Shawn (10-5, 7-7-1 ATS): The Green Bay Packers ran off six straight wins to win the NFC North and make the playoffs. And now, they face a familiar roadblock in the first round of the playoffs. If you have been paying attention all week, then you know not only that, but also the hottest defense versus the hottest offense storyline.
You can throw all the history and the prior playoff games away. They mean nothing. All they tell us is that Eli Manning won’t be daunted by the cold. As for the rest of his teammates, we don’t know. Most of them weren’t there for either of the prior meetings.
One thing we know is that it is going to be cold. Since I am kicking this off late this week, I already know that it is 12 degrees, sunny, with little wind at noon on Sunday. That is cold enough to affect the kicking game some; otherwise, those are pretty benign conditions.
I don’t expect the weather to be much of a factor, but if it does benefit anyone, it benefits the Packers. The Packers played in very similar conditions, a bit worse even, in Chicago just three weeks ago. Also, they have practiced outside for much of the past week, and it was colder all week than it is today. This is the first time all week that I’ve seen the temp above single digits and the wind was blowing steady for most the week.
In recent history, good defense has gotten the better of good offense, especially in the playoffs. Obviously, that is a cause of concern. However, 2016 has NOT been the year for defense. Only four of the top 10 defensive teams in the league even made the playoffs, and no one gave up fewer than 300 yards on average per game this season. As far back as I’ve checked, that is a first in NFL history despite the fact that I haven’t heard anyone else in the media bother to point it out.
So, the New York Giants’ defense is relatively strong, but like every other defense in the league, they have their flaws. The pass rush being one. With the one-handed Jason Pierre-Paul being out, the Giants only present Olivier Vernon as a steady pass rusher. I expect the Giants to line Vernon across from Bryan Bulaga on most downs, rather than practically wasting him in matching him up with David Bakhtiari.
I do respect the aggressiveness of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who won’t hesitate to blitz if the Giants can’t get to Aaron Rodgers. Expect that to especially be the case when the Packers line up with Ty Montgomery or Christine Michael in the shotgun. Defenses have figured out in the past month that neither is any good at picking up a blitz, while the Packers don’t appear to have figured out that they can burn such blitzes by merely dumping Montgomery or Michael the ball rather than asking them to block.
Regardless, the Giants’ specialty on defense is allowing their secondary to cover. In Janoris Jenkins, Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie and Eli Apple, they have three good corners, and they also have an All Pro safety in Landon Collins. So, expect to see plenty of Aaron Rodgers holding the ball, holding the ball, and holding the ball. If such plays end in sacks or throw aways, the Giants defense will have the upper hand. If Rodgers manages to make something happen on those plays, then the Packers offense will have some success.
The problem with a rely on coverage approach to the Packers’ offense is that there are so many people to cover. The Giants haven’t been especially good at handling tight ends this season, and so Jared Cook could be one of the main keys to this game. Also, the Packers still have Ty Montgomery for the defense to deal with. His best game of the year came in similar conditions in Chicago and so, the Giants will have to stop him on both the ground and in the air before they can hope to win.
Aaron Rodgers worst QBR of the season (65.0) came in the win against the Giants. We don’t need to remind you that Rodgers and the Packers’ offense pretty much stunk back then. I don’t expect Rodgers to light the Giants up this time around, but if he can just continue near the level of play he’s been at for the past six weeks, the Giants are going to have a hard time covering all of Rodgers’ options.
Defensively, obviously the Packers have major concerns. The Giants haven’t been very good on offense all year, which is odd considering that is supposed to be coach Ben McAdoo’s specialty. Of course, the Packers’ defense has a habit of bringing poor offenses to life. The Giants will likely look to control the clock, play conservatively, and hope for a couple big plays from Odell Beckham to make the difference. Obviously, controlling Beckham is the Packers’ first line of business.
You never know what you are going to get with Eli Manning. He has come to Lambeau and played big before, but that was usually after better seasons than he’s had this year. The Packers have to get after him and hope for some mistakes. The Giants can’t hope to control the clock if Eli turns it over.
In the end, for all the talk about how different these teams are from October, I expect this game to be similar to the one played in week 5. With all the other games this weekend turning into blowouts, once again the NFL can rely on the Packers to play a close playoff game.
Win or lose, it seems like they always do.
Packers 24, Giants 20
Monty (10-6, 6-8-2 ATS): When the week started, I was feeling pretty good about this game. As the week wore on, I have been feeling less good about it. Frankly, as we have learned, you can pretty much throw the regular season out when the Green Bay Packers meet the New York Giants in the playoffs.
Yes, I realize that those last two Giant wins at Lambeau Field mean nothing. But, I was certain the Packers were going to win both of those playoff games. They won neither and got pretty much butt pounded in the last one, following the 2011 season.
Thus, the impending feeling of dread.
The good news is, those debacles were a long time ago in NFL years. As Shawn mentioned, Eli Manning is likely the only leftover of those wins. For the Packers, it’s probably Aaron Rodgers and he didn’t even play in the first one in 2007.
So, the slate is pretty much clean in terms of the players playing in this game.
And that makes me feel a hell of a lot better.
Also, those Giants teams were coached by Tom Coughlin (who outcoached Mike McCarthy by a considerable margin in both of those games). This Giants team is coached by McCarthy protégée, Ben McAdoo.
That makes me feel even better.
This game will be strength on strength with the Packers’ passing offense vs. the Giants’ top-flight corners. Do I think the Giants can stop the Packers’ passing attack because they have really good corners?
They can maybe slow it down. And even if that happens, this might be just the game where the Packers actually unleash Ty Montgomery again. I don’t really think the Giants would have an answer for that.
The real question mark to me is, the Giants’ offense vs. the Packers’ turd of a defense. The former hasn’t been good this year, but the latter has been worse.
If Eli Manning can pull out some of his Lambeau Field playoff magic, the Giants can win. Hell, if that happens, they could dominate. I think the Packers have enough, though. Get LaDarius Gunter on Odell Beckham Jr. — or even Micah Hyde, who has been playing very well — and don’t let that guy take over the game. None of the Giants’ other receivers scare me one bit.
They can get back down Miami after this week and start singing boats and hoes again.
The Packers are getting 4.5 to 5 points. Although I expect a good game, I believe they’ll beat that spread.
Packers 27, Giants 20
34-28 pack over cowgirls