15

January

Packers vs. Giants: 5 Things to Watch in NFC Divisional Round

Peprah was burned for a TD on the Giants' first offensive series.

The Green Bay Packers (15-1, NFC No. 1) host the New York Giants (10-7, NFC No. 4) Sunday in the NFC’s Divisional Round of the 2012 playoffs.

The basics 

When: 3:30 CST, Sunday, January 15, 2012.

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.

TV: FOX; Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call, Pam Oliver on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; NFL Sunday Drive; Westwood One.

Series: Packers lead, 31-23-2 (Giants won last playoff meeting, 23-20 (OT) on Jan. 20, 2008 in NFC Championship Game).

Five things to watch

1. Rookie factor

Not since Desmond Howard have the Packers had a special teams weapon that could routinely flip field position. They have one now in rookie Randall Cobb, and you better believe that teams are treating him as such. As the season wore on, more and more teams hedged their bets and kicked away from Cobb.

At the very least, Cobb can ensure the Packers aren’t playing offense from the shadow of their own goal posts Sunday. And if the Giants give him enough chances, Cobb can break that one big play that can turn the game.

2. Opposite rush

Expecting a breakout performance from the Packers’ outside linebacker position after 16 games of mediocrity (that’s putting it nicely) is overly optimistic. But there is some hope that the Packers can get something from a player opposite Clay Matthews Sunday.

Brad Jones showed some life in Week 17 with a hustle sack and a couple of stops in the running game. He’ll likely get the majority of the early snaps against the Giants. In addition, Erik Walden had one of his better pass rushing games of the season back in Week 13 in New York. A solid performance from either player, or preferably both, would be a huge lift for the Packers defense.

3. Big Fella catchin’ on

For all the criticism Jermichael Finley took during most of the regular season, the Packers’ enigmatic tight end really started to come on during the last five games of the season. A five-game stretch that saw him catch 19 passes for 254 yards and three scores started in New York, where Finley went for 87 yards, including a huge catch on the Packers’ game-winning drive, and a first-half touchdown.

13

January

Packers-Giants: Friday Injury Report

Clifton missed Friday's practice but will start at LT Sunday for the Packers.

With the Green Bay Packers’ Divisional Round matchup with the New York Giants just two days away, let’s take a quick look at each team’s official injury situation as of Friday:

Packers: Green Bay will come into this game as healthy as they’ve been all season. Chad Clifton did not participate Friday, but that’s been the typical plan for him—practice Wednesday and Thursday, take Friday off—during healthy weeks. Second-year tackle Marshall Newhouse took his snaps.

WR/KR Randall Cobb was also limited with a groin injury, but coach Mike McCarthy has said multiple times that he fully expects Cobb to play Sunday. At this point, it seems more an issue with soreness than anything, and he’ll have significant time between today and Sunday to rest the groin.

Both Clifton and Cobb are listed as probable, along with the rest of the Packers injury report save linebacker Robert Francois, who is a doubtful with a hamstring. Evan Dietrich-Smith missed Friday due to an illness.

Giants: New York officially ruled out rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich Friday, but the rest of the news on the injury front was optimistic. Both D.J. Ware and Aaron Ross practiced fully after dealing with respective concussions and are expected to play.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was back as a full participant after missing the past two days with a foot and back issue. Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee), Corey Webster (hamstring) and Deon Grant (quad) were limited Friday but each is listed as probable.

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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.

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11

January

Three Dont’s for a Comfortable Packers Win over the Giants

Tramon WilliamsThe Green Bay Packers could have had an easy game against the New York Giants when they played in week 13. But their own mishaps turned what should have been a comfy win in enemy territory into a nail-biter requiring Aaron Rodgers to come to their rescue.

I happened to be at that game in person. There were three things that struck me about the Packers’ play that day. Ater watching the replay on NFL Network last night for the first time, It just reinforced what I had seen in the stadium.

The Packers hurt themselves in three main ways in that game. I’m confident that if they can “clean it up”, the Packers will be hosting the Saints or the 49ers in the NFC Championship game at Lambeau. Here are my THREE DONT’S:

 

1) Don’t give up the big play.

Officially, “big plays” are defined as plays of 25 yards or more.  The Packers secondary went the extra mile against the Giants, giving up 3 pass plays of over 40 yards in their first meeting. All three led to scores, a total of 17 points handed to the Giants.  This falls very nicely into something I read today in the Wall Street Journal’s sports pages (yes they cover sports – from a purely analytical view).

The Journal reports (according to Stats, LLC), since 2008, teams with at least three more big plays than their opponents have won 80.2% of those games. Teams with just one more big play than their opponent won 60.5% of those games. The Packers had 2 big plays (one less than the Giants) in that game, both passes down the sideline to Jordy Nelson.  So the Packers actually bucked the big play odds by winning that game.

My point here is make the Giants earn it. Force them to drive the field in smaller chunks, make them run more plays where something can go wrong. Which leads me into #2:

 

2) Don’t drop interceptions.

I watched the replay of the game last night. Without particularly looking for it, I saw at least 4 plays where the Packers dropped sure interceptions.  In three cases, the ball bounced off a player’s hands.

9

January

Son of Packers OC Joe Philbin Found Dead in Fox River -

Authorities in Oshkosh have found the body of 21-year-old Michael Philbin, the son of Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin who had been missing from the area since 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Philbin was visiting friends at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh but hadn’t been heard from or seen since late Saturday night.

Earlier this afternoon, a body matching his description was recovered from the Fox River. Multiple media outlets have reported that the body has indeed been identified as Philbin’s son and that Packers players have been notified.

Just like that, with the snap of a finger, football in the Packers family becomes a secondary issue.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy somberly addressed the media at around 3:00 p.m., an hour or so before confirmation of a positive identification had been made. McCarthy said the Packers organization has a “family first philosophy” that will be respected in this case. Media access to the Packers locker room wasn’t made available as standard after McCarthy’s Monday press conference.

If Philbin has to miss Sunday’s game with the New York Giants—and no one would even think to blame him if he did—McCarthy also said the Packers have a contingency plan in place to deal with his absence. Philbin was in Oshkosh Monday.

Philbin has been with the Packers organization since 2003, when he was hired as an offensive line assistant. He was promoted to offensive line coach in 2006 and later in ’07 to offensive coordinator. Philbin had been in Miami and Kansas City over the last week interviewing for head coaching positions.

Philbin and his wife, Diane, have five other children.

The Packers play the New York Giants at 3:30 on Sunday.

We at AllGreenBayPackers.com—and I speak for everyone involved—would like to wish the Philbin family our dearest condolences during this time of crisis. 

8

January

Packers To Face New York Giants Next Sunday in NFC Divisional Round

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will take on the New York Giants next Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will take on the New York Giants next Sunday at Lambeau Field.

With a 24-2 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Wild Card round Sunday, the New York Giants (10-7) ensured themselves a trip to Green Bay next weekend to take on the Packers in the NFC Divisional Round. The game will take place at 3:30 CST and be aired on FOX.

The New Orleans Saints, who defeated the Detroit Lions 45-28 on Saturday, will travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers in the other Divisional matchup.

New York left no doubt who should be the team advancing in the NFC playoffs Sunday. They worked through a slow first half with a 7-2 lead, then poured in on the Falcons in the second half with 17 points, including two Eli Manning touchdown passes.

The Giants rushing attack, which ranked 32 in the NFL during the regular season, rushed for 172 yards on 31 carries and was a driving force for the offense all afternoon. Brandon Jacobs had 92 of those yards, and Ahmad Bradshaw tacked on another 63.

The Giants’ defense also had a standout day, limiting the Falcons to just 247 total yards and zero points. Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked just twice but was generally under heavy pressure for most of the game, and Michael Turner ran for just 2.7 yards a carry. They did lose Deon Grant (groin) and Aaron Ross (concussion), two key players in their secondary, to injuries. That could be a big factor next Sunday if both are forced to miss.

Even so, New York will ride a three-game winning streak into Lambeau Field. This will be a confident bunch, and for good reason. The Giants are playing as well right now as they have all season.

Sunday’s meeting will mark the first playoff game between the Giants and Packers since New York knocked off Green Bay in the 2007 NFC Championship game. However, the Packers have beaten the Giants in two regular season games since then, winning 45-17 in December of 2010 and 38-35 earlier this season.

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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.

5

December

Packers vs. Giants: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 38-35 Win over New York

The Green Bay Packers ran their unbeaten streak to 12 games this season and 18 overall as quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on a game-winning drive during the final minute to help Green Bay secure a 38-35 win over the New York Giants Sunday from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Cross it off

What hasn’t Aaron Rodgers done in 2011? He can officially cross a game-winning drive off the list. After Eli Manning’s short touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks (and ensuing two-point conversion) tied the game at 35, Rodgers took over at his own 20-yard-line with 58 seconds left and one timeouts. Rodgers hasn’t been in that situation yet this season, but he was calm and razor sharp as he completed all four of his passes—including three of 18 yards or more—to set the Packers up for a 30-yard field goal try. Mason Crosby banged home the kick as the fourth quarter clock expired to push the Packers to 12-0.

In a season full of important drives, Rodgers’ last minute masterpiece was far-and-away the most impressive and important. If they hadn’t already, the engravers for the NFL MVP trophy can begin putting in Rodgers’ name with confidence.

2. Charles…Matthews?

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews did his best Charles Woodson impression in the first half on what turned out to be one of the game’s most important plays. While up just 10-7 to start the second quarter, you got the feeling that the Giants had a pretty good hold of the game’s first 15 minutes. Matthews’ impressive break on Manning’s pass to the flats gave him an easy pick-6, suddenly giving Green Bay a 14-10 lead.

Matthews was a force for most of Sunday’s game, recording a sack, forced fumble and two quarterback hits. By my count, Matthews also had four quarterback hurries. That’s the kind of production in the pass rush that we’ve come to expect from Matthews. His interception return for a touchdown was simply icing on the cake for what was a fantastic performance all-around.

3. Up-and-down up front

The Packers offensive line didn’t play their best game of 2011, but the unit held up as well as you could have asked for against a talented Giants’ front-four. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse had problems at times with Jason Pierre-Paul and Dave Tollefson beat him clean for a sack in the fourth quarter. The Packers gave the left tackle plenty of help throughout.

3

December

Packers vs. Giants Preview: 5 Things to Watch

The Green Bay Packers (11-0) will take their undefeated record into New York on Sunday, as the Giants (6-5) welcome the Packers in a Week 13 showdown at MetLife Stadium.

The basics 

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.