Green Bay Packers: 5 Big Questions for Sunday's Game vs. the Giants
On Sunday, the Packers will be visited by the New York Giants, the winner of the NFC East who is coming off a playoff win against the Atlanta Falcons. The Packers, who earned a week off during wild card weekend, sit at 15-1 and are favored by more than a touchdown. However, many suspect the Giants, who have won three straight, could pull off the upset.
The Packers and Giants faced each other more than a month ago, and are both healthier teams on both sides of the ball, giving this game potential to be a great matchup. Here are five questions regarding this divisional playoff game that will have to be answered on the field when the game kicks off.
5. Will the Absence of Joe Philbin Affect the Packers?
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This week, Joe Philbin and his family face a tragedy no one should have to face, as his son, Michael Philbin, died on Monday after drowning in a river near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The death hit the entire Packers family hard, but all of the players returned to practice on Wednesday, and despite the tragedy, had a good day back at work.
Philbin will not be on the sideline on Sunday, nor will he be participating in the game planning or preparation. While McCarthy is the main game-caller, Philbin usually puts together the game plan, so the coaching staff will have to work together to put together an offensive game plan in his place.
Despite the change in the normal week-to-week game preparation, the Packers seem to be ready to rally and play this game in honor of the Philbin family. It will be interesting to see how the team will respond in the face of such a sudden and tragic event.
4. What Will the Weather Have in Store?
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The last time it snowed heavily in Lambeau Field during a game was also against the Giants in the playoffs, in the 2007 NFC Championship Game where the Giants won, 23-20.
The cold weather conditions will likely not be a huge shock to either team, as both the Giants and Packers are equipped to play in cold weather climates. However, both teams could struggle on a snowy and windy day.
If it becomes too difficult to pass the ball, the Giants and Packers may have to resort to running the football, which has not been a huge strength for either team, even though the Giants have been running the ball better lately, and the Packers defense has had difficulty stopping the run.
If the weather gets bad, it could seriously hinder both offenses, which could make this a much more defensive game than people expected. It will be interesting to see what Mother Nature decides to do for such an important game for both teams, and it will be even more interesting to see how they respond to it.
3. Will Momentum Really Matter?
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All week long, the Giants have been picked to upset the Packers in Lambeau on Sunday. Much of the reason for this is because the Giants are the hot team coming into the playoffs, much like the Packers were a year ago.
In contrast, the Packers have not played for two weeks, and it has been even longer for some of their best players, including Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Chad Clifton and Greg Jennings. Some are predicting that the Packers could be 'rusty' coming into the playoffs, giving the Giants a chance to take advantage.
However, this Packers team is 15-1, and despite losing to Kansas City late in the season, still won their last two games, securing the top seed in the NFC. Momentum could help the Giants play a good game against the Packers, but will it be enough for the Giants to pull off the upset?
2. Will the Packers Defense Prove They Are Better Than Their Ranking?
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The Packers defense is ranked last in the league. However, this statistic can be very misleading, as it accounts mostly for total yardage given up, and while the Packers are at the bottom of the league in this category, they are at the top of the league in turnovers, and in the middle of the pack when it comes to points allowed.
The Packers not only are an opportunistic defense, but also have plenty of talent on the squad, from Charles Woodson in the secondary to Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk anchoring the linebacking corps.
The Packers have the talent to be a great defense; they were last year when they won the Super Bowl; they just have to play better. And if they can turn the ball over on Eli Manning a couple of times, that will give the Packers a great chance to win this game.
1. Will Aaron Rodgers Feel the Pressure?
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The Giants defensive line is playing better than anyone right now, and they have already made proclamations that they can beat the Packers. And despite giving up 35 points in the last outing, they still put the pressure on Aaron Rodgers and forced him into some bad throws.
It takes a lot to pressure Rodgers into making poor decisions, and it is even harder to try and shut down an offense with so many weapons at wide receiver. However, the Giants are a confident bunch who will certainly make things difficult for the Packers offense. But will it be enough to stop one of the best offenses in the league?