It’s not 2007. Its not 2011. Heck, its not even Week 5. It’s a new game with two completely new teams. Both teams have made dramatic turns in their respective seasons. The Packers a little more documented with life-clinging sound bites by their top-shelf quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While New York has quietly pushed their way back into the playoffs after a five-year deficit. Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field will be one of the most anticipated games of the NFL Playoff weekend. Will Odell Beckham Jr. win his first ever Playoff game? Or will Aaron Rodgers continue to lead his team and run the table? Here are three ways the Packers can keep their seat at the table:
GET JARED COOKIN’
Since the arrival of Jared Cook in the offseason, fans have wondered when this dynamic tight end would breakout. Each week we put his matchup on the table and he is favored in each and every one. This week, against the New York Giants is no different. In fact, it may just be his most favorable.
The Giants are entering the Playoffs with a gaping weakness in their inability to defend tight ends from around the league. Tight ends caught 89 of 137 targets against the Giants (65%) for 1052 yards, and surprisingly only 4 touchdowns. They averaged 11.8 yards per reception and 7.7 yards per target.
Jared Cook missed the first Packers-Giants game, and in his absence Richard Rodgers caught one of 5 targets for 6 yards. You better believe that Cook is ready to make his impact…statistically.
This will be Cook’s first opportunity at the playoffs in his seven-year career with underwhelming teams (St. Louis Rams & Tennessee Titans). And although his numbers aren’t staggering this year, his presence on the field is not going unnoticed.
The Packers are 8-2 with Cook in the lineup this season, averaging 28.4 points per game. In those 10 weeks, Rodgers sports a sparkling 25:1 TD-to-INT ratio and a 114.0 passer rating.
How do those numbers compared to the six games Cook missed due to a severely sprained ankle?
The Packers went 2-4 without Cook, averaging 24.7 points per game. Over that stretch, Rodgers TD-to-INT ratio slips to 15:6 with a 92.3 passer rating.
SET THE PACE
I know. How many weeks can I use this as one of the keys to victory? As many as I want! That’s how many. But in all seriousness, it is the most crucial of all keys. For most teams, this means run the ball. For the Packers, it means pass the ball. Pass it fast, first, and far. Get as many points as possible and then sit back and watch the secondary give up inexcusable plays until the clock runs out.
If they’re going to do any damage in the postseason starting this week against the New York Giants, they’ll have to continue a trend that has been a key to their six-game winning streak: Play defense with their offense.
Playing from behind, the Giants would have to put the ball in quarterback Eli Manning’s hands. He’s had his moments, but his history generally has been, the more he has to throw it, the more prone he is to interceptions.
Manning finished this season ranked No. 22 in the NFL in passer rating (86.0) and tied for fourth-most interceptions (16). If he has to throw the ball 35 or 40 times, Capers’ defense would get its chances for picks. The Packers have had trouble getting stops this season, but a couple interceptions would change the game.
The Giants want a low-scoring, grind-it-out game. If the score is in the teens, the Giants probably win. But if the Packers can get ahead and turn it into more of a shootout, the advantage is theirs, and it’s big.
It will be difficult with the large number of injuries to the secondary. However, this is not anything new for this team this year. No Quinten Rollins after his neck injury in Detroit. Damarious Randall now has three injuries — but appeard in practice on Wednesday. Deep backup Makinton Dorleant has a new knee injury, too. His status is shaky.
RODGERS TRUE MVP PERFORMANCE
All that money Giants general manager Jerry Reese spent to lure defensive linemen Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins has proven to be well spent. The Giants are allowing only 17.8 points per game. And after a slow start, the pass rush has been ferocious, generating eight sacks in the last four games.
Rodgers may be playing the best at his position in the league right now, but New York’s defense will be his toughest test yet. This might be the matchup that decides the game.
Luckily for the Packers, Rodger’s ankle and hamstring appear to be good. Unlickly for the Giants, this man can move, groove, shake, bake, zig, and zag with some of the best of them. Taking down Rodgers is not as easy as it seems. Even if you spend $100 million dollars trying.
More importantly, Rodgers has done a good job protecting the football the last six weeks as he has thrown no interceptions during that span. But he knows he has to be even more careful on Sunday because Pro Bowl Safety Landon Collins will pounce on any mistake Rodgers makes, which could spell disaster for the Packers.
If Aaron comes out and plays a near-perfect game against this tough defense, then you can lock it up. Give him the award. Put the belt back on. And bring that trophy back home to Green Bay.
It’s not gonna be easy. No Playoff game in the NFL is. On tape, both these teams are playing their best football. Both teams have a Super Bowl winning QB. Both teams have superstars littered all over the field. This game may come down to a coach who will be appearing in the playoffs for the 8th straight year vs. a coach in his first year of the playoffs as a Head Coach. Will the teacher reign supreme or the student become the teacher?
Luckily, the teacher has the star pupil, the Valedictorian. And like any other game this season, when the tale of the tape is close, the edge always goes to the team with #12.
Green Bay Packers – 38
New York Giants – 24