Packers vs. Giants: 4 Bold Predictions for NFC Divisional Playoff Game
This game has featured a bunch of pregame hype because the Giants seem to be recreating their mojo from 2007, the year they won the Super Bowl. Also, the Packers are the reigning world champions and are coming off a near-perfect regular season.
The players have also not shied away from creating controversy. Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive Player of the Year candidate for the Giants, has guaranteed a Giants victory on two different occasions. B.J. Raji, underperforming Packers defensive lineman, has called out the Giants' offensive line.
"I'm not saying they're soft, but they're not the toughest group I've been against, Raji said. Cold, Raji, real cold.
Here are a few predictions for what should be an exciting game.
James Starks Steps Up Big-Time
James Starks has battled injuries for the majority of the year. He missed three games, including the last game of the regular season. However, he appears to be ready for this game, as he is listed as probable for Green Bay.
While Starks hasn't been the feature back that he was in last year's playoffs, he has not had a bad year by any stretch. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry this season, which is very solid.
The reason I'm making this pick, though, is that Starks always steps up in big-time situations. He played very well in last year's playoffs—especially Wild Card Weekend and the Super Bowl—and he also stepped up during the regular season this year.
Against the Vikings in Week 7, Starks was asked to run out the clock for the Packers when there was still a lot of time left in the fourth quarter. Starks went on to convert many third downs—long third downs I might add—and iced the game for the Packers.
This Sunday, Starks will be given the ball early to see if he has the hot hand. I believe he will not only have the hot hand, but he will step up again this year in a big way for the Packers in the playoffs.
I think he'll have at least 90 yards rushing.
Bulaga and Clifton Shut Down Pierre-Paul and Umenyiora
Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga are both returning from injuries this week. Clifton missed almost all the games after Week 5, and Bulaga missed the last two games of the regular season.
On the Giants' defensive line, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora and fierce pass-rushers that will stop at nothing to destroy the opposing quarterback. They both are elite at what they do and should cause the Packers serious problems.
That is unless the Packers' offensive line can stop them.
I think Clifton will return to his first meaningful game with the Packers in a long time and play very well. He will handle Pierre-Paul and tone down his impact on Aaron Rodgers. Also, Bulaga is a very underrated right tackle, and he will hold his own against Umenyiora as well.
I see the two of those Giants pass-rushers getting, at most, one sack between the two.
Clay Matthews Will Play a Big Game
Clay Matthews may not have had double-digit sacks this year, but I still think he had a good season. He was one of the league leaders in QB pressures, he had three interceptions, and the Packers might have lost their game in New York if it weren't for Matthews' pick-six.
I'm not saying Matthews will have three sacks in this game like a lot of bold predictors said during last year's playoffs, but I am saying he will make multiple big plays. Whether it be a sack, an interception, a big QB hit/pressure, a fumble recovery or a clutch tackle, Matthews can make it happen.
I'm predicting this because I think Matthews has played well for the majority of this season, and the Giants don't have the best offensive line around. Also, Eli Manning will probably have to drop back to pass a lot in this game, so that should present Matthews with a lot of opportunities.
I think Clay can have a sack, a forced fumble and a big QB pressure that leads to a failed third-down conversion.
The Packers Will Come out on Top
This might seem like an obvious prediction considering I'm a Packers fan, and all the previous slides were about Packers players that will step up. That being said, I still think they will win, and in an article like this, I have to give my pick.
The Packers have a very good offense (oh really?) and a pretty bad defense. On paper, that should make this game a shootout.
If we're staying on paper, the Packers have the better offense and the better special teams. The Giants may have the better defense, but I'm still a big believer that this Packers defense can step up and make plays. Whether that means turnovers, sacks or just simply stops, they should be able to do that.
Don't get me wrong, I think the Giants definitely can win this football game. If the game is a shootout, anything can happen. However, the Packers have the better offense led by the better quarterback, so I'll give the edge to Green Bay.
And I'm a Packers fan. Just saying.
Packers on top, 35-24.
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