Packers Offensive Line vs. Giants Defensive Line
This is probably THE key to this game for the Packers. Their offensive line has struggled when all of their regular starters were healthy and in position. Now add to that a shuffled line to account for the loss of right tackle Bryan Bulaga against one of the best front four in the game.
While the Giants defensive front hasn’t had the mind-blowing season like they had a year ago, they are still very formidable. After the success they had in getting to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last season’s divisional playoff game, they will be looking to duplicate that output. Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck have accounted for 14.5 of the team’s 25 sacks this season. Throw in four more by veteran end Osi Umenyiora and the Giants have a very deep and talented pass rush.
Dubbed the “NASCAR” package, New York’s front line will be looking to simply overpower and out-maneuver the Packers. They want to collapse the pocket back into Rodgers and try to force a bad throw or get the sack. They were able to wreak havoc on the Packers offense in that playoff game and it led to some turnovers. Rodgers typically fares well against the blitz but the Giants may not have to bring extra bodies if their front four can get a push on their own.
The Packers are clearly aware of what is headed their way and have to be diligent in game-planning for it. Any extra protection will go a long way to keep Green Bay’s chances of driving and moving the ball alive. Of course, so would a productive running game, but there is no reason to think the Packers will suddenly get it going on the ground. A better alternative would be the short pass (quick slant to Jordy Nelson or James Jones) and putting the backs in place to be a safety valve if all else fails. The screen just hasn’t been there all season long so the check down could become a good friend of Rodgers’ before the day is up.