When the 6-5 New York Giants host the 11-0 Green Bay Packers on Sunday, it will be a huge game for both teams involved, but for very different reasons. The Packers are the talk of the NFL and seem to have a legitimate shot of finishing the season unblemished.
Whether Green Bay views going undefeated as a goal or not is a different story, but that should come into play this week. The Packers continue to throttle opponent after opponent thanks mostly to a relentless offense led by sensational quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
While the Packers may want this game, the Giants need this game. Just a few weeks ago, they had a comfortable lead in the NFC East, but that has evaporated and they now sit a game behind the Dallas Cowboys. A win could really do wonders for New York's floundering season.
The Packers are fairly big favorites as they are in every game, but the Giants are no strangers to slaying dragons. Just a few years ago, New York nearly beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the regular season before beating them in the Super Bowl. Perhaps those memories can spur them to an upset of Green Bay.
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:15 p.m. EST
Watch: FOX; FOX 11 (Green Bay) MyFOXNY (New York)
Listen: WTAQ 97.5 FM (Green Bay) and WFAN 660 AM (New York); Sirius XM Satellite Radio: XM Internet 872 (Green Bay) and XM 228 (Internet 881, New York)
Live Streaming Audio: NFL.com Audio Pass ($29.99 for year, $27.99 team specific, $9.99 a month)
Betting Line: Green Bay (-7)
What's at Stake?
In what may very well be the biggest game of the week, there is plenty on the line for both sides. As has been the case for the past several weeks, the Packers' undefeated record will take the forefront. The Packers are already a lock to make the playoffs, but they have a real chance to be perhaps the greatest team of all-time if they can run the table.
For the Giants, they need something positive to happen soon, or else they may lose a grip on a once-promising season. A win would likely send the team's confidence through the roof and may well get them back on track. They still have two head-to-head matchups with the Cowboys left, but another loss would be tough to swallow.
Packers Injury Report
Questionable: LB Desmond Bishop (calf), LB A.J. Hawk (calf), LB Frank Zombo (hamstring)
Probable: RB James Starks (ankle)
Giants Injury Report
Questionable: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), WR Mario Manningham (knee), DL Osi Umenyiora (ankle), LB Mark Herzlich (ankle), LB Michael Boley (hamstring), DB Derrick Martin (hamstring)
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start: QB Aaron Rodgers (GB): While it's quite obvious that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is always a must-start fantasy player, he has the potential to go off even more than usual this week. The Giants were victimized by the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees last week, so the defense's psyche may be fragile, meaning Rodgers should be able to take advantage.
Sit: RB Brandon Jacobs (NYG): Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw remains questionable this week, but even if he sits out again, it wouldn't be advisable to start Brandon Jacobs. While Jacobs has had his moments as a starter in Bradshaw's absence, it is clear that he has lost any burst that he may have once had, and his only true source of value is touchdowns. He won't do much against Green Bay's solid run defense.
Sleeper: TE Jermichael Finley (GB): Although Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is probably still considered by most to be a must-start fantasy option, he has had a very disappointing year. Much of that has to do with the Packers' myriad of weapons, though, so he could break out at any time. This week seems like a good possibility, as the Giants were torched by another big, athletic tight end in New Orleans' Jimmy Graham last week.
What They're Saying
The Green Bay Packers may be undefeated, but no team goes through an entire season without trials and tribulations. That is true of the Packers, as linebacker Erik Walden was arrested last week after being accused of assaulting his girlfriend. Walden apologized to his team and the media for the incident and is ready to focus on football, according to Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
First off, I’d like to thank the most high for helping me get through this matter, Walden said. Secondly, I apologize to the entire organization, teammates, the fans. It’s an ongoing process. I respect that process.
It’s just unfortunate I brought something negative (with) so much positive that’s going on with this organization. I’m cooperating fully.
Packers Player to Watch: QB Aaron Rodgers
The Packers are an excellent team as a whole, but there is no question that the fuel that makes them go is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. When he's on, which has been an every-game occurrence this season, Green Bay is virtually unstoppable. Seeing as the Giants were torched by an All-Pro signal caller last week, it could another rough game for them.
Regardless of what defense he is facing, Rodgers can make every throw, stare pressure in the face and march his team down the field time after time. Even if the Giants throw the kitchen sink at Rodgers, there is no guarantee it will effect him. He truly is the most complete quarterback in the game.
Giants Player to Watch: QB Eli Manning
While he doesn't compare to Aaron Rodgers, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been awfully good this season in his own right. Manning is most certainly on pace for the best season of his career, as he has compiled 3,358 passing yards and 20 touchdowns through just 11 games. As tall of a task as it might be, the Giants' best chance to win is if Manning outduels Rodgers.
It isn't inconceivable, as the Packers have struggled a great deal against the pass this season. Provided that wide receiver Mario Manningham plays, the Giants also have a receiving corps that rivals and perhaps exceeds Green Bay's, with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz also in the fold. If Manning plays to the best of his abilities, then an upset is a possibility.
Key Matchup: Aaron Rodgers vs. NYG Pass Rush
No matter what opposing defenses have tried, nothing has seemed to slow down Aaron Rodgers. With that said, no team in the NFL is better equipped to rush the passer than the Giants. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka are all capable of getting to the quarterback, and they will need to on Sunday.
New York's pass rush bothered Patriots quarterback Tom Brady immensely a couple weeks ago, and it led to a Giants win. Rodgers is far more mobile and dare I say tougher than Brady, but if the pass rush gets to him quickly, then he may be affected. It won't hurt the Giants to try, as they will likely be picked apart if they sit back.
On the Hot Seat: HC Tom Coughlin
The Giants have had a lot of success under head coach Tom Coughlin, including a Super Bowl Championship. The team hasn't lived up to expectations in recent years, though, and a big reason for that has been late-season collapses that seem to have plagued them. Unfortunately for Coughlin, it seems to be happened again this year.
While it may be more of a personnel problem than anything, somebody has to take the fall eventually. More often than not, the fall guy is the head coach. The organization will think long and hard about what to do after the season I'm sure, but if the Giants let yet another playoff appearance slip through the cracks, it could be curtains for Coughlin.
Packers 35, Giants 27