THE SCOUTING REPORT
WHAT: Giants (9-5) vs. Green Bay Packers (8-6)
WHEN: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.
SERIES RECORD: The Packers lead the 48-game series 25-21-2. The teams have also met six times in the postseason, and the Packers lead that 4-2.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 20, 2008. Ice Bowl II. Minus-1 temperature, minus-23 degree wind chill. And all for the NFC championship. Eli Manning outplayed Brett Favre, but it took Lawrence Tynes' 47-yard field goal with 2:35 gone in overtime to produce the 23-20 win that put them in the Super Bowl. Manning threw a postseason high 21-of-40 for 251 yards, and Plaxico Burress caught a franchise record 11 balls for 151 yards. But it was Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs who scored the touchdowns while the defense nabbed two late interceptions off Favre, the last being Corey Webster's overtime grab that led to Tynes' game-winning field goal.
INJURIES: Giants – DE Dave Tollefson (knee) and KR Will Blackmon (knee) are out. WR Mario Manningham (heel, OL David Diehl (illness), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee),T Shawn Andrews (back), C Shaun O'Hara (foot), and WR Devin Thomas (hamstring) are probable.
Packers – DE Cullen Jenkins (calf) and G Marshall Newhouse (back) are out. LB Frank Zombo (knee) is doubtful. LB Diyral Briggs (ankle), S Nick Collins (ribs), and LB Erik Walden (quads) are questionable. T Chad Clifton (knees), LB Clay Matthews (shin), CB Pat Lee (ankle), DE Ryan Pickett (ankle), QB Aaron Rodgers (concussion), C Scott Wells (back), and CB Charles Woodson (toe) are probable.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL WIN: You might think that last week's unthinkable crash against the Eagles would be a season-sinker. But the Giants have shown resilience in the past this year, and with a sure playoff berth on the line this week, they'll put that disaster behind them. The key will be coming out strong and playing the whole 60 minutes. As cliched as that might sound, it isn't. If they let up against Aaron Rodgers, who comes back after missing last week's game against New England with a concussion, Rodgers will tear them apart. Lambeau is a tough place to play in the first place, and the Packers have exhibited a tenaciousness even in their losses this year. They did nearly beat the Patriots with a second string quarterback, after all. Once again, the Giants will have to cut down on their league-high turnover total. After stepping back against the Eagles, expect Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to get back to efficient ground production against a team that ranks 19th (117 yards per game) against the run. The Giants will blitz Rodgers, as Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas proved last week they're perfectly capable of handling faster receivers than Donald Driver and Greg Jennings one-on-one. Jennings is Rodgers' big-play target, so keeping him and his 12 touchdown catches out of the end zone will be key. Field position will be important, so Matt Dodge had better shake off his failure of last week's final punt to find some hang time and directionality.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL LOSE: The presence of Rodgers, who owns the NFL's fourth-best passer rating, makes a big difference to that offense. While nobody is going to mistake his running for Michael Vick, he is still one of the league's best scramblers. He can certainly pull it down and get a first down with his legs, or even score when necessary, as his four rushing touchdowns indicate. He can throw on the run, but is extremely dangerous when given time. His 65.4 percent completion average ranks seventh in the league. His 23 touchdown passes rank eighth. The Packers don't blitz a lot, but rather get a lot of their pressure from the front seven. There's a good chance linebacker Clay Matthews and his 12 1/2 sacks will be back, so that will add to both the pass-rush and the run-stopping nature of the unit. DE Cullen Jenkins and NT B.J. Raji have combined for another 12 1/2. The Giants line actually gave up a sack last week, so the sackless magic of the previous five games may be over, especially if center Shaun O'Hara wears down in the second half as he seemed to last week. The running game only ranks 24th, but Brandon Jackson averages nearly four yards per carry, so he can't be overlooked.
PREDICTION: The Packers have more to lose than the Giants, considering a loss will end their playoff hopes. The Giants will still be in it even with a loss, but they'll have to beat Washington next week and get help elsewhere to sneak into the postseason. Win here and they're in. We'll see exactly what kind of team this is. No doubt they'd like to end it all as fast as possible. We think they will. Giants 27-20.