N.Y. Giants at Green Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis. - TV: FOX
TV announcers: TBD
Keys to the game: Other than a trap game loss to rival Washington, the Giants have been playing their best football since a three-point home loss against Green Bay in Week 13. Despite a breakout performance by the ground game in Sunday's romp over Atlanta, an enormous amount of weight falls on Giants QB Eli Manning. The Packers gave up just shy of 300 passing yards per game during the regular season, but also picked off 31 passes. Considering QB Aaron Rodgers threw only six picks, that equated to 25 extra possessions for Green Bay alone. With WR Mario Manningham over his knee injury and confidence issues, Manning has three receivers to attack with downfield: as long as his accuracy is there in what is forecast to be balmy, atypical playoff weather at Lambeau Field. Rodgers is expected to get WR Greg Jennings back in the lineup and tore apart the Giants undermanned secondary in Week 13, throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns despite getting virtually no help from his ground game. The Giants sacked him twice and got six hits in, but Rodgers mobility extends plays and really exposes New Yorks secondary.
Matchup to watch: Giants RT Kareem McKenzie vs. Packers OLB Clay Matthews — The Giants had to adjust their protections after McKenzie struggled in the first half against Atlanta. Matthews is a superior pass rusher to the Falcons' Ray Edwards and can live in the Giants' backfield if he's left one-one-one against McKenzie. Look for the Giants to provide help from the outset in the form of chip blocks and double-teams.
Player spotlight: Packers LT Chad Clifton — He played just 25 snaps in Week 17, his first action since a hamstring injury Oct. 9. Just rounding back into shape, hell be tasked with battling Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.
Fast facts: Manning has 11 career postseason touchdowns, passing Phil Simms on the franchises all-time list. ... Rodgers had a 128.5 passer rating with 24 touchdowns and four interceptions at home during the regular season.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
Winning at Lambeau Field in January is a tall order, especially with the Packers well rested. The Giants have proven they can go toe-to-toe with the Packers in a high-scoring game. The rematch comes down to who protects the ball and capitalizes in the red zone.
Our pick: Packers 33-30
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
When the Giants run the ball: RB Ahmad Bradshaw displayed good vision last week, while Brandon Jacobs' power wore the Falcons' defense down in the second half as the Giants piled up 172 rushing yards. That combination has been too infrequent this season, and the Packers are far more solid in defending the run (111.8 yards per game). EDGE: Even.
When the Giants pass the ball: Giants QB Eli Manning dissected the Packers for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting, but also threw an interception. And that's the Packers' calling card — give up a slew of yards between the 20s, lock down in the red zone and gamble looking for turnovers. But Manning is playing extremely well and has a healthy trio of receivers to play pitch and catch with. EDGE: Giants.
When the Packers run the ball: Green Bay's running backs averaged just 2.4 yards per carry in the first meeting, while Rodgers led the team with 32 rushing yards on four scrambles. The Giants bottled up Atlanta's far superior ground game last week, allowing just 64 yards on 21 carries. Green Bay would get a boost if leading rusher James Starks can overcome his bruised right ankle, though Ryan Grant has given the Packers consistent yardage when given opportunities over the last several games. EDGE: Giants.
When the Packers pass the ball: QB Aaron Rodgers wasn't as accurate as normal in the Week 13 meeting, completing 28-of-46 passes while dealing with a stiff pass rush. But he completed passes to 10 receivers en route to 369 yards and four touchdowns through the air. The Giants have been losing what seems like a defensive back a week this season, and the status of CB Aaron Ross (concussion) threatens to leave them even more shorthanded. EDGE: Packers.
Special teams: Packers PK Mason Crosby has an enormous leg, and he and P Tim Masthay are accustomed to Lambeau Field. Giants PK Lawrence Tynes and P Steve Weatherford are solid but unspectacular veterans. The Packers have a definite edge with Randall Cobb in the return game while the Giants' main priority out of Will Blackmon is ball security. EDGE: Packers.
Coaching: Giants coach Tom Coughlins job security is a constant fodder for debate, but here he is again with his team playing well in the postseason. He and the Packers' Mike McCarthy had Super Bowls on their resume and excellent coordinators. EDGE: Even.
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