By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce
Green Bay is in the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year despite the roller coaster ride of a season. Winners of their last six the Packers welcome a familiar nemesis to Lambeau on Sunday afternoon.
PACKERS 24 GIANTS 17
The table has been ran and immortalized in song. The Packers, once looking defeated and uninspired, are perhaps the hottest team in the NFL right now. They do not get an easy task though as the 11-5 Giants present some challenges.
The clear reason the Giants have won as many games as they have is their defense. They rank near the top of the league on run defense and have forced 17 interceptions. The Giants brought in some high priced free agents this past offseason that have helped them and have also had some young players such as Landon Collins step up. The Packers offense will be challenged, but the way Aaron Rodgers is playing it’s almost impossible to think he won’t deliver in this game.
Eli Manning has had a bad season by all statistical accounts and the Giants have lacked a running game most of the year. They do have Odell Beckham Jr. though, and he is a threat to take one to the house at any time. Dom Capers no doubt is aware of this and I imagine will have a lot of help sent to whichever side Beckham lines up on. The Packers secondary is hurting, but I think the Packers front seven can wreak enough havoc on the Giants underwhelming line to force Eli into bad throws. As long as Beckham doesn’t turn in an all world performance the defense will hold up against the Giants.
A close, tough game is likely in order but I will take the home team here. Packers punch their ticket to the second round.
PACKERS 31 GIANTS 20
The New York Giants will be coming into Green Bay without their best pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. This is a huge loss for New York and will allow for Green Bay to focus on their other pass rushing threat in Olivier Vernon. If Green Bay’s offensive line can give Rodgers even an extra second (which they have all year) he should be able to pick apart the Giants’ secondary even with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suiting up (did not play in Week 5 match).
Playoff games are a perfect environment for players to prove their worth. This is why I think cornerback Ladarius Gunter will step up today and show that he belongs on this Packers’ roster by doing some work and containing Odell Beckham. He will obviously have safety help in Haha Clinton-Dix and I think the Packers have somewhat of a blueprint on how to keep him under their thumb today.
With the temps being so low, we should see a steady diet of run plays to start the game. I would imagine McCarthy will call this game pretty conservatively in hopes of wearing the defense down as well as giving Rodgers adequate play-action opportunities. Jared Cook did not play in the week five match-up against the Giants and will give us a huge option as far as disrupting the secondary. The Giants will do their best to take away Jordy Nelson, so it is of paramount importance for Cook, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison to find some separation.
I have the Packers staying in control of this game, with the Giants making a push late. Ultimately Aaron Rodgers will be just too much for the Giants and Eli Manning will not have a good enough game to doom Green Bay yet again in the playoffs.
PACKERS 24 GIANTS 20
More times than not good defense comes out on top of good offense by the time that the NFL Playoffs arrive. However, I have a feeling this game will be the exception. We’ve heard all week how great the Giants defense is and the feared NYPD secondary. And while I do believe the Giants possess an above average defense, the Packers’ offense, led by red hot Aaron Rodgers, is simply playing at another level. While Eli Manning has well known playoff success at Lambeau Field, that was when he was a much younger player. Manning is simply too inconsistent with ball placement to trust and I expect the Packers’ defense to be in his face at times especially while going up against an offensive line starting Marshall Newhouse at tackle. Packers’ fans know all too well about him. This is a must win match-up for the likes of Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, and Nick Perry.
While much has been written about how the Packers’ lucked out in the first Giants match-up not having to face a healthy Dominique Rodger-Cromartie and rookie Eli Apple, not enough has been said about how much of an impact the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul will make and how dynamic the Packers’ offense has become since the addition of a healthy Jared Cook at tight end and the full time switch of Ty Montgomery to RB. Neither of these elements were present in the first meeting. And while the Giants struggled to get after Rodgers in the first game with their pass rush, they might struggle even more without the services of Pierre-Paul. Bottom line is no matter how great of coverage you have, if the offensive line gives Rodgers ample time to survey the field as I suspect, he will make enough big plays with his arm and legs to pull this one out.