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Giants vs. Packers: New York Players Who Must Step Up for Upset Shot

Jeff ShullAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2012

Giants vs. Packers: New York Players Who Must Step Up for Upset Shot

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    The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers square off in the divisional round of the playoffs this weekend, and despite a large line set by Las Vegas, many are giving the Giants a chance to win. 

    In fact (and I'm checking this Thursday night), the line has moved from as much as 10 to around 7.5. The pubic apparently does not like the Packers in a blow out. 

    Multiple Giants players have also come out and said they expect to win this game, which is good, but they better not get too cocky, forgetting that the Packers are 15-1 and the best offense in the league. 

    Here are 15 players who will need to step up in order for the Giants to win. I realize that is a large number of people, but you'll see why in a minute. 

Eli Manning

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    Fun to get the obvious one out of the way, right? In order for the Giants to win any game, Eli Manning has to play well. 

    It has been the key component in basically every win this season, with possibly the Jets game being the only exception. 

    In their first meeting, Eli went toe-to-toe with the MVP Aaron Rodgers, falling just short, 38-35. Hopefully this time he is able to out-duel him with the way the Giants defense is playing. 

Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Chris Canty

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    I started to list players I felt needed to step up, and in turned out that it is better to just say the Giants' main pass-rushers need to have a big game. 

    Now, Mathias Kiwanuka is also part of that, but not as much as the four listed. 

    Jason Pierre-Paul leads a unit that was third in the NFL with 48 sacks, but has also exploded in their last three games with 13 sacks. 

    Not only have they been getting to the quarterback often, but they are doing it with little help from blitzes. 

    They have been mixing it up on the defensive line and really using their athleticism to dominate; it helps that they are as healthy as they've been all season. 

    If the Giants are going to have any chance, it starts up front on defense. 

Aaron Ross and Corey Webster

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    After losing Aaron Ross with concussion symptoms in their win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants got good news when he was cleared to practice.

    The Giants took a collective sigh of relief when that happened—you cannot lose a starting corner when you're going up against one of the best passing attacks in the league. 

    Ross has not been great this season, but he is better than the alternative. 

    He and Corey Webster got burned plenty of times in the first meeting between these two teams. The Giants' pass rush was absent in that game, but with its resurgence, the corners should be more effective, maybe. 

Perry Fewell

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    OK, so Perry Fewell is not a player—but, in my opinion, the most important key to a Giants victory will be Fewell coming up with a game plan to slow down Aaron Rodgers and his potent attack.

    The basic strategy the Kansas City Chiefs used to knock off the Packers was press coverage all the way with a two-deep safety look.

    This is exactly what the Giants will want to do, only the Chiefs are far more talented at the corner and linebacker positions.

    The Chiefs essentially dared the Packers to run the ball and never brought a safety up in the box to help. Fewell has to trust his players this weekend, keep the game plan simple and keep running stunts with his defensive linemen to open up the rushing lanes.

    The most important component of his game plan, however, must be to keep Rodgers in the pocket. Rodgers is extremely deadly when he moves around and makes plays.

    In the first meeting, the Giants sacked Rodgers just twice and hit him only six times. Both those numbers need to go up for the Giants to have a chance.  

The Running Attack

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    The running game was abysmal all season long but has started to come together and peak at the exact right moment. 

    While protecting a lead against the Falcons, the Giants exploded in the second half in terms of rushing the ball. 

    They ended with their best rushing performance of the season, finishing with 172 yards on 31 carries. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 155 of those yards, and they will have to be on point this weekend. 

    For the record, I'm including all five offensive linemen, and Jacobs and Bradshaw as the running attack. Obviously there are more components, but these seven are the players who need to step up the most. 

    The offensive line had their best game of the year against the Falcons and should be able to keep it going against the Packers. The Falcons had the sixth-best total rush-defense and 15th in yards per carry in the regular season, where as the Packers ranked 14th in total and 26th at 4.7 yards per carry. 

    The O-line has been improving ironically ever since Will Beatty was lost for the season, and with a repeat performance will be able to control the clock and keep the Packers off the field. 

    If they start slow like they did last week (going three-and-out on their first two drives, four-and-out on the third and then taking a safety on their fourth), I'm afraid the Packers will have built too much of a lead and the run game will become insignificant.

    That cannot happen. The running game has to be working early and often, much like it did the last time these two met in the playoffs.

    If it does, we might be celebrating yet another incredible upset at Lambeau.  

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