Sitting at a 4-6 record, Aaron Rodgers delivered a message to the press saying he believed the Packers could run the table to make the playoffs. Six games later, the Packers sit at 10-6 and are hosting a playoff game as NFC North champs. Now, the real test begins. The Packers rode Rodgers to the playoffs, but now can they run through the postseason in the same fashion? First, the Packers need to get through the New York Giants, a team that has won in Lambeau before, and are red hot on the defensive side of the ball. Plus, Eli Manning always seems to find some magic in the postseason, and his weapons outside are enough to go vertical on the Packers defense. How do the Packers come out on top? Let’s find out.
It’s a War in the Trenches
The battle between these two NFC heavyweights will be focused on the trenches. The Giants did not get too much pressure on Green Bay in their matchup back in October, and instead dropped as many as they could into coverage, assuming Rodgers would escape. This time, however, they might want to get pressure. Rodgers has been carving opponents up of late, and dropping many into coverage will only allow Rodgers to wait around and make a play. Up front, it’s about Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison generating pressure. Both have been extremely successful against the run this season, but now, they will need to get to Rodgers. With no JPP and no Owa Odighizuwa on the other side this week, it will be a challenge. That being said, the Packers now know that they can put their tackles on islands a lot and concentrate on preventing interior pressure from Harrison and Hankins. The Giants are dangerous because they can rush four and get to the quarterback. Green Bay wants to establish the run as well, so it’s important to get as much push between the tackles as possible. On the other side, the Giants have had an underwhelming year on the offensive line. Ereck Flowers has struggled at left tackle, and they haven’t been real effective running the ball. However, in the past couple weeks, Paul Perkins has emerged to be effective enough for New York. The Packers will need to contain Perkins and make Eli throw. Yes, Eli has had magic in the playoffs before, but he has had a down year this season, and getting pressure on him could lead to bad throws and bad decisions, resulting in a key turnover. If the Packers control the line of scrimmage, they win this game.
Where Do You Attack the Secondary?
It’s no secret that the Giants secondary has been very good this season. Janoris Jenkins is an All Pro in my book, DRC is great in slot coverage, and Landon Collins has played excellent in his second season at safety, even emerging as a dark horse for defensive player of the year. You know wherever the Packers line up Jordy Nelson, Jenkins or Rodgers-Cromartie will be in coverage. Looking elsewhere, Davante Adams will draw strong matchups as the number two wideout. He will make some plays, but he isn’t the key in this game. The slot receivers will be the keys to moving the ball effectively. Geronimo Allison, a rookie undrafted free agent, has moved up the depth chart and actually led the Packers in receiving yards last week against Detroit. His size and hands make him a big time threat. Don’t forget about Randall Cobb, who had 9 catches for 108 yards last time out against the Giants. His ability to find holes in the middle of the field have been missed lately, but if he plays today, you know he will be on the field. Last, and certainly not least (maybe even the most important), is Jared Cook. We know about the coverage that the Giants can put together, but no one has the size and speed to cover Jared Cook. Landon Collins might be the one to line up against him at times, but he struggles in coverage, and Cook’s speed could prove to be an issue. The Giants could try Jenkins against Cook, but then you have to worry about Nelson’s big play ability down the field. Cook provides the problem that the Packers must take advantage of if they want this game.
How Do You Stop Odell Beckham and Company?
We all know about the Packers secondary. They have problems in coverage and are susceptible to giving up big gains down the field. Ladarius Gunter has been steadily improving. They need Damarious Randall to play to handle the speed the Giants have at receiver. Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett will both probably end up playing slot coverage (Hyde might even be on the perimeter). So, how do you slow down the passing attack. It comes back to the trenches once again. Guys like Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Mike Daniels need to generate pressure on Eli Manning so there is less time for plays to develop. If the Packers don’t get pressure early, we have seen what happens. Gunter, Randall and company often can’t cover that long, and they then give up big plays. So, we need to see big games from the outside linebackers. Matthews had a great game against Minnesota two weeks ago. Impact plays like that will slow down the Giants offense. Nick Perry has been the most consistent pass rusher when healthy, so a big time game from him would be huge. Also, ageless wonder Julius Peppers still finds a way to get to the quarterback. He will probably get limited snaps, but his impact won’t go unnoticed, especially during playoff time (the strip of DeMarco Murray comes to mind). Those guys need to figure out a way to generate enough pressure so the Packers don’t need to send so many on a blitz. The more in coverage, the better.
If you’ve seen my wild card picks, you know my score of the game. I believe in Aaron Rodgers and this offense to find a way to move the ball at home. Montgomery and Ripkowski will be important in the run game, and I think Eli won’t pull a 180 and turn into a magical quarterback. It will be low scoring, but the Pack come out on top.
Packers 24, Giants 17