Aaron Rodgers vs. Eli Manning.
It’s matchup that has more appeal than Clinton vs. Trump, and they’ll be at center stage for Sunday night’s matchup.
Given the dominance of the run defenses — more on that later — and the beat-up state of the secondaries, the safe money would be on the quarterbacks throwing the ball here, there and everywhere on what’s forecasted to be a brisk October evening at Lambeau Field.
“Absolutely,” linebacker Clay Matthews said when asked if he expects Manning to come out firing. “We’ve given up a few too many yards the past two games prior to the bye week, so you’d imagine he’d come out here and try to test us.”
Rodgers is the NFL’s two-time MVP and league’s career leader in passer rating. Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion who is nearing several milestones.
“I think being around franchise quarterbacks and being around Brett (Favre), too, I think the competitive drive, the consistency in preparation, being able to articulate what’s happening on the field and the ability they have to see the entire field is always something that’s unbelievable to me, and just how slow the game is for them,” said Giants coach Ben McAdoo, who spent eight seasons with the Packers, including two seasons with Rodgers as quarterbacks coach.
Rodgers came under fire after a pair of subpar games to start the season. Before the bye, however, Rodgers delivered an emphatic message by throwing four touchdown passes in the first half alone against Detroit.
“Aaron is a little older and a little wiser,” McAdoo told reporters in New York this week. “Fundamentally, he’s always been one of the best in the league.”
Does Rodgers have any weaknesses?
“No,” McAdoo said matter-of-factly.
Manning needs two touchdown passes to become the eighth quarterback in NFL history with 300 and one win to reach 100 for his career. Including playoffs, this will be his 199th consecutive start. Only Favre (321) and Manning’s brother, Peyton (227), have longer streaks among quarterbacks in NFL history. Since Manning started his streak on Nov. 21, 2005, there have been 33 other starting quarterbacks in the NFC East and 175 different starters league-wide.
“I don’t think anybody is going to compete with Old Favrey’s record, but it’s really impressive,” Rodgers said.
McAdoo, who joined the Giants as offensive coordinator in 2014, has brought out the best in Manning. During their two-plus seasons together, Manning is tied for third in the NFL in touchdown passes and is fourth in yards. Manning, who will turn 36 on Jan. 3, has seen it all during his career. That makes it incredibly difficult to outwit him at the line of scrimmage.
“I think any time you play against an experienced quarterback, he’s seen a ton of looks, he knows all the coverages,” Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said. “I’m sure they’re studying us. Ben has information, his familiarity with us. They’re going to know how to attack coverages and they’re going to have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to want to do against us. Disguise, all the little things that go into play when you’re playing against a quality player in (Eli) Manning that’s seen all the different looks, he’s going to get rid of the ball, the whole deal. We’ve just got to make sure we’re fundamentally sound. We’re trying to make it as tough as possible on him and not let him read our mail, so to speak, pre-snap. It’s just going to be important that we not give things away with him because he can make all the throws and he’s a tremendous player. He’ll present a great challenge for us.”
The Packers will be without cornerback Sam Shields and fellow cornerback Damarious Randall is questionable. Giants cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple are questionable and safeties Nat Berhe and Darian Thompson are out. That should lead to some inviting matchups on the perimeter for both quarterbacks.
“I get excited about going against a good team in the Green Bay Packers,” Manning said. “They’re year in and year out a playoff team and Aaron always plays at a high level and their offense has the ability to score points, so I know as an offense we’ve got to come in there and do our job and play at a high level and try to control the ball. We know we’re going to have to score some points and play well. Looking forward to Sunday night in Green Bay at Lambeau. It’s always a special place to play.”
Ultimately, this game might be in the hands of Rodgers and Manning because running the football might be futile.
Green Bay ranks No. 1 in the league with 42.7 rushing yards allowed per game and 1.80 yards allowed per carry. The Jets are a distant second in both measures, with 70.3 rushing yards allowed per game and 3.09 yards allowed per carry.
“When you see the numbers, it is like, ‘How is that possible?’” Giants running back Orleans Darkwa told reporters in New York this week. “They are really good up front. They have an exceptional D-line (with) Mike Daniels leading the charge. They are pretty big up front and their linebackers are young, but they play like veterans. It seems like they fit the gaps well and their safeties come downhill, so they are not afraid to hit, their secondary is not afraid to hit. Nothing jumps out on paper, it just seems like they do things fundamentally well.”
Darkwa forgot a few things that don’t show up on film.
“Attitude and technique and hustle,” Daniels said this week.
That’s been the major difference. Last year and the past six seasons combined, the Packers gave up 4.54 yards per carry. Green Bay has allowed 128 rushing yards in three games. It allowed more yards in six games last season.
“We were horrible. It was embarrassing,” Daniels said after the Detroit game. “We’re playing tough and guys are flying around to the ball and we’re just getting physical with the other team. That’s just that freaking simple. We have different guys now, too, different personalities. I’m an older guy so if I’m out there telling everybody to get mean and physical, young guys are listening and they’re doing it. It’s that simple.”
The Giants’ backfield has been hit hard by injuries. Shane Vereen, the team’s versatile rushing leader, is on injured reserve. Powerful veteran Rashad Jennings missed last week’s game with an injured thumb and is questionable. That could thrust Darkwa, with 100 yards on 23 carries, into the role of leading man.
The Packers are in better shape with a healthy Eddie Lacy, who is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. The Giants’ run defense, however, has been stingy, as well, as it’s yielded only 3.17 yards per carry. The beef in the middle is key. Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins, the starting defensive tackles, weigh 343 pounds and 320 pounds, respectively. Robert Thomas (325 pounds), Montori Hughes (353 pounds) and pint-sized Jay Bromley (306 pounds) are on the bench.
“We know there’s going to be a lot of short runs in the beginning,” Lacy said. “Because of the way they play, because of how big they are, because of how strong they are. We just can’t get away from it. We have to continue to do it, and eventually we’ll pop out.”
SPENDING LIKE DRUNKEN SAILORS
Money can’t buy love. And it can’t buy wins in the NFL, either.
According to Spotrac, five teams spent more than $120 million in free agency this offseason. The Jaguars spent a league-high $224.5 million, followed by the Giants ($212.0 million), Raiders ($170.0 million), Texans ($138.9 million) and Bears ($123.4 million).
Heading into Sunday’s games, the Jaguars are 1-3, the Giants are 2-2, the Raiders are 3-1, the Texans are 3-1 and the Bears are 1-3.
The win-loss column doesn’t tell the whole story.
— Jacksonville spent heavily on a defense that ranks 24th in points allowed. The Jaguars rank 29th in scoring differential at minus-27.
— New York spent heavily on a defense that ranks 15th in points allowed, 31st in sacks and 32nd in takeaways.
— Houston spent heavily on an offense that ranks 29th in scoring, with high-priced quarterback Brock Osweiler ranking 28th in passer rating. In the Texans’ lone big game, they were crushed by the Patriots and their third-string rookie quarterback 27-0.
— Oakland spent on both sides of the ball, with homegrown quarterback Derek Carr carrying a defense that ranks 22nd in points allowed and 32nd in yards allowed.
— Chicago bought two offensive linemen, including Josh Sitton, but ranks 31st in scoring, and two inside linebackers, but ranks 19th in points allowed. The Bears are 30th with a point differential of minus-35.
Green Bay, which ranked 29th in free-agent spending and only added tight end Jared Cook, will face many of the big spenders this season. In fact, the Packers play eight games against the eight big offseason spenders. That includes far and away the two most extravagant teams, with the Jaguars in Week 1 and the Giants on Sunday. Along with the Texans (Week 13) and Bears (Weeks 7 and 15), the Packers will face the Falcons (sixth in spending; Week 8), Eagles (seventh in spending; Week 12) and Redskins (eighth in spending; Week 11). Philadelphia is 3-0 and has thoroughly dominated on both sides of the ball, Atlanta is 3-1 but has no defense and Washington is 2-2 but has no defense.
Turning the focus back to Sunday’s opponent, perhaps the Giants’ spending spree will lead them back to greatness. After going 9-7 but winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the Giants have missed the playoffs in each of the past four seasons and are coming off back-to-back 10-loss seasons.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Giants GM Floyd Reese opened the vault to fix a defense that ranked 30th in points allowed, 32nd in total defense and 32nd in passing defense. In terms of total contract, defensive end Olivier Vernon (five years, $85 million), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (five years, $62.5 million) and defensive tackle Harrison (five years, $46.25 million) ranked as the second-, fifth- and eighth-most expensive free agents. And for what? These are good players but they’re not franchise-changing players in the mold of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward, who Broncos GM John Elway signed to help build a defensive juggernaut.
It’s early, obviously, but Vernon has one sack, Jenkins has no interceptions and Harrison never has and never will be an every-down defender. Is the Giants’ defense better than it was a year ago? Yes. Then again, that unit was so far down that it had to reach up to touch bottom. But for $105.3 million in guaranteed money, you’d expect more than mediocrity.
INSIDE THE GIANTS
— McAdoo’s path to New York went through New Orleans and Green Bay and started in a snowstorm.
With the football program at Fairfield (Conn.) University being shuttered, McAdoo needed a job. He learned through the grapevine that the New Orleans Saints had an open position for the 2003 season. Mike McCarthy was the Saints’ offensive coordinator at the time.
“I actually got him on the phone and talked to him briefly,” McAdoo told Giants.com upon being hired to replace longtime coach Tom Coughlin in January. “He said, ‘I think the position is filled. We have to go through all the red tape and everything like that, but we have a pretty good candidate right now.’ He would let me know after he got back from Indianapolis (at the Scouting Combine) if the job was filled or not. I did not want to wait. I wanted to try and grab him as soon as I could get my hands on him.”
Come hell or high water, McAdoo wanted to talk to McCarthy. Or, more accurately, come hell or high snow.
“I drove to Indianapolis in probably one of the worst snowstorms in the Northeast. I remember driving in West Virginia over the hills trying to figure out if I was on the road or not. It was one of those type deals. Everyone was in a state of emergency, and I am trucking through. It took me about 26 hours to get from Connecticut to Indianapolis. I had my suit ready to go, and I was sitting in the mall in Indianapolis outside the Canterbury (Hotel) with a big duffle bag full of binders ready to show my work. You got to do what you got to do sometimes.”
McAdoo didn’t get the job. But he left a great impression. A year later, in 2004, McAdoo was hired by the Saints to serve as offensive quality control coach.
“It’s impressive,” McCarthy said on Friday. “I think you look at people, you look at situations, first impressions are important. And that’s definitely a great first impression that Ben made that day.”
McAdoo followed McCarthy to San Francisco in 2005 and to Green Bay in 2006 as part of McCarthy’s first staff. McAdoo spent 2006 through 2011 as tight ends coach before coaching the quarterbacks in 2012 and 2013.
“He did it the right way,” Rodgers said. “He’s a grinder. He’s a great attention-to-detail. I’m happy for him.”
McAdoo took the long road but he reached his destination in good time. McAdoo, who turned 39 in July, is the second-youngest coach in the NFL behind Miami’s Adam Gase, who is 16 months younger and age 38.
“I never really thought about the time frame or how that would all work out,” McAdoo said in his conference call this week. “I was always looking for opportunities to learn and opportunities to grow. And making sure that if I could be in an organization that was a quality organization with quality people, that was important to me. So, being able to work in Green Bay for all those years and coming to New York, not many people can say that they coached for these two franchises.”
— On paper, the Giants’ pass rush is anything but gigantic.
They have just four sacks — and half of those are from defensive backs. Their sack rate of 2.48 percent ranks 31st in the NFL. They have 18 quarterback hits; the Packers have 20 while playing one fewer game. However, the Packers are wary of the Giants’ edge-rushing tandem of Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul.
“It’s one of the strengths of their defense,” McCarthy said. “I like both players, so it’s definitely a focus of ours and I think really if you just watch the first four games, it’s been a focus of every one of their opponents. Yeah, both players are excellent players.”
Pierre-Paul and Vernon have one sack apiece. However, they are tied for fifth in the league with eight quarterback hurries.
“Sacks are sacks. Everyone cares about the statistics. That’s why they say guys get paid on them,” said Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, who will face Vernon. “But it’s the time that you disrupt the quarterback, you’re in the quarterback’s face consistently. People harp on how many sacks a certain guy has or a certain line has, but it doesn’t matter. It’s how much they impede the quarterback, how much they influence the quarterback and make him get off his mark, feel uncomfortable when he throws and feel pressure. Those are things that are huge, and they do a good job of that, regardless of how many sacks they have coming into this week. They’ve got a good front. It’ll be another good challenge for us. I’m excited. I always like playing elite players.”
Pierre-Paul famously injured his hand in a fireworks incident. Vernon is been battling a wrist injury. Nonetheless, their value to the Giants’ defense is evident in their snap counts. Pierre-Paul has played all but five defensive snaps this season and has a defensive line-high 97.6 percent snap rate, according to SportingCharts.com. Vernon has been a relative slacker by comparison, logging 93.8 percent. By comparison, Green Bay’s leader among front-seven players is outside linebacker Nick Perry at 76.8 percent. The heavy work loads for Pierre-Paul and Vernon could be an issue on Sunday night, given the Giants are coming off a Monday night game.
“If I'm not capable of doing it, I won't do it. But you're going to get 120 percent of me every time I'm on the field," Pierre-Paul told reporters in New York this week. "And if I'm tired, I'm coming out. I won't do that to my teammates and stay on the field if I know I'm not going to be able to produce.”
— The Giants have a dynamic weapon on special tams with returner Dwayne Harris. He’s averaged 25.9 yards on six kickoff returns and 10.0 yards on four punt returns. The sixth-year pro boasts career averages of 27.0 yards on kickoffs and 10.7 yards on punts. He had a touchdown in each phase with the Giants last year and touchdowns on punts with Dallas in 2012 and 2013.
“No. 1, he's fearless. Number 2, he plays hard — he plays very, very hard,” Packers special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. “He's big, he's strong. You have to tackle him down. There are some returners where you can hit him and he'll go down. You've got to tackle him down. I think that's one of the things that you always worry about a guy, that you bounce off of him or something, and he gets a little seam and he's got great acceleration to go. But the thing that impresses me the most is how hard he plays in all phases, whether it be returning or covering kicks.”
— Giants receiver Odell Beckham has spent the week in the spotlight but he’s not the only concern for a Packers defense that ranks 29th in opponent passer rating (105.3). Seventh-year pro Victor Cruz has caught 16 passes for 245 yards this season and has caught 23 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown in four career matchups vs. Green Bay. Rookie second-round pick Sterling Shepard has caught 20 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. His 76.9 percent catch rate ranks sixth among wide receivers with at least 12 catches.
“A lot of people forget about Cruz, how good he is,” Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “I mean, he has the ability to get through his hips. He can make you miss, he can run after the catch, he can catch the ball a lot like Beckham. And the rookie, he’s dynamic as well in the slot. They’re as good a receiving corps as there is in the league top to bottom. Then they have a quarterback that can get them the ball. It’s a great challenge. But what better than Sunday night to get it done? It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a fun game.”
— The Packers lead the series 31-26-2, including a 4-3 mark in the playoffs. However, two of the losses are of recent, bitter vintage – the 2007 NFC Championship Game and the 2011 divisional playoffs, both at Lambeau Field. The championship game was played in bitter cold; the divisional game ruined the defending Super Bowl champions’ 15-1 season.
“At the time, I thought it would be Brett Favre’s last game,” Manning said of the first of those playoff games, a springboard to his first Super Bowl title. “Then it ended up being whatever it was, negative-21 degrees, cold weather. Going in there and winning that game was one of my great memories of all-time. Great feelings. Very special. So, I obviously have some good memories in playoff games there, but trying to make some new memories and bring some good memories to some of the players who weren’t part of those teams.”
— The schedule-makers didn’t do the Giants any favors. The Packers are coming off their bye week while the Giants have a short week — with the Monday night and Sunday night games both on the road only adding to their challenge.
“No, we’re not looking for any (favors), either,” McAdoo said. “We like being the underdog. We like having a challenging schedule. We’ll take it.”
For what it’s worth, according to the Giants, this is the 11th time they will play a Monday night road game, followed immediately by a Sunday road game. They are 7-3 in those Sunday road games.
The Packers are 8-2 in their first game after a bye under McCarthy. They had won six in a row until losing at Denver last year.
“I’m sure, (it’s) a little bit” of an advantage, Nelson said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to execution. We’ve been in that situation before, came out and won games. There might be a slight thing, they have to travel back-to-back weeks. But I don’t think that will be the major key to the game.”
— Green Bay leads the regular-season series 27-23-2. That’s close. But not a close as this: The Giants have outscored the Packers in those games 924-923.
— The Giants are one win away from victory No. 700 in franchise history. Their all-time record is 699-593-33. Chicago is the NFL’s all-time leader with a record of 759-576-42. But the Packers are in pursuit with a record of 754-569-37. And if you’re into stupid factoids, here’s one: the Giants’ 100th, 400th, 500th and 600th wins came against Philadelphia. The Eagles are on the docket for Week 9.
STATS THAT AREN’T FOR LOSERS
— Turnovers are critical. Everyone knows that. Of the 11 teams that are at least plus-3 in turnovers for the season, their combined record is 32-11. Teams that win the turnover battle in a game are 39-13. So keep this in mind: The Packers are even in turnovers but the Giants are minus-8. The Giants have lost five fumbles – only one team has lost more – and they have a league-worst one takeaway. According to STATS, the Giants have at least one turnover in each of their last 13 games, the second-longest streak behind Tennessee’s 21 games.
“I think we need to play better team football overall,” McAdoo said. “We need to feed off of each other in all three phases, instead of always covering for each other. An example the other night was when we get a nice return to start the game and move the ball a little bit. We punt, get a nice stop on defense and then the ball is on the ground. It changes things early in the game. We need to bounce back sooner. We need to be able to field the punt, get a return, punch the ball in and take a lead on the road. That’s a big part of it. We’re not playing good enough team football right now. It goes with the field position, which is tied to the return game, which is tied to the turnovers and the penalties.”
— The Packers are 29th in yards but 11th in points scored. If you think that’s backward, check out the Giants, who are sixth in yards but 27th in scoring. Put another way, the Packers are gaining almost 90 fewer yards per game than the Giants but scoring 6.7 more points per game.
“I think we’re ready to break out,” McAdoo said. “In every way, shape and form, we’re ready to break out. We’re due.”
— Tying those two notes together, the Packers have played far better situational football than the Giants. Green Bay is third in red-zone offense (48.6 percent), 12th in third-down defense (37.2 percent), seventh in red-zone offense (66.7 percent touchdowns) and fifth in red-zone defense (42.9 percent touchdowns. The Giants rank in the bottom quarter of the league in three of those areas: 21st in third-down offense (39.1 percent), 28th in third-down defense (45.2 percent), 28th in red-zone offense (46.2 percent) and eighth in red-zone defense (45.5 percent).
Where the Packers’ offense badly needs improvement is on first down. The Packers are averaging 3.44 yards per first-down snap. That’s worst in the league by a relative mile, with the Colts being next-to-last at 4.13. The league average is exactly 2.0 yards better than Green Bay.
Poor first-down performance, obviously, makes for longer down-and-distance situations. One trend, McCarthy said, is defenses are playing more aggressively on second-and-8-plus than in the past.
“It’s a focus of ours,” McCarthy said. “It’s definitely a statistic that came up in the self-scouts each and every week and it’s something that we didn’t do a very good job of last year. We need to do a better job there. It’s a focus and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to improve on that Sunday night.”
— The good and bad for Rodgers with four weeks of the season in the books. First, the good: One reason why the Packers have done well on third down in spite of their first-down failures is Rodgers boasts a 115.8 passer rating on third down. That’s third in the league. Rodgers’ 9.21 yards per third-down attempt compares favorably to his overall mark of 6.56. He’ll be attacking a defense that’s allowed a third-down passer rating of 100.2, which ranks 28th. Spagnuolo called the third-down failures “frustrating” and knows that facing Rodgers only will heighten the challenge.
“He can extend the down and, look, he is not going to change,” Spagnuolo said. “He is a great football player; he is a Hall of Famer. We need to affect the other 10. That is what we are talking about. If we can do that, then we can have some success, but if you let all those guys do what they are capable of doing, then Aaron is going to find them and it is going to be a long day.”
Now, the bad: Rodgers’ fourth-quarter passer rating is just 45.5. That ranks 34th — obviously a bad stat in a 32-team league. He’s completed 9-of-19 passes for 118 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Manning is a fourth-quarter stud, with 30 career game-winning drives.
— Spagnuolo’s history is that of a blitz-happy coordinator. So, with that track record in hand, we asked Packers receiver Randall Cobb about how much a blitzing scheme impacts him, since, as a slot receiver, he’s frequently the closest receiver to Rodgers. With a puzzled look, Cobb said, “Hmm, that’s interesting. That’s news to me.”
The numbers bear that out.
The Giants have sent five or more rushers on 22.0 percent of passing snaps, the No. 21 rate in the NFL.
Will Spagnuolo change his ways this week? According to STATS, Rodgers ranks 29th this season with a 48.8 percent completion percentage when blitzed. That stands in stark contrast to 2014, when MVP Rodgers torched the blitz for a league-best 130.4 passer rating.
“That’s a good question. I’m not sure,” Rodgers said when asked what he expects on Sunday night. “They can play to their strengths or maybe play a little softer. I would assume they’re going to be aggressive and come in and pressure. It’s a great scheme. They’re very well-coached. We’re going to have to have some plans to combat the blitz.”
The other side of the coin poses a similar question. What will defensive coordinator Dom Capers do against Manning? Manning ranks 31st with a 47.4 percent completion rate when blitzed. From 2013 through 2015, according to ESPN, Manning’s passer rating vs. the blitz was 82.0 – one of the five worst in the NFL. Capers, however, tends to be reluctant to blitz a polished, veteran quarterback. For a recent example, Capers blitzed Detroit’s Matthew Stafford only four times in Week 3. For the season, Green Bay ranks 14th with a blitz rate of 27.6 percent.
“It could go either way,” Manning said. “Some teams, that’s just in the DNA of the coordinator. He’s going to blitz. Some will mix it up, just trying to figure out what their plan is. Each week, they might have a different plan and want to blitz or want to play more coverage. Obviously, either way, if you have success against it, they could easily change. Don’t know quite what to expect but you’ve got to be prepared for everything and then adjust as the game goes.”
— With Beckham’s well-documented tantrums sucking up so much of the pregame hype, it’s worth noting that he hasn’t matched his lofty production.
The third-year receiver has put up some unparalleled production during his brief career. It took Beckham 21 games to record 150 receptions; Anquan Boldin had been the fastest, doing so in 25 games. It took Beckham 21 games to reach 2,000 receiving yards, tied for the fastest in NFL history. Since making his NFL debut in Week 5 of the 2014 season, Beckham has scored 25 receiving touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (22) is the only other player with more than 20.
Through four games, Beckham’s caught 22 passes for 303 yards. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially with eight catches for 86 yards against the Saints and seven catches for 121 yards in his much-hyped battle against the Redskins’ Josh Norman. But Beckham hasn’t found the end zone yet. He went without a touchdown in five games all of last season.
Given all the scrutiny, the feeling around the Giants is Beckham is due for a big game after he was held to three catches for a career-low 23 yards by Minnesota on Monday.
“We’ve got to be ready and make sure we’re getting him the opportunities to make some plays,” Manning said. “I think he’ll be ready to rock.”
The Packers, who rank near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per attempt, opponent quarterback rating and interception percentage, know they’ll have to be on top of their game.
“He can do it all,” Whitt said. “He’s one of the few guys that can run the whole route tree. He can catch the ball. For an average-sized guy, he has a great catch radius. He can catch it on different planes. He’s very dangerous run after the catch. Once again, for a guy that’s averaged-sized, he has a really good stiff-arm. He runs with more power than people give him credit for. He’s one of the few guys in the league that can do it all. Him and (Pittsburgh’s) Antonio Brown are averaged-sized guys that can do whatever you ask them to do. They can play big, they can play quick, if you get off of them they can make you miss, if you get on them they can beat you deep. He’s an elite player. He’s one of the best doing it right now.”
— The game within the game on Sunday night will be McCarthy vs. McAdoo. With eight years on McCarthy’s staff, McAdoo has some insight into what makes the Packers tick. Both coaches did their best to downplay that fact, as did Rodgers, who pointed out that the men who “know him best” – McCarthy and associate head coach Tom Clements – remain on the staff.
Spagnuolo, however, was more forthcoming.
“Ben and I have had a lot of conversations about the Packers’ offense, even prior to this week, back in the summer, (when) we do our offseason studies,” Spagnuolo said. “He's been a big help in seeing things that you might not see. Taking all of that and getting it to the field and having it actually be useful against Aaron Rodgers, sometimes that's difficult. It helps that we go against Eli because the offense is very similar. When it's all said and done, their players are a little bit different and we have to defend what they've been doing, what they don't do or what they do well or don't do well. I've enjoyed listening to the why. ‘Why is Aaron doing this?’ or ‘What do you think he would do here? What's his favorite this.’ Those are the things kind of things that will hopefully be helpful.”
— Manning dropped back to pass 45 times against Minnesota. He wasn’t sacked once, an impressive feat considering the Vikings had 15 sacks in their first three games. New York enters the game ranked fourth with a sack-allowed rate of just 3.95 percent. Green Bay’s defense ranks eighth with a sack rate of 9.01 percent.
“He’s a very smart quarterback that is going to call a lot of game at the line of scrimmage based off of your defensive looks,” Capers said. “He’s going to try to get them into the best plays based off of what he sees out of you. They’re a no-huddle offense, much like ours, and he’s going to do a lot at the line of scrimmage and get them in and out of what they feel are the best plays against the defense you have called. Very well-schooled and he makes a lot of the right decisions, and he’s a guy that’s a rhythm thrower. I think that ties in with their run and their play-action pass game, which I think he has a very good handle on that. Very efficient guy.”
Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, on teams trying to goad WR Odell Beckham into a tantrum: “The only reason a guy tries to get him off his game is because they're not confident enough in their abilities. They're afraid to match-up against him one-on-one, mano y mano, if you will. If that's going to be the approach, hey, you can put that in the way you rank and say, ‘Obviously, the guy’s not courageous enough, brave enough, or man enough, whatever you want to say to go ahead and play straight up.’ If they need those types of tricks, OK, then so be it. We're going to rise above it.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.