards last week — the first time it topped 100 yards since Week 2 — but finished with a banged-up backfield (rookie Dwayne Washington, ankle; Zach Zenner, concussion; Theo Riddick, wrist). That leaves Joique Bell as the only healthy back.

Playoff picture: By beating the Bears last week, the Lions maintained their lead atop the NFC North and jumped the Seahawks for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Detroit controls its destiny for a first-round bye but will have its work cut out with three games against playoff contenders (at N.Y. Giants, at Dallas, vs. Green Bay).

Streaky matchup: If there’s any team playing as well as the Lions, it’s the Giants. Detroit has won eight of its last nine games — the sixth time that’s been done in a season in franchise history (1995, 1962, 1954, 1934 and 1931) — and is riding a five-game winning streak. The Giants have won seven of eight, including five straight at home, and are coming off a huge victory over the NFC East-leading Cowboys.

Levy’s return: LB DeAndre Levy was back on the field for the first time since Week 1 and eased into the lineup, playing 18 snaps last week. With another week of practice, Levy could see an increased workload, which is welcomed news and an immediate boost for the defense.

Facts and figures

■ Per makenflplayoffs.com, the Lions have a 90.4 percent chance of making the playoffs and an 83.7 percent chance of winning the NFC North.

■ Eight of the Giants nine wins have been by seven points or less.

■ Since Week 7, the Lions have allowed 16.4 points per game. They’ve held opponents to 20 points or less in seven straight games in a season for the first time since 1961 (Weeks 5-13).

■ The Giants have surrendered only four fourth-quarter TDs.

■ Matthew Stafford recorded his eighth game-winning fourth-quarter or overtime drive this season last week against the Bears, the most by a QB in a single season since the 1970 merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

■ The Lions are the only team in the league to have five players with at least 40 receptions in WRs Golden Tate (71 catches), Anquan Boldin (55) and Marvin Jones (46), RB Theo Riddick (53) and TE Eric Ebron (43).

■ WR Anquan Boldin surpassed Andre Johnson (1,062) for 10th place on the NFL’s all-time career receptions list. Boldin, a 14-year veteran, has 1,064 catches in 199 career games.

■ For the second time in three seasons, Detroit has won nine of its first 13 games under Jim Caldwell. He joined Buddy Parker (10 in 1952, nine in 1953) as the only coaches in franchise history to accomplish the feat.