Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

We break down the four big matchups that will determine the outcome of Sunday's playoff-worthy showdown between the Giants and Packers at Lambeau Field. Leading off: Can the Packers' offensive tackles hold up, and can Greg Jennings get open?


LT Chad Clifton and RT Bryan Bulaga vs. DEs Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul: The Giants rank second in the league with 42 sacks, thanks in no small measure to their productive linemen. Tuck and Umenyiora form the league's top sack tandem with 10 apiece. Tuck is on a tear with six sacks in the last five games, and he will be primarily matched up against rookie Bulaga, who had a costly missed assignment that resulted in a sack and foiled a potential game-winning drive by the Packers in the loss at New England on Sunday. Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul rotate at right end and will clash with Clifton. While Umenyiora has made little impact of late with just two sacks in eight games, Pierre-Paul has emerged in the second half of his rookie season with all 4.5 of his sacks in the last four games and four pass deflections in the last three outings.

WR Greg Jennings vs. CBs Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas: The Packers badly need a big game from Jennings, who had the game-changing drop against Detroit and a quiet game at New England on the heels of a seven-game streak of at least six catches. Thomas has five interceptions (not to mention four forced fumbles) while Webster has four interceptions. They're both beneficiaries of the Giants' hellacious pass rush. Aaron Rodgers might not have time to hit Jennings deep, so Jennings will have to make plays with his legs.


Woodson and Williams
Paul Sancya/AP Images
CBs Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Sam Shields vs. WRs Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham: The Giants miss Steve Smith, who was Eli Manning's favorite receiver on third down, but this is a quality starting duo. Nicks is among the league leaders with 75 receptions for 959 yards and 10 touchdowns. Manningham has 52 catches and seven touchdowns, and had a breakthrough performance in the Giants' loss to Philadelphia on Sunday with eight receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Manning isn't bashful about throwing the football downfield to Nicks and Manningham and letting them make big plays after the catch — they have a combined 33 catches of 20 or more yards. Woodson plays in the slot in three-receiver sets but the Giants play more base offense than most teams, so Woodson will be on the outside more than usual, where he's struggled at times. The Packers probably would like to match Woodson against on the bigger Nicks, with Williams on the speedy Manningham.

LBs Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk vs. RB Ahmad Bradshaw: No offense to burly Brandon Jacobs, who has rushed for 727 yards and is averaging a whopping 5.8 yards per attempt, but Bradshaw is the man to watch. Jacobs and Bradshaw split the work on first and second down, but Bradshaw — who ranks second in the NFC with 1,182 rushing yards — is the man on third down with his 40 receptions. Bradshaw, however, has put the ball on the ground six times (five lost). Bishop has forced two fumbles this year while Hawk hasn't forced a fumble since 2007.


... Their running game produces like last week. If some combination of Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, James Starks and Dimitri Nance can match the productivity of the New England game, that will be a huge asset in keeping Rodgers on his feet and out of too many sure passing situations.


... They can't protect Rodgers. Plain and simple, if Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul win their matchups against Clifton and Tauscher — and aggressive defensive coordinator Perry Fewell can outsmart Rodgers — the Packers have no chance.


... Their talented offensive line can beat the Packers' depleted defensive line and open holes for Bradshaw and Jacobs. The Packers' rushing defense ranks a disappointing 19th after leading the league last year, but this is the kind of power-vs.-power matchup the Packers have been designed to win.


... They haven't gotten past last week's loss to Philadelphia. That's the million-dollar question entering this game. If the Giants are unable to move past that three-touchdown meltdown and focus on this huge game, the focused Packers are going to roll.


Cut through everything else and it comes down to turnovers. The Giants lead the NFL with 34 takeaways but they're also tied for the most giveaways with 35. Rodgers' track record says he'll avoid the interceptions and sack-strips that the Giants have thrived on. The Packers' defensive track record says that unit will make Manning and Bradshaw pay for their lax ball security. Packers 23, Giants 20.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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