Packers vs. Giants Preview: 5 Things to Watch
When: 3:15 CDT; Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011
Where: MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ
TV: FOX; Joe Buck and Troy Aikman with the call, Pam Oliver on the sidelines.
Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Westwood One, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio).
Series: Packers lead, 30-23-2 (Packers won the last regular season game, 45-17, in Green Bay on Dec. 26, 2010).
5 things to watch
1. Protecting against pressure
Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said this week that the Giants were “going to get after Rodgers’ ass.” Take that for what you will, but a deciding factor in this game will be how the Packers offensive line—without Josh Sitton and Chad Clifton–control the Giants pass rush up front. Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka can all get home in one-on-one situations. The Packers may have to give left tackle Marshall Newhouse some help to keep the Giants’ struggling but talented ends off Rodgers. If he has time, Rodgers will pick apart the Giants secondary like he did last season.
2. Strike early
Losers of three straight games, the 6-5 Giants are a team in desperate need of a win. Last week’s defensive meltdown in New Orleans did very little to raise the confidence of this team, and the best way to put these guys on edge might be a quick lead, much like the Packers accomplished last December at Lambeau when Green Bay raced out to a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter. If the Packers march up and down the field on their first two possessions, the Giants defense might fold.
3. Contain the run
The Giants currently rank dead last in the NFL in yards per game and yards per carry, but when they’ve won big games over the likes of New England, Buffalo and Philadelphia, New York found success on the ground. The Giants are likely to get back Ahmad Bradshaw in some capacity, and bigger backs like Brandon Jacobs have given the Packers trouble at times this season. Add in the fact that the Packers are without their top two tacklers—Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk—and you get the feeling that the Giants will attempt to control the game with their two running backs. The Packers need to keep a lid on the Giants running game and force Eli Manning to beat them singlehandedly.
4. Flip the field with Cobb
According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants have the fourth worst overall special teams in the NFL. A part of that has been the play of their coverage units, where the Giants are ranked No. 15 in the league in both kick and punt return coverage. A big reason for the Packers’ transformation on special teams this season has been the play of rookie returner Randall Cobb, who is fifth in the NFL in kick return average and fourth on punts. He needs to consistently give the Packers good field position, as no offense wants to face the Giants’ pass rush from the shadow of your own goal line on the road. And we all remember what happened last season when DeSean Jackson got his hands on a Giants punt, right? Big plays can come against this unit.
5. Keep Manning on the move
Eli Manning is having one of his best seasons, but like any quarterback, he’s prone to turnovers and mistakes when the pocket collapses. He’s accurate and efficient when the pocket stays clean. The Packers especially need to take advantage with Clay Matthews, as the Giants have moved former guard David Diehl to left tackle. He really struggled there against New Orleans, giving up three pressures and a sack. On the season, Diehl has allowed six sacks and 31 pressures. If Matthews and the Packers pass rushers can rattle Manning early, he’s almost guaranteed to throw a couple of balls that the Packers defensive backs can get their hands on. Turnovers have saved this defense at times in 2011, and that might be the story at the end of this one.
Predition: Packers 37, Giants 30
With four regular starters out, including two on the offensive line, the Packers will have their hands full with the Giants pass rush. Still, that same front four will be missing Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck hasn’t played at nearly the level he’s capable of. Fewell talked a big game this week, but the Packers offense is going to score points. What ailed the Giants Monday night in New Orleans isn’t just a one week fix. I think the Giants will score, too, especially with both the Packers’ starting inside linebackers on the sidelines. In the end, however, Rodgers leads the Packers on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to get Green Bay to 12-0. It won’t be easy, but the undefeated season rolls on in the Big Apple.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2