NFL Playoffs 2012: 10 Questions About Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIJanuary 15, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers turns to hand the ball off against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Packers won 38-35. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers play host to the New York Giants in this divisional round clash of the 2012 NFL playoffs. And just like always, both have everything to play for, and everything to lose.

The Giants' Eli Manning has had a stellar year, and in another game, would be the dominant quarterback, but in this one against Aaron Rodgers, he is clearly the number two. Rodgers' play has been simply phenomenal this year, with the real question being as to whether he can lead the Packers to glory once again in the post-season.

With all the hype, drama and tension that surrounds playoff games, here are 10 burning questions that need answering leading up to the big game—10 questions that will provide us with insight as to who will walk away the winner, and whose season will end.


1. Just how good is Aaron Rodgers?

Let's start with the obvious question. If the Packers are going to win, it's going to be on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. The likely MVP is the man that carries the hopes of Green Bay; if he is firing and hitting his receivers with his perfect throws, the Packers are hard to slow down. Case in point? The whole 2011 season, where the 15-1 Packers simply dominated their opponents offensively.

And despite Rodgers not putting up the same yards as Brees or Brady, his touchdown to interception ratio is simply fantastic at 45:6 and chalks up 9.2 yards per catch, for a record 122.5 quarterback rating for the season. So yeah, statistically he's pretty darn good, and in real life, it's just as hard.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers slides to the turf against Prince Amukamara #20 of the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images


With the receiving core that Rodgers has, which we'll touch on later, he is simply impossible to shut down and will give several Giants' defenders nightmares for many weeks to come.

Advantage: Green Bay Packers


2. Is Eli Manning good enough to mix it with Rodgers?

Manning too has had a phenomenal year, and one almost wants to call it a break-out, as he searches for his second Super Bowl ring. Completing at 61 percent for the year, for 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, Eli has led the New York Giants in to the playoffs, when many predicted they would flop come December.

And after disposing of the Atlanta Falcons last week, the Giants offense will be geared up for a strong showing against the Green Bay Packers, whose pass defense has a few questions to answer after the year is all over.

So statistically speaking, Manning is not as good as Rodgers, and he does not have the same impact on the scoreboard. But is he as clutch? 2011 would suggest that he is, and will also be a tough assignment for several of the Packers defenders. He should be considered in the same class as Rodgers, which is why it's still an advantage for the Giants; it's just that Rodgers is the super smart kid that all the teachers talk about in the staff room.

Advantage: New York Giants

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 01:  A fan of the Green Bay Packers wears a frozen Lambeau Field hat during a game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on January 1, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images



3. What factor will Lambeau Field play?

Much of the talk this week has been as to whether the Giants will get traction in the cold and the wind of Lambeau Field. And it's a valid point, because simply put, it's harder to throw it, it's harder to catch it and it's definitely harder to kick it.

However, these factors affect everyone, and both sides will be able to score points outside in the elements. Is it the Meadowlands? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but both the Giants and the Packers offenses won't be hampered too much by the elements of Lambeau.

The Packers have won seven straight games with a kickoff temperature under 40 degrees, and with it expected to hit a balmy 25 degrees, the cold certainly seems to favor the green and gold.

The other factor that shouldn't go unnoticed is that Lambeau field doesn't just represent the cold and the wind; it represents the entire Green Bay Packers fan-base and all the history of the Packers. Even in the sun, it's a horrible place to go on the road too, and after going 8-0 there this year, the Packers will be a tough side to knock off at home.

Advantage: Green Bay Packers


4. Can Manning's receivers out do the Green Bay secondary?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants can't make the catch on a pass in the endzone against Jarrett Bush #24 of the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Packers w
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Averaging 24.6 points per game, for just under 300 yards in the air, the Giants passing game is certainly one of the strongest in the league and with Manning seemingly in the groove with the likes of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, they will be hard to stop.


And after ranking last in the league for pass defense, the Green Bay Packers, at a glance, appear helpless to stop Manning and his merry men. Just shy of 300 yards allowed per game, 71 completions of 20-plus yards and 10 of 40-plus yards are not numbers that any defense wants to put up.

However, the Green Bay secondary is still a factor in this game, and after taking 31 interceptions for the year, so they should be. Not only did they lead the league in interceptions, they chalked up a league-high 130 pass deflections and Manning must recognize the threat that the likes of Woodson, Williams and Peprah bring to the table.

Advantage: Push.


5. Will the Giants defense cope with the Packers aerial attack?

On the other side of the coin, the passing game of the Packers, as mentioned has been phenomenal, and it does help when you simply have a plethora of receivers to choose from. Jennings, Finley, Nelson -- they've all hurt defenses throughout the year and they pose as a serious chance to doing so again.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  (L-R) Donald Driver #80 and John Kuhn #30 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after Driver caught a 13-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The pass defense of the Giants is strong, starting with their 48 sacks recorded for the year, on top of their 20 interceptions and their 100-plus pass deflections. The Packers need to give Rodgers time in the pocket to complete his throws and if they do that, his accuracy and skill is good enough to beat the Giants secondary. It's a Green Bay advantage here, but after watching the Giants not allow a defensive point against the Falcons last week, as well as their statistics for the year, they are not to be ruled out completely.


Advantage: Green Bay Packers


6. Who will win the offensive line battle?

As mentioned, the Giants do have the ability to get to Rodgers and shut down the Packers passing game to an extent, due to the strength of their defensive line. When sending four or fewer rushers, they've recorded 34 sacks, and Rodgers has been taken down 24 times to the same number rushers. The Packers offensive line needs to step up and give Rodgers time to make his throws without extreme pressure, and if so, they will go a long way to winning this one.

Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga are both back this week, and are a huge advantage for the Green Bay line, as together with Lang, Wells and Sitton, they've allowed a sack every 24.7 pass attempts. Compare this to all other line combinations that record one every 12.6 pass attempts, and it's clear to see the impact these guys have.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers calls signals out at the line of scrimmage against Michael Boley #59 of the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Packers have chalked up only 29 sacks for the year, and sit in the bottom five in the league for this category. And against a New York line that's only allowed 28 sacks all year, and ranks seventh in the NFL, the Green Bay pass rush will have a hard time getting to Manning.

It only takes a big-time play to change the momentum of the game, and the Packers line may well do that, and despite the strength of the Packers offensive line now, the Giants do hold the upper hand in this phase.

Advantage: New York Giants



7. Whose running game will get better traction?

Statistically, the New York Giants rushed for 89.2 yards per game this year, ranking last in the league and the Green Bay Packers rushed for 97.4 per game, ranking 27th. However, in real life, the Giants do have the better rushing game going in to this one.

They've put up 100-plus yard games in five of their last six, and should they get outside the tackles, they could get some serious yards. The Packers have allowed 6.5 yards per carry outside the tackles this year, and the Giants average 5.8 on the offense.

When the two met last time -- which we'll also touch on soon -- the Packers, without Aaron Rodgers, rushed for 57 yards on 24 carries. They must get their running game going, and the likes of Ryan Grant and John Kuhn must get good lines from the offensive line to do so.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  James Starks #44 of the Green Bay Packers runs the ball against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

However, you can't simply take away an element and state that then one is more superior. You can't just take Aaron Rodgers running game away, and against the Giants defense, should they drop too far, Rodgers will simply take off and gather the first down. He is fast enough and smart enough to have an impact running the football.

Still, after watching Jacobs go for 6.6 yards per carry and Bradshaw go for 4.5 last week, the Giants running game does have potential to explode. They only managed 90 yards against the Packers last time the two met, but they are going to crack the 100-yard mark in this one. It's only a matter of how much they'll crack it by. A little, the Packers win. A lot, and it could be a different story.

Advantage: New York Giants



8. How much will this game resemble the encounter earlier in the year?

For those that don't know, the two met back in Week 13, in New York, where the Packers kicked a field on the final play of the game to win the game 38-35. Manning threw three touchdowns and an interception, going for 347 yards, and Rodgers threw four touchdowns, an interception and 369 yards.

And many will be wondering if a similar game will play out again here, and the answer is both yes and no. Yes, the Packers will win, and no, Clay Matthews won't take a pick-six. Okay, seriously. This game won't feature the same yards, the same points and the same offensive battle as the last one. It's outside for starters, against an improving Giants defense and a lethal Green Bay secondary.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  Mason Crosby #2 of the Green Bay Packers kicks a successful 30-yard game winning field goal in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Phot
Al Bello/Getty Images

The running game will get a lot more recognition from both sides in this one than it did last time, though field goals will be key for both sides like last time.

So will it resemble Week 13? Think of it as a different ring, in a different country, with the same winner from a different submission (hey, cut me some slack, the UFC was on tonight).


9. Can the Packers' defense stop the Giants?

For all the talk about the secondary and their potential, and Manning's offense and their abilities, the Packers need to stop the Giants defensively to win this game. And for all the talk about 300 passing yards allowed and last in the league in defense, they've only allowed 22.4 points per game this year.


In fact, they've allowed nearly a field goal less per game then the Giants, who many will say have the stronger defense. Numbers aside for a moment, both sides will need to make big defensive plays to win this football game. Be it a pass deflection to a pick-six; the Packers have the potential to do this and also have the ability to hurt you on defense, a skill that the Giants don't possess as much.

Can the Packers stop the Giants offensively? Yes.

Will they? That remains to be seen.

Advantage: Green Bay Packers

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  (L-R)  Randall Cobb #18, Greg Jennings #85, Vic So'oto #97, Donald Driver #80 and Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after Mason Crosby #2 kicked a successful 30-yard game-winning field goal to beat the
Nick Laham/Getty Images


10. What's going to give in this one?

In the last game, it came down to the final second, where a drive engineered by the arm of Rodgers culminated in a Mason Crosby field goal. And for either the Giants or the Packers to walk away with a win in this one, every facet of their game must be spot on and firing completely.

And with both sides gearing up for a shootout battle, with potentially deadly defenses, something's got to give in this one, it's simply a matter of what it will be and when it will be.

The Mathews interception touchdown was the give for me in the last one, and a similar scenario may be what cracks either side in this one. Both Mike McCarthy and Tom Coughlin could have a huge moment in this game with a correct challenge or a clever play call. Special teams could open up the game, with another Randall Cobb touchdown being the ideal for the Lambeau faithful. Or will it all come down to Mason Crosby and his kicking shoes?

Whatever it is, I'm with the Packers to have the upper hand to make the other crack. Interceptions, punt returns, field goals, coaching calls; all point to a Green Bay upper-hand for me, and the Packers will win their way in to the conference finals.

You won't see Rodgers getting pulled for a change, and you will see the Green Bay defense play as good as it can. I'm with the Packers to take this one 27-17, after entering half time up 7-3 after a lone Greg Jennings touchdown.

The Packers show they didn't forget about the the time that the Giants walked on to their turf and took away their NFC Championship. With that, we'll see you next week San Francisco.


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