It's the divisional round of the playoffs and the Green Bay Packers host the New York Giants at Lambeau Field Sunday at 4:30. These teams are almost evenly matched with the Packers having an advantage being at home.
The Giants defense just pitched a shutout against the usually explosive Falcons offense last week. The defensive line looks intimidating. The offense looks scary and they have a lot of confidence. The Packers have already beaten them this year, but the Giants won the 2008 NFC Championship Game at Lambeau.
Both teams are confident. Can they pull off the upset? Here is a position by position preview of the game and a final prediction at the end.
Aaron Rodgers had an MVP season, but Eli Manning wasn't far behind. Rodgers passed for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns. Manning threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns. Both these elite quarterbacks had great years.
Rodgers has the slight edge because of his mobility and ability to throw outside the pocket. This is the first ever meeting between two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks. Eli has also won in Lambeau Field in 2008. This is Rodgers' first-ever home playoff game.
The Giants have a big advantage running the ball with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs put up 92 rushing yards last week and Bradshaw rushed for 63. If they can get a running game going, they will be tough to stop.
The Packers have Ryan Grant and James Starks. Starks had a nice playoff run last year, but fought nagging injuries this season and hasn't been the same. Luckily they now have a healthy Grant back for the playoffs. In Week 17, Grant ran for 48 yards and caught an 80-yard touchdown. Both teams need to run the ball in order to keep the other offense off the field.
Both teams have elite receiving cores, but the Packers have more depth. Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings had Pro Bowl seasons as did Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Cruz was third in the NFL in receiving yards and Nelson was ninth.
Jennings is coming back from a knee injury that has sidelined him since Week 14. A healthy Jermichael Finley gives the Packers the edge since he is almost like a wide-receiver himself. James Jones, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb are also tough to stop.
The Giants also have Mario Manningham and tight end Jake Ballard. Both passing attacks are explosive and there will be fireworks Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Both offensive lines have been dealing with injuries all season. The Packers are getting a healthy Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga back while the Giants are as healthy as ever at the line.
The Giants' line just put on a clinic against the Falcons and did not let Manning get touched in the second half. Their center, David Baas, is back to full health.
We shall see if there is any rust shown by Bulaga and Clifton, but there are no major concerns on either line. The Giants' pass-rush is scary, but if the offensive line can do their job then the Packers should be fine.
This is where the Giants have the biggest advantage. Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are all athletic pass-rushers. Defensive tackles Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Rocky Benard also give the line depth and size. This unit combined for 48 sacks.
The Packers' defensive-line is not as good, but that doesn't mean they don't have talent. They had trouble getting sacks with only 29 all year, but B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett lead a unit that is great against the run. Howard Green, Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson have all contributed this season as well.
The Packers have an advantage at linebacker because of Clay Matthews Jr. Matthews always makes big plays and continues to do it all year. In their last meeting, Matthews caused problems for the Giants and returned an interception for a touchdown.
You can bet the Giants will be eyeing where Matthews is lining up every play. Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk and Eric Walden have also had solid years. They missed Hawk and Bishop in their last meeting with both nursing injuries.
The Giants linebackers have been beat up all year, but Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley are no pushovers. Kiwanuka is a pass-rushing specialist like Matthews and Boley has been making big plays when he's been healthy. They welcomed former linebacker Chase Blackburn back and he had an interception against Rodgers in the last meeting.
The Packers secondary has struggled this year, but Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett can all make the big play. Williams had a stellar season last year and was a big reason why the Packers won the Super Bowl. He has not had the same season as he's been dealing with shoulder injuries, but he is still a big threat and can be a shutdown corner.
Woodson has also struggled this year, but has a knack of getting a turnover. Burnett had a breakout season with 106 tackles and three interceptions. The injury to safety Nick Collins has been a big blow to this secondary, but Charlie Peprah stepped in last season and had a nice year. He's struggling this season, but can still get the job done.
The Giants' secondary has been battered with injuries and have struggled. Corey Webster has had a great year and become one of the top corners in the NFC. Aaron Ross has struggled and is now injured. Prince Amukamura has been battling injuries all year and is a raw rookie. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle have struggled at times, but remain a force in the secondary.
Both teams have struggled against the pass, but the Packers get the slight edge because of their turnovers.
The Packers have a big advantage here. Randall Cobb has given this team explosiveness in the return game taking both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.
The Giants don't have any scary threats in the return game. Will Blackmon, a former Packer, is the main kick-returner and Jerrel Jernigan is the main punt-returner. Mason Crosby has a big advantage over Lawrence Tynes in the kicking game too.
Who has the coaching edge? Both Giants Coach Tom Coughlin and Packers Coach Mike McCarthy have won Super Bowls. Both guys have done great jobs this year and have a lot of experience. Neither coach has much of an edge since both know how to win the big game. Edge: Even
The Giants have more momentum right now, but the Packers still are the better team. Green bay is also at home. The Giants might be the toughest team the Packers face all year because of their pass-rush.
This will be a shootout, but the Packers have too many weapons on offense and will create turnovers. Aaron Rodgers looks like he can't be stopped right now.
Prediction: Packers 34 Giants 27