Schwartz left with a loss and a bang, cursing out fans who booed his decision to take a knee at the end of regulation. A lot has changed since then. The Lions fired the fiery Schwartz and replaced him with the stoic Jim Caldwell. The Giants changed offensive coordinators in hopes of having Eli Manning rediscover his form of prior to 2013.
So there are questions on each side about how these teams will perform. Giants NFL Nation reporter Dan Graziano and Lions NFL Nation reporter Michael Rothstein try to sift through how "Monday Night Football" will go down.
Rothstein: Dan, it wasn't too long ago these teams played. Manning was in the midst of a rough season. Should the Lions expect more of that Manning or the Manning of years past?
Graziano: It's going to be a different Eli Manning this year. We're just not sure yet whether it's going to be a good one or a bad one. The Giants switched offensive coordinators, bringing in 37-year-old Ben McAdoo from Green Bay to replace Kevin Gilbride. McAdoo, who'd never called plays before this preseason or been a coordinator at any level, has installed a West Coast-style system that will ask Manning to shorten his drops and operate the passing game closer to the line of scrimmage. Manning has had a lot to work on this offseason in terms of footwork and timing, and the growing pains were on display for all to see in the preseason. But I still think Manning can operate the new scheme and that the greater concerns are with the group around him. I don't think they have enough at wide receiver and tight end to really allow him to be super-productive. And the offensive line, which was the major problem last season, still looks shaky. They have three new faces at the interior line positions to take on Ndamukong Suh & Co. in the opener. Are Giants fans right to be worried about what that Detroit defensive line can do to the Giants' pass protectors?
Rothstein: They should be, Dan, especially if what I read about a juggling offensive line during the preseason is still accurate. Suh and Nick Fairley are in contract years and both are probably playing with something to prove. Ezekiel Ansah hasn't gotten much time during the preseason, but the Lions should be unleashing him fully now that games actually matter. The wrinkle here is Detroit is going to blitz more than it did last season. This potentially means the line will have to worry about DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch rushing from time to time as well. That could lead to more single coverage for Suh, who could be dominant in that setting. Since we're talking defense, the Giants' secondary did a pretty good job on Matthew Stafford and the offense last season. With Detroit adding Golden Tate and Eric Ebron in the offseason, do the Giants have enough in the secondary to handle the multitude of options Stafford has?
Graziano: Oh, they'd better, since that's where they beefed up the most in the offseason. They added Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman at cornerback, and they still have Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride, who were their starters at corner last December. The Giants believe they have enough at corner to play dominant defense in the secondary. My question is whether they have enough up front to generate that old-fashioned dominant Giants pass rush. Jason Pierre-Paul, who has two sacks in the Giants' past 23 games but says he's healthy for the first time since October 2012, is the key. But they didn't really replace 2013 sack leader Justin Tuck, who had 11 and is now with the Raiders. Questions for them up front. Where they're weak, the Lions are strong. Are the Lions weak on the back end still, or has there been improvement there?
Rothstein: The secondary is definitely a weakness for the Lions at this point. They didn't do much to improve there this offseason, using a fourth-rounder on developmental corner Nevin Lawson and replacing Louis Delmas with free-agent signing James Ihedigbo. They are also going to rely on second-year pro Darius Slay to start now after a shaky rookie season. In other words, there are still major questions there, and if the Lions have to dip beyond their starters, they are in trouble. The Lions hope the improved pass rush and blitzing gives opposing quarterbacks less time to throw the ball, so that should mask some holes in the secondary. For what it's worth, Glover Quin is a fantastic player at safety and turned into their best 2013 free-agent signing (in a class with Reggie Bush) but he would benefit from being surrounded by more. Speaking of weaknesses, is the Giants' receiver corps still Victor Cruz and a bunch of question marks?
Graziano: It sure is. Frustrating for them, since they drafted Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round with the hope that he'd make an immediate impact, but he hasn't practiced since July 22 due to a hamstring injury. So it's Cruz in the slot, the perpetually confused Rueben Randle on the outside and Jerrel Jernigan in the other outside spot in place of Beckham. Jernigan was playing quite well last December in Cruz's place when the Giants showed up in Detroit, so maybe that means he has a big game just because of the fond memories. But he's struggled a lot in camp and in the preseason and doesn't seem to be a good fit on the outside. The problem is that all they have behind him is journeyman Preston Parker, who made the team because the other punt returners were hurt, and undrafted rookie Corey Washington. Also, the Giants have absolutely nothing at tight end. I would say that if you can get Cruz and Randle covered, you can shut down the Giants' passing offense, at least early this season. They will try to run the ball with Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams and play good defense, and hope to win some close, low-scoring games while they work out the kinks (and the injuries) in the passing game. This offense is a work in progress, and they know it.
The Lions, meanwhile, are talking Super Bowl, right? Is Calvin Johnson feeling that good? Scary thought, if he is.
Rothstein: Yep, the Lions are talking Super Bowl -- and winning the NFC North. Interesting talk, of course, because Detroit has never made the Super Bowl and has yet to win the NFC North with its current grouping of teams. But, hey, everyone's happy about themselves in the preseason, right? Johnson is right, though, in that this particular collection of talent is probably his best shot to make a deep playoff run during his time with the Lions. Understand that's not too heavy of a statement considering he went 0-16 in his second year and had to rebuild from that. Offensively, they might be one of the most gifted teams in the league. Defensively, we've covered those questions. Coaching -- that's a big question mark to me. Jim Caldwell has not done much as a head coach when he hasn't coached Peyton Manning, and both offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin are first-time NFL coordinators. If -- and this is a big if -- they are able to get the most out of this group, the playoffs are a real possibility. My 8-8 prediction tells you what I think the odds are of that happening.