While the Packers have survived without their veteran Pro Bowl left tackle, the Giants were a mess without third-year pro Will Beatty at New Orleans on Monday.
Beatty had given up four sacks in 10 starts this season but was put on season-ending injured reserve with an eye injury before last week's game against the Saints. Reminiscent of the Packers moving left guard Daryn Colledge to left tackle in 2009, the Giants shuffled 31-year-old left guard Diehl to the all-important left tackle position. Diehl, having a miserable season as it was — he ranked 54th among 55 guards in pass protection by Pro Football Focus — gave up a sack and three pressures.
Walden, of course, is having his own troubles off the field but has been one of the Packers' best defenders over the last five games. By the Packers' count, he's got two sacks and 14 quarterback hits during that span, and he led the Packers with eight tackles against Detroit.
New York may have the best collection of pass rushers up front, but New Orleans held the Giants without a sack in its runaway victory Monday night. Osi Umenyiora, the Giants' best pass rusher in terms of combined sacks and pressures, left that game with a sprained ankle and isn't expected to play. Pierre-Paul, a first-round draft pick last year, has been the Giants' best saboteur against the quarterback this season and ranks third in the league with 10.5 sacks. Tuck, the starter at left end, is having an underwhelming season with just two sacks, including none in the last four games. He had 11.5 sacks last year and double-digits in three of the previous four seasons.
"Those guys can change a game, and they all have at various points in time," Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "The young kid, Pierre-Paul, is really starting to come into his own. Tuck, he's got a history of production. They move those guys around and they put them at different spots and they challenge your recognition and communication as a protection team."
Newhouse, who has been capably filling in for an injured Chad Clifton since mid-October, should see a lot of Pierre-Paul. Bulaga is looking to have a bounce-back game after his first letdown of the season in the Thanksgiving win at Detroit.
Packers TE Jermichael Finley vs. Giants linebackers and safeties
A common denominator in the Giants' recent slide has been teams' exploiting their pass defense with the tight end. Going back the last four games, including New York's win at New England before three straight losses, the Giants have allowed 32 catches for 389 yards and five touchdowns by tight ends.
The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (eight receptions, 101 yards, touchdown) and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham (five catches, 84 yards, two TDs) have led the domination by the big and athletic targets over the middle. Next up for the Giants is Finley, the Packers' nearly indefensible playmaker whose production has strangely been on the low end of late. Finley has only 14 receptions and two touchdowns in the last six games. A breakout performance, a la his seven-catch, 85-yard, three-touchdown showing in Week 3 at Chicago, could be in the offing in his first meeting against the Giants.
In last season's matchup against Green Bay, Manning threw four interceptions, and he wound up tossing a league-high 25 picks. Manning, who on Monday night threw his 10th interception of the season, has done a much better job in being patient and in not trying to force passes into tight spots. Meanwhile, the Packers come into this week's game with 22 interceptions — a whopping six more than any team in the league — and are second with a plus-15 turnover ratio.
Their two starting corners, Woodson and Williams, have 10 of the interceptions (safety Charlie Peprah, a 2006 Giants draft pick, also has four picks). Woodson, who leads the NFC in interceptions with six, has recorded 36 picks since 2006, the second most in the NFL. Manning will have to continue showing patience in taking what the defense gives him regardless of the score, and focus on methodically moving the chains. He certainly has the weapons with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks providing one of the most underrated receiver combos in the league.
"Whether they're blitzing or dropping back into coverage, they seem to make plays," Manning said. "They have good defensive backs. Their safeties are always in the mix. We have to have good preparation and get ready for all their looks."
This matchup is the real wild card given the questionable health of Packers linebackers Desmond Bishop (calf) and A.J. Hawk (calf) and Giants running back Bradshaw (foot). None of the three had practiced through Thursday.
The obvious worst-case scenario for the Packers is they're forced to start D.J. Smith and Robert Francois and Bradshaw feels healthy enough to give it a go. In seven games, Bradshaw has 650 total yards. A fumble machine last season — his six lost fumbles include one in the Week 16 game at Lambeau — he has coughed it up just once this year. At 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds, he's tough and elusive. Despite being sidelined for four games, he's tied for 10th among running backs with defenders missing 29 tackles against him, according to Pro Football Focus.
That's twice as many missed tackles as against the 256-pound Jacobs, who's averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. "He's a big back," Smith said. "You've got to bring your shoulders and you've got to bring everything you've got, because he's a load to bring down."
When the Giants go nickel, Rolle moves from safety to slot corner. He's the guy the Packers will want to attack, and while Driver generally lines up in the slot, look for Green Bay to move Jennings inside in three-receiver sets with James Jones and Jordy Nelson on the outside.
Rolle has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 75.0 percent of their passes.
As for the starting corners, Aaron Ross has four interceptions but allowed 67.2 percent completions. Drew Brees beat him on Monday for two touchdowns. Corey Webster, who also has four interceptions, has allowed 55.8 percent completions.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.