Here's what we learned ...
- Eli Manning is officially the one gear in this machine that isn't operating at full speed. The Giants' were gifted a knockout-blow touchdown in the fourth quarter thanks to an unbelievable individual effort by Odell Beckham, who outstretched his non-dominant left hand and hauled in a pass before slipping just inside the pylon. The Giants will take it. Their defense has come together beautifully and it might be the single most dominant unit in football heading into the final two weeks of the season. Should Manning, who still managed over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception, find his form from last year, this is without a doubt a serious Super Bowl contender.
- The Lions had the chance to clinch a division title on Sunday and even though that didn't happen, they did show that they aren't afraid to let quarterback Matthew Stafford rip with the injury to his middle finger. Stafford attempted 39 passes and logged 273 yards (zero touchdowns and a late interception). It wasn't a stellar performance but, more importantly, he did not appear limited significantly. Detroit (9-5) now heads to Dallas for a stellar Monday Night Football matchup that could paint the complete divisional picture a week from now.
- We can fool ourselves into thinking it doesn't happen, but there are players who check out at this time of year and start making vacation plans. I don't think any of us could blame them. And then there are moments like the second quarter of Sunday's Giants-Lions game where Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie chases down a wide open Golden Tate and saves a touchdown. On the following play, the Giants forced a fumble and got the ball back. This game was full of smart, passionate football. Giants special teams ace Dwayne Harris comes to mind after hustling down field to block a Lions gunner from pinning the Giants too deep. Also, we think of Lions receiver and return man Andre Roberts, who had the wherewithal to place his foot out of bounds and grab the second half kickoff, resulting in a kick out of bounds instead of a bungled return that would have forced the Lions inside their own 20. That is high-level thinking at a fast pace in the middle of your biggest game of the season.
- Both Janoris Jenkins (Giants) and Darius Slay (Lions) were injured in this game and did not come back. Should these injuries become serious (Around The NFL will have rolling updates all evening), they will have major ramifications down the stretch. Jenkins has arguably been the best cover corner in football this season and allows the Giants to station their defensive backfield exactly how they want. Jenkins' play has elevated rookie Eli Apple and allowed Rodgers-Cromartie (who had a fantastic late-game interception) to play without too much responsibility.
- While this isn't news to the Lions -- and it's much easier said than done against the Giants -- developing a running game is imperative down the stretch. With the division still very much in question and their schedule getting harder, Stafford won't be able to shoulder the burden he attempted to on Sunday. Dwayne Washington led all rushers with 31 yards on 14 carries. Stafford (two carries, 13 yards) was second best.