Giants vs. Packers: Who Has the Edge in Their Divisional Round Showdown?
The New York Giants have emerged as a Super Bowl contender in the NFL playoffs, but in order for the Giants to continue on their run, they must get past NFL Most Valuable Player candidate Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in their NFC divisional round matchup.
This task, of course, will not be an easy one.
The Green Bay Packers were the best team this season with a 15-1 win-loss record, including a 38-35 victory over the New York Giants in Week 13 at MetLife Stadium.
Now, the Giants must travel to Green Bay and play on the frozen tundra that is Lambeau Field. In the last two seasons, the Packers are 15-1 at home during the regular season. During the playoffs, the Packers are 13-3 all-time, though they have lost three of their last five—the last loss coming in the 2007 NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants.
This divisional round meeting has the makings of an exciting high-scoring affair between two of the NFL’s premier passing offenses. With the advancement of their playoff runs riding on this clash, who has the edge in every facet of the game?
Giants Passing Game vs. Packers Pass Defense
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When the New York Giants have needed a big win, their passing game has had the outstanding ability of always showing up.
In Week 13, Eli Manning passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers, but the Giants defense failed to keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers out of the end zone in the final minute of regulation and cost the Giants the game.
With the league’s worst pass defense, it’s unlikely the Packers will be able to stop Manning this time around either.
Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, Manning delivered in a big spot for the Giants. He passed for 277 yards and connected with his receivers for three touchdowns. In doing so, Manning made a statement: He’s not messing around this postseason.
With targets Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Jake Ballard, Manning should have no trouble ripping apart the Packers' pass defense. A costly mistake could be damaging, but Manning’s done a fantastic job avoiding such an event all season long and should be able to do it once again in Green Bay.
Giants Rushing Attack vs. Packers Run Defense
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The New York Giants desperately needed a run game all season. Finally, after a long disappointing regular season, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have become the rushers they were expected to be.
In the Giants’ 24-2 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants rushed the ball for 172 yards and averaged an astounding 5.5 yards per carry. Jacobs rushed harder than he’s rushed all season and did so with that classic attitude Giants fans have come to love him for.
Unfortunately, the Green Bay Packers' run defense appears to be a formidable one. On paper, at least.
The reality is that most of this season, opposing teams have been forced to play catch-up while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense lit up the scoreboard.
Opposing teams’ inability to stop Rodgers and the passing attack gave them no choice but to charge back with a passing attack of their own—those opposing teams failed on all but one account as a result.
While the Packers are 14th in rushing yards allowed, they were the seventh-worst defense in terms of yards per rush, surrendering an average of 4.7 yards per carry.
In their Week 13 meeting, the Giants rushed for five yards per carry against the Packers' run defense, aided by a returning Ahmad Bradshaw and the reemergence of Jacobs, who rushed for 59 yards on eight carries—good enough for 7.4 yards per carry.
Packers Passing Game vs. Giants Pass Defense
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There may have been no more relentless offensive attack in the NFL than that of the Green Bay Packers and their pass offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The NFL’s third-best passing attack assaulted opposing defenses throughout the regular season, including the New York Giants in Week 13.
In that Week 13 meeting, Rodgers passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns. His last-minute drive down the field devoured the Giants defense and left them in his dust as a walkoff field goal kept the then-undefeated Packers safe with a 38-35 victory.
The Giants defense was able to hold Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to 199 yards and not a single touchdown pass. Unfortunately, Matt Ryan is not the quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, nor is his offense the type of unyielding machine that the Packers' offense is.
The Giants were the fourth-worst pass defense in the NFL, and Rodgers will have no issues displaying why on Sunday.
Packers Rushing Attack vs. Giants Run Defense
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Once upon a time, you needed a run game to succeed in the NFL. Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers, that is no longer the case, as their Super Bowl victory last season proved.
Despite boasting the league’s 27th-ranked rushing attack, the Packers finished the regular season 15-1. They scored points at will and kept opposing defenses on their toes, even though it was quite easy to assume what was coming.
However, the forecast this weekend in Green Bay is calling for frigid weather in the low 20s, including a snowstorm on Saturday that could creep its way into Sunday if Mother Nature has a say in the matter.
In cold weather like that, it’s always nice to pound the ball and pummel the opposing defense some.
That’s unlikely though for the Packers, who must compete with a New York Giants run defense that held the NFL’s third-leading rusher, Michael Turner, to 41 yards on 15 carries.
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The New York Giants have little to brag about when it comes to the special teams game, sadly.
Their return game is hardly average, constantly shifting players out in hopes of some kind of spark, and kicker Lawrence Tynes is the least accurate kicker in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, boast one of the best special teams units in the league.
Return man Randall Cobb has the capabilities to break out a touchdown return on the drop of a dime, scoring on a kick return and punt return this season. He averaged 27.7 yards per kick return and 11.3 yards per punt return.
Kicker Mason Crosby made 24 of 28 field goals in the regular season, including the game-winner in Week 13 against the Giants. He was the fourth-ranked scorer in the NFL for the Packers with 140 points this season.
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In the first meeting between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, Tom Coughlin and Mike McCarthy’s coaching staffs matched each other punch-for-punch.
The showdown in The New Meadowlands was a one-sided offensive onslaught with both defensive coordinators unsure of how to slow the opposing offense down.
This time around, both teams hope to boast some better defense. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be any easier for either squad than it was the first time around.
Luckily, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and the Giants’ Perry Fewell are two of the better coordinators in the game. They have the ability and talent on their rosters to bring the pain on defense and shut the opposing offense down.
In Week 13, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was just as big a culprit for the Giants' final-minute loss to the Packers as the poor defensive showing the Giants displayed.
After Eli Manning and the Giants offense marched down the field, the Giants should have run the football on the goal line to take some time off the clock and limit the opportunities Aaron Rodgers would have to lead the Packers back.
Instead, Gilbride—in one of many play-calling blunders over the years for the five-year Giants offensive coordinator—decided to pass the ball on first and second down, with incompletions stopping the clock.
The Giants finally scored on 3rd-and-goal and tied the game on their successful two-point conversion, but they had run less than a minute off the game clock. Rodgers promptly made the Giants pay for that.
The Giants Will Win If...
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In order for the New York Giants to win and advance to the NFC Championship, they must stop Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers has the ability to dominate opposing defenses from start to finish, and the Giants defense was one that allowed nearly every opposing quarterback to pick it apart.
The Giants defense has been much improved in recent weeks, but it will need to improve even more to slow the Packers' aerial assault.
The pass rush is a big necessity for the Giants defense; otherwise, watch Rodgers post record numbers while he and Eli Manning go to war in hopes of a huge victory at Lambeau Field.
The Packers Will Win If...
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The Green Bay Packers have an edge because quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a knack for covering up all of the Packers' flaws outside of their passing game.
Unfortunately, the Packers are going to need more from their defense than they did during the regular season.
Eli Manning is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and he’s surrounded by a plethora of talent capable of having record-breaking days. The Packers must pressure Manning and force some turnovers to keep the G-Men off the scoreboard.
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The New York Giants have a very tough task ahead of them trying to defeat the Green Bay Packers at home, but they certainly have the capability to do so.
Their 38-35 loss to the Packers gave a boost to the Giants and helped them to win four of their last five games since.
With a rematch right on cue, the Giants must step up their game, focusing on what worked the first time and improving on the defensive side of the ball in order to defeat the NFL’s best team.
This rematch will definitely go down to the wire and could be decided by whoever has the ball last. The cold weather will be a minor factor, but it will almost certainly impact the final score.
In the end, Eli Manning pulls off the miracle and guides the Giants over the Packers at Lambeau Field once again.
Giants 27, Packers 23