Game on – Giants Battle Pack

In a game reminiscent of their easy regular-season victory over the Giants, the Packers pummeled the Seahawks in the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs. The win was so simple, even after falling behind 14-0 just four minutes into the game, Brett Favre and receiver Donald Driver were throwing snowballs at each other on the field.

But these are definitely different Giants than the Packers embarrassed at Giants Stadium during Week 2, especially since they'll play this NFC Championship Game away from East Rutherford. In fact, the Packers probably shouldn't feel like they have any advantage at all. The Giants are 9-1 on the road and haven't lost an away game since Dallas defeated them 45-35 four months ago in Irving, Texas.

Unlike their upset of the Cowboys, though, the Giants won't hit the road to face a Green Bay team that doesn't reflect its 13-3 regular-season record. While the Cowboys weren't the dominant team that cruised through the first three months of the regular season, the Packers have played well offensively and defensively recently, other than their one abysmal game at Chicago on Dec. 23. Besides that 35-7 defeat, Green Bay has won four games by an average of 23.3 points since Dallas defeated the Packers in that Thursday night showdown on Nov. 29.

WHEN NEW YORK RUNS:

Brandon Jacobs, who was a bit better against the Cowboys (14 carries, 54 yards) than he was when the Giants beat the Bucs (13 carries, 34 yards), didn't play in the Giants' regular-season loss to the Packers, due to a knee injury he suffered during their Week 1 loss to the Cowboys. Ahmad Bradshaw, whom Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride have used to complement Jacobs in these two postseason wins, didn't carry the ball in that game, either. The Packers had difficulty dealing with Derrick Ward that day (15 carries, 90 yards), but they've been better against the run since then. Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, middle linebacker Nick Barnett and strong safety Atari Bigby enabled Green Bay's run defense to shut down Shaun Alexander on Saturday in Green Bay. Other than a meaningless nine-yard run in the fourth quarter, Alexander gained only 11 yards on eight carries. Seattle managed just 28 rushing yards overall, on 18 carries. The weather might not be as much of a hindrance as it was for Seattle Saturday, but a physical Packers defense awaits Jacobs and Bradshaw.

THE EDGE: GIANTS.

WHEN NEW YORK PASSES:

Eli Manning might need to throw more than 18 times in this one if the Packers neutralize the Giants' ground game. No matter how often Manning must throw it, Charles Woodson and Al Harris, Green Bay's Pro Bowl cornerback, will pose problems for Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. Toomer did stiff-arm his way to a 40-yard catch on Woodson during the Giants' Week 2 defeat, but he caught only one other pass, an eight-yarder, in the game. Burress, meanwhile, caught only one pass for six yards after his game-tying, 26-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter. Manning must also remain weary of left defensive end Aaron Kampman, another Packers Pro Bowler. Kampman blew by right tackle Kareem McKenzie for a sack that resulted in a Manning fumble during the fourth quarter of the Giants' home loss on Sept. 16. Manning cannot afford any mental lapses if they get behind, either, certainly nothing like his fourth-quarter throw directly into left defensive tackle Corey Williams' arms in their first game, one of the worst interceptions of his career.

THE EDGE: GREEN BAY.

WHEN GREEN BAY RUNS:

Brandon Jackson (17 carries, 35 yards) and DeShawn Wynn (10 carries, 50 yards) were the Packers' primary running backs the first time around. Now they're led on the ground by perhaps the most remarkable story of this NFL season --- Ryan Grant. Yes, that's the same Ryan Grant you saw in Albany this summer, the one who is crammed onto the same page of the Giants' media guide as Marquies Gunn and Marc Hickok. While they're doing something else for a living these days, Grant ran roughshod over the Seahawks Saturday for 201 yards, the second-highest total for a player making his postseason debut in league history, and three touchdowns. That's more yardage than Jacobs and Bradshaw have combined to gain in the Giants' two playoff games. Grant, who was traded to Green Bay for an undisclosed draft choice on Sept. 1, isn't quite the punishing runner Marion Barber is. But he has run for 100 yards or more against six different defenses since Mike McCarthy made him the Packers' starting tailback on Oct. 29.

THE EDGE: GREEN BAY.

WHEN GREEN BAY PASSES:

Favre picked apart the Giants' pass defense four months ago, throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns. The 38-year-old legend spread the ball around as well, as five Packers caught four or more passes in their blowout win. While the Giants' injury-depleted defensive backfield has concerns of its own, mostly regarding Driver (eight catches, one touchdown in their first meeting) and Greg Jennings (12 touchdowns in the regular season), they'll need their linebackers to do a better job of containing Green Bay's tight ends, too. Donald Lee and Bubba Franks caught four passes apiece in the game, but it was the damage done by Lee that was most noticeable. He caught three passes for first downs and another for a touchdown that helped give Green Bay a 21-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.

THE EDGE: GREEN BAY.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Giants yielded a 42-yard kickoff return to cornerback Tramon Williams in their first meeting, but Williams was an average return man for most of the season (22.8 yards per return). Wide receiver Koren Robinson was slightly better than Williams (23.8 yards per return). Woodson remains the Packers' primary punt returner, but he averaged 8.1 yards per return, didn't take one back for a touchdown and wasn't much more effective this season than R.W. McQuarters (7.6). But Williams and cornerback Will Blackmon each returned a punt for a score during the regular season. The Packers have a steady punter in Jon Ryan (44.4 yards per punt), but he has had two attempts blocked this season. And only kicker in the NFL missed more field goal attempts than the eight on which Green Bay rookie kicker Mason Crosby failed to connect.

THE EDGE: GIANTS.

PREDICTION: GREEN BAY 28, GIANTS 17.


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