The Green Bay Packers are once again NFC North Champions. They officially ran the table, and now find themselves with a familiar playoff opponent, in a familiar place. The New York Giants will travel to Lambeau for the second time in 10 years for a playoff game. We all know how both two playoff games between these teams ended, and let’s just hope that the 3rd time is a charm. Let’s break this one down in this week’s playoff version of Countdown to Kickoff.
3 Burning Questions
Can Geronimo Allison Keep up the Production?
Undrafted free agent wide receiver Geronimo Allison has thoroughly exceeded expectations thus far. With Randall Cobb battling through injuries, Allison has started to see some solid playing time. He capitalized on that playing time last week, recording a career high 91 yards with 1 touchdown. 91 yards doesn’t seem like that much, but if you take a closer look at how he came across those yards, you will see that all 4 catches he had came on important scoring drives.
One play that has me feeling good about Allison moving forward was the 39 yard gain at the end of the first half. He showed awareness that even most savy veterans don’t have. So for an undrafted rookie free-agent to show this kind of awareness, mixed with size and quickness, the Packers would be foolish to not give Allison opportunities even with a healthy Cobb in the line-up.
Will the Packers win the turnover battle?
Over the past four games, the Packers defense has 13 takeaways, while the offense has yet to turn it over. Those are both league best right there. Aaron Rodgers has four home playoffs games under his belt, and has thrown only one interception which came against the Giants in 2012. I want to knock on wood while saying this, but I feel pretty good about the Packers not turning the ball over. Aaron prides himself in keeping possession, and with the level he is playing at right now, it would take a blown assignment on the offensive line to force a turnover.
On the other side of the ball, Eli Manning has been notorious for turning the ball over. Just looking at the numbers this year alone, Eli has 16 interceptions. Eli has only had back-to-back games of no interceptions once this year, those opponents were Chicago and Cleveland, both have Top-5 draft picks this year. Eli didn’t throw an interception against Washington last week, so if history proves itself, Eli should at least throw a few passes this week that should be picked off.
Can the Packers shut down the Giants run game?
A lot of the focus is going to be the Giants pass game, which we will get to in a minute, but we can’t overlook the run game. Teams look to establish a run game against the Packers to create long drives and keep Rodgers on the sideline. It is on the Packers Top-10 rush defense to thwart that plan. The running backs for the Giants are not the most talented bunch in the NFL, but they have shown they are very capable. Last week versus Washington, Paul Perkins rushed for over 100 yards and Rashad Jennings added a touchdown. Mike Daniels and company need to shut the run game down. If they can, this will force the mistake prone Eli Manning to throw more passes, hence more opportunities for an interception.
2 Key Matchups
Ladarius Gunter vs Odell Beckham
This is about as obvious as a key matchup as it gets. Beckham is the playmaker for the Giants, and the Giants treat him as such. He finished the regular season 2nd in targets in the NFL behind Mike Evans. Just two weeks ago, he got targeted 20 times against Philadelphia. With the state of the Packers secondary, it’s imperative that the Packers focus the bulk of their gameplan on Beckham.
With cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Makinton Dorleant questionable, and Quinten Rollins more than likely being out, the Packers will have to get creative with Beckham. Look for LaDarius Gunter to be the primary man on Beckham, with Dom Capers having help from all different areas of the field to help aide Gunter in his matchup against one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers vs Giants Secondary
When the Giants and Packers squared off earlier this season, Rodgers had an uncharacteristic multi-interception game. In that matchup, the Giants were still finding their groove defensively. It’s safe to say that the Giants found their groove, especially in the secondary. Over the last six games, the Giants have not allowed more than 192 yards to opposing quarterbacks. Aaron will have to continue his hot play to overcome this secondary that is also playing some amazing football.
1 Bold Prediction
It’s playoff time, and it is time to get very bold. About as bold as the Packers running the table to make the playoffs. I’m looking for this Packers secondary to find a way on Sunday to shut down Odell Beckham. Even with the injuries the secondary has right now, I’m confident that Dom Capers will find a scheme that will work on Sunday. The bold prediction is this, the Packers secondary as a unit will hold ODB under 50 yards and allow him no touchdowns in his playoff debut.
Green Bay Packers – 27
New York Giants – 17