Green Bay Packers' Keys to Victory in Week 11 Contest with New York Giants
The Packers have lost two straight games, while the Giants have won three straight, after starting the 2013 season with six-straight losses.
Going into the game, I have a number of questions regarding some key factors in this contest. How the Packers answer these questions will determine if they can bring home a victory from New Jersey.
Which Eli Manning Will Show Up on Sunday?
Believe it or not, Eli Manning is just 1-3 in his career against the Packers in the regular season. Of course, he is 2-0 versus the Pack in the postseason, and that is a stat most people will remember.
In his career against the Packers in the regular season, Manning has thrown nine touchdown passes compared to six interceptions for 1,108 yards. That adds up to quarterback rating of 86.3.
In the postseason against Green Bay, Manning has thrown three touchdown passes versus one pick for 581 yards in two games. No. 10's quarterback rating for those two games is a combined 93.3.
If you just look at the last two games Manning has played against the Packers (postseason and regular season), Eli has thrown six touchdown passes versus just one pick for 579 yards.
So, what will happen on Sunday? So far in 2013, the Green Bay defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to have a combined 99.5 quarterback rating. They have also allowed the quarterbacks to throw 17 touchdown passes, compared to just three interceptions.
The good news is that the Packers have 27 sacks so far this season, which is tied for 11th in the league. The better news is that outside linebacker Clay Matthews will not be using the club cast which hampered his pass rushing ability last week versus the Philadelphia Eagles, but will instead use a smaller, sleeker cast which will free up his fingers to grab opposing blockers while he is rushing the quarterback.
Add to that, Manning has had an up and down season so far in 2013, as he has thrown 11 touchdown passes compared to 16 interceptions for 2,307 yards. That adds up to a very mediocre quarterback rating of 68.5.
If the Packers expect to win on Sunday, they need to see the "bad" Eli, instead of the "good" Eli. And that all depends on how the overall defense plays, especially the secondary.
Can the Defense of the Packers Stop the Run Game of the Giants?
Before their game against the Chicago Bears on November 4, the Packers were fourth in the NFL in run defense, as they only allowed an average of 83.6 yards a game on the ground. Since then, in two games against the Bears and the Eagles, the Packers have dropped to 13th in the NFL in that category, as the Pack are now allowing an average of 106.7 yards a game from opponents toting the rock.
On Sunday, the Packers will be facing a rushing attack from the Giants which is currently ranked 29th in the NFL, as the G-Men have only averaged 76.9 yards a game.
Still, the Packers should not take the Giants lightly. New York just activated running back Andre Brown last week, and he ran for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. The Giants can also use veteran Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis to run the ball as well. Jacobs practiced on Thursday, after missing the past three games due to a hamstring injury.
The Packers need to get back to what they did earlier in the year, and that is stopping the opponent's running attack. If they do that, it will make the offense of the Giants one-dimensional, and that is where Eli Manning gets in trouble.
Can the Defense of the Packers Create Some Turnovers?
The Packers are dead-last in the NFL in creating turnovers. That is a statistic that has to change if the team expects to make the postseason.
Right now the Packers only have three interceptions and five fumble recoveries in nine games. Four of those turnovers happened in one game, when the Packers played the Bengals. That means the Packers only have had four turnovers in the other eight games.
The Packers under Dom Capers have usually been a great turnover-creating defense. From 2009-2012, the Packers created 40, 32, 38 and 23 turnovers respectively the past four seasons.
Not having Charles Woodson anymore in your secondary certainly can have a negative affect on turnovers, as does the hamstring woes which have kept cornerback Casey Hayward (led the team in interceptions last year with six) off the field for large portions of this season.
It also doesn't help when both Clay Matthews and Nick Perry have missed time with injuries this year too, as they have combined for four forced fumbles.
Bottom line, the Packers are facing a team in the Giants who have turned the ball over 23 times in nine games. That's over 2.5 turnovers a game.
The Packers need that type of production on Sunday and for the rest of the season in the turnover department.
Can the Special Teams Units of the Packers Make the Difference?
The last time the Packers beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium, Mason Crosby kicked 31-yard field goal on the final play of the game, as Green Bay won 38-35 in 2011. The game against the Giants might come down to a field goal again this Sunday.
Crosby looks the part in 2013, just like he did in 2011. For the most part, No. 2 has bounced back this season from a disastrous 2012 campaign, when he only made 63.6 percent of his field goal attempts. This year Crosby has made 21-of-25 field goal attempts, which is good for a 84 percent clip.
Crosby also was good on a successful onside kick against the Bears a couple of weeks back. In that same game, Tim Masthay punted well, while the Packers also blocked a punt themselves. Plus they were excellent in kick coverage, as they held the very dangerous Devin Hester in check.
Micah Hyde also has a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown to his credit this season versus the Vikings.
The one glaring issue the team has on special teams so far this season are on kickoff returns. The Packers are only averaging 16.5 yards on kickoffs, which is last in the NFL.
Bottom line, the Packers will probably need their special teams to come up big in the game on Sunday if they expect to win.
How Well Will Quarterback Scott Tolzien Play Against the Giants?
Quarterback Scott Tolzien was pretty impressive in his first appearance as a member of the Packers versus the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. This was after starter Seneca Wallace was sidelined due to a groin injury in the first offensive series of the game for the Packers.
One of the people Tolzien impressed was head coach Mike McCarthy, as he talked about his performance after the game on Sunday via Packers.com.
I thought Scott did a heck of a job. We're running plays he hasn't even practiced yet. He comes here, and it's a totally different language from where he's been his first two stops. He has worked diligently on our language, transferring plays he's had in the past into how we do things, and for the most part he was seamless in the huddle. I thought his game management, especially for the amount of preparation he had going into this game, was outstanding.
Not only was McCarthy complimentary of Tolzien, he also named him the starter versus the New York Giants.
Tolzien completed 24 of 39 pass attempts for 280 yards. Tolzien also threw a touchdown pass, but also had two interceptions. The first pick was costly, as it was picked off in the Philadelphia end zone as the Packers were trying to even up the score at 7-7 in the second quarter.
Still not bad, especially knowing that Tolzien had just come off the practice squad the week before.
Tolzien will be facing a Giant defense which is ranked 11th in passing-defense in the NFL. Surprisingly, the Giants only have 14 sacks so far in 2013, which has them tied for 30th in the league.
Tolzien needs play well for the Packers to win, and he has to eliminate costly mistakes like the one he made last week.