Who could have predicted that the lowly Detroit Lions and their fans would play a crucial part in the New York Giants quest to make the playoffs? The Giants will play the Minnesota Vikings Monday night at Ford Field in the Motor City, after spending Saturday night in Kansas City, because a snow storm collapsed the roof at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. To the Giants benefit, a road game will now be played at a relatively neutral site.
The Giants spent Saturday night hanging out and wondering, and not knowing, when the game would be played. Where was never in the equation. Now it is the Vikings who are scrambling to the airport.
In what looked like a lost and frustrating weekend for the New York Giants, Mother Nature's fury has turned their misfortunes into a slight advantage. Even the oddsmakers have noticed. The Giants opened as 1-point favorites against the Minnesota Vikings, then the number shifted to 2 1/2 points when bettors went all in on the Giants then, after the game was moved to Detroit, the Vegas odds jumped to 4 points.
Going to Detroit gives the Giants a three-fold boost to the playoffs, which they didn't have two days ago, and the team can quietly thank the Lions.
The Giants (8-4) are still trying to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) in a tough NFC East Division title battle while hanging with the New Orleans Saints (10-3), Green Bay Packers (8-5) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) for a wild card spot. Any strategic advantage for the Giants after this weekend's conundrum is a bonus down the stretch.
After the Metrodome's roof ripped open and dumped a couple of tons of snow onto the field, Giants owner, John Mara, suggested moving the game to his home field, the New Meadowlands Stadium, but the idea was immediately shot down by the NFL. Hey, the New Orleans Saints played a "home" game there after Hurricane Katrina closed down the Superdome in 2005.
First blessing, the new locale takes away the home field advantage for the Vikings. Playing the game in what the NFL is calling a "neutral" site is misleading. Ford Field will be filled with as many anti-Viking fans, rooting against their inter-divisional rivals, as Giant fans. It gives the Giants a slight "home" field edge. However slight, it sure beats the high-decibel roar the home town fans would rein on the visitors in the Minneapolis Thunderdome. Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, was poised and handled the noise factor in a rout against the Seattle Seahawks inside Qwest Field--arguably the league's loudest venue--a few weeks ago but, when the decibel level rises so does his interception rate. The less hostile surroundings should help keep Eli from getting rattled.
Second, the Giants must tip their helmets to a Detroit Lions team which held on to defeat the Packers yesterday at Ford Field. The shocking upset gives the Giants a half game lead on the Pack and, in the course of the game, Detroit managed to lay out Green Bay's star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, with a concussion.
This lends itself to the third--injuries are part of the game--benefit of the Detroit Lions factor in the Giants good fortune. Rodger's head injury is his second of the season and there is concern he may not be cleared to play when the Giants visit Green Bay in two weeks. This leaves open the possibility of the ineffective backup, Matt Flynn, facing the Giants defense in a typical December-chilled Lambeau Field in what will probably be a game with playoff spot implications for both teams. The Giants D is already looking ahead.
The Giants arrived in Detroit yesterday at 3 p.m. Oddly, there could be as many fans for tonight's 7:20 EST game for two visiting teams as there are for the barely watchable, but improving Lions. Free general admission tickets will be available at the Ford Field box office beginning this morning. The game will be broadcast by Fox in the New York and Minnesota markets.
It all remains to be seen how the Giants respond to this adventure. Next week they play their division rival the Eagles in the Meadowlands, but the shortened and disruptive week could take it's toll. In a week that started with the Giants generously offer their practice field to a visiting Miami Dolphins team, it has ended with the Detroit Lions returning the favor. One good deed returned in triplicate. Merry Christmas from Detroit.