Coming off a much needed bye week after two straight losses, the New York Giants go into a marquee matchup with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night in East Rutherford. New York is now just two games ahead of Washington and Dallas in the loss column in the NFC East and needs to get back on track in hurry to avoid losing control of their own destiny in the race for the playoffs.
Going into the final five games of the season at 7-4 would give the Giants a very strong shot at a home playoff game. 6-5 however would make it another dogfight for the G-Men down the stretch. Green Bay is banged up on defense, but with Aaron Rodgers at the helm and that explosive passing game in tact, the Packers are still one of the toughest teams to beat in football.
Use the blitz sparingly against Aaron Rodgers, mix up coverage schemes on the back end
Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in football at getting the ball out of his hands quickly and has an extremely quick release. A smart, accurate quarterback with good instincts, he's very capable of carving up an overly aggressive defense. The Giants have got to generate pressure from the front four in this game in order to slow this offense down because they will not be able to bring five and six rushers very often without getting burned on the back end. If they can get pressure from the defensive ends and throw different coverage schemes at Rodgers for four quarters they will be able to slow the Packers air assault down.
Spread it out offensively and test the Packers pass defense early
The Giants have got to get back in a rhythm in the passing game and the Packers pass rush and secondary is banged up. New York should look to get Eli Manning going right from the start in this one with some quick routes and crossing patterns against a pass defense that wasn't great even at full strength. This has got to be the night that the Giants get going again offensively.
Run Andre Brown more in opponent territory
The Giants have had some trouble in opponent territory this season, particularly in the red zone, and Brown has shown himself to be very consistent at getting yards after contact and punishing a front seven. He can be a very effective weapon in wearing down the opposing front seven and grinding out touchdowns instead of field goals with his physical play. As tough and capable as Ahmad Bradshaw is, with the way Brown has ran, he deserves more touches and could be the fix for the Giants struggles one they cross the 50.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck vs Packers Offensive Line
If the Giants don't get pressure on the quarterback from their front four on Sunday night, this game becomes very, very difficult to win. Aaron Rodgers is good enough with pressure to put three to four touchdowns on the board through the air, and giving him time to get comfortable in the pocket could spell disaster for New York with the way their pass defense has struggled this season. If JPP, Umenyiora, and Tuck can bring it in this game, it turns to a whole different ball game. We haven't seen a dominant Giants pass rush in quite some time. Tonight would be a great time for it to come alive.
BIG GAME ALERT
WR Hakeem Nicks
Nicks has been as banged up as anyone offensively this season, but he's coming off an extended period of rest and gets his shot at a short handed Packers secondary. WIth the way Nicks has been slowed down by injury this season, expect the Packers to shift their defensive attention to Cruz in the secondary and allow Nicks several one on one opportunities in this game. I expect this to be his biggest game since Tampa Bay in September.
I've been going back and forth on this one all week. On one hand, the Giants seem well aware of how big this game is and the Packers have a lot of injuries coming into this football game so there's a strong chance New York will come out swinging and land some pretty big shots against this defense. That being said, we also have seen very little from the Giants passing game offensively as well as their pass rush defensively over the past month. They've lost the last two games I expected them to win and even short handed, the Packers will be the toughest opponent of the three. I hope I am wrong, but unless the Giants pass rush shows up in a big way and they start closing drives out with touchdowns and not field goals, this could be a tough game to come out of with a W.
Packers 28, Giants 23
Also…Aaron Rodgers, Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, Eli Manning, Football, Green Bay, Green Bay Packers, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Osi Umenyiora