A lot has been made about this divisional round matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. Despite the Packers being nine-point favorites at home, many people are picking the Giants to pull off the upset this weekend.
One thing that I've noticed while listening to analysts talk in favor of the Giants is that most of their arguments don't acknowledge the fact that the Packers were better this season at doing the things that the critics say the Giants have the advantage.
There are also a lot of comparisons between this Giants team and the '07 team that won the Super Bowl. Whatever the argument is in favor of the Giants, you can pretty much counter.
Now of course the Giants can certainly win this game, but using the argument that any team can win on any given Sunday isn't really the most sound argument. After all, the Saints did lose to the Rams this season, but no one could have gone out there and made a logical case for the Rams being the better team heading into that game. So as far as looking at this matchup goes, I'm going to stick to stats to back up my arguments.
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts on this showdown.
So much of the talk made about the Packers weaknesses has been about their defense. Green Bay gave up the most yards in the entire league this season and rightfully deserve the criticism for it.
However, it shouldn't been viewed as such a disadvantage against the Giants.
After all, the Giants defense gave up 2.6 points per game more than the Packers defense did. So despite all of the problems Green Bay had on defense this season, New York actually allowed more points.
The Giants did have one of their best defensive performances last week against Atlanta, when they shut out the Falcons, who got only a safety on the scoreboard. Despite that performance, the Giants are going to have to step up their game even more to slow down a Packers offense that scored 35 points per game, the second most in NFL history.
The Packers finished this season with a league-high 31 interceptions on defense compared to throwing only eight on offense (six from Aaron Rodgers, two from Matt Flynn).
Giants quarterback Eli Manning had 20 total turnovers this season, and in what is expected to be a very frigid Lambeau Field, you can expect that there is a decent chance he could turn the ball over at least once.
Of course the weather will affect both quarterbacks, but I'd still have to give Rodgers a huge edge in this aspect of the game.
The Packers will go into this game missing only one starter from their opening day lineup. That player is free safety Nick Collins, whom the Packers have been without since he injured his neck in Week 2.
The offense will have a healthy Greg Jennings back in to give the already dominant passing attack a scary boost. James Starks will also be back to help balance out the rushing attack and take some pressure off of Aaron Rodgers.
The biggest addition should come on the offensive line, which will get Chad Clifton back at left tackle. Ever since Clifton went down with a hamstring injury in Week 5, the Packers have struggled with pass protection at the left tackle position.
Replacement Marshall Newhouse allowed 11.5 sacks in his absence, by far the most on the team. The other injury fill-ins, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Derek Sherrod, allowed six sacks in their limited playing time. In comparison, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga allowed only five sacks between the three of them the entire season.
I think it's safe to say that the Packers, come Sunday, will be as close to 100 percent as any team can possibly be at this point in the season.
Despite how well Eli Manning has played this season, the Packers still have a big advantage in this game at the quarterback position.
Rodgers finished the 2011 regular season with the highest QB rating in NFL history at 122.5, as well as elevating his career QB rating (also the highest in NFL history) to 104.1. To put that into perspective, no other quarterback even has a career rating over 97.
Not to focus on QB rating too much, but he also has the highest postseason mark ever with a career playoff QB rating of 112.6, the next closest being former Packer Bart Starr at 104.8.
This season, Rodgers has been responsible for 48 total touchdowns and only six turnovers. Expect his stellar play to continue against the Giants this weekend.
Now I know that the last time these two teams met in Green Bay for a playoff game, the Giants won, but understand that these are not the same teams as in '07.
Sure there are a lot of similarities and with some of the same players on each team, but the best player in the entire matchup was watching from the sidelines as Brett Favre choked away the game in overtime. The Packers play great at home; they haven't lost in Green Bay since Week 6 of last season.
The road to Indy for the NFC goes through Green Bay, and the Packers aren't going to let anyone beat them in the frozen tundra. You can count on that.