Friday, January 13, 2012

New York Giants at Green Bay

The New York Giants are back in town for the first Lambeau Field playoff game since the 2007 season, when Brett Favre, once again, destroyed the hopes of a nation while the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. The Giants are the hot team, on a three-game win streak, including last week's utter dismantling of the Atlanta Falcons. 

Eli Manning has had an excellent season, throwing 32 touchdowns and limiting his interceptions to 16, and generally looking more competent than usual. Their running game, which has struggled for most of the season, seems to have hit its stride with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw providing a nice complement to bruising back Brandon Jacobs.

The Packers defense is going to have to do something. They’ve been completely incapable of generating any pass rush this season and their run defense is nothing to write home about. They’ll give up big plays, as they have all year, but they need to offset that by forcing some turnovers. I’m counting on Manning reverting to Classic Eli and throwing some easy interceptions or committing an inopportune fumble. I don’t like to defend the Packers 32nd-ranked defense too much, but they do, in fact, lead the league in interceptions, and have kept the opposing quarterback’s rating at a reasonable 80.6, so it’s not all terrible. Though the defense has certainly been disappointing, the Packers have some great talent on the defense. They just need to step up. 

How about a couple of interceptions from each of you on Sunday?

Now, the Giants’ defense is great, no doubt. For almost the first time this season, they are enjoying a healthy defensive line. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and JPII are scary. They’ll bring it. On the upside, however, if there’s one quarterback you’d want when facing pressure, who would it be? That’s right, Aaron Rodgers.

"Don't worry, girl. I got this."

While the Giants’ offense has been clicking of late, and while they have some incredible receivers (Hakeem Nicks seems to have at least one circus catch a game) - the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. He’s got his original offensive line back together, he's got James Starks returning to help out Ryan Grant, and he still has the best group of receivers in the league. Greg Jennings is back and ready to destroy the Giants’ secondary again.

The Giants are confident, to say the least, with several team members already guaranteeing a victory. They certainly have reason to be confident, but perhaps not as much as they think. This is the same team that got beat by the Redskins - yes, the WASHINGTON REDSKINS! - not even four weeks ago. Their last four victories have come against a crumbling Jets team, a hapless Cowboys team (twice), and a fraud of a Falcons team. Before that, they lost four straight to Green Bay, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Again, the Giants were dealing with some big injuries, and Green Bay barely squeaked out a win last month. BUT, the Packers were missing some key players that game, too - Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Josh Sitton. Charles Woodson left the game early with concussion, too. And that game was played at MetLife Stadium. The Packers have not lost at Lambeau since October 17, 2010.

If any team knows the benefit of getting hot at the right time, it is the Packers, who rode their own hot streak all the way to the Super Bowl last year. But I love the mindset of this team. They don’t care if people are spending all their time drooling over the Giants and the Saints. They don’t care what happened in 2007. They don’t get too caught up in the emotions of the game. They don’t panic. 

"Don't worry. I still got this."

I think it will be a very good game, between two very good teams, but I’ll still take 68.3%-completing, 9.2.-yards-per-throw-averaging, 45-touchdown-passes-and-only-six-interceptions-throwing, 122.5-passer-rated Aaron Rodgers and the 15-1, 8-0-at-home, Super Bowl-winning, defending champions Green Bay Packers.

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