There is no doubt that the marquee game of the week in the NFL on Wild Card weekend is the one which has the 11-5 New York Giants going to Lambeau Field to face the 10-6 Green Bay Packers late on Sunday afternoon.
The G-Men and the Packers are the hottest teams in the NFC right now, as Green Bay won six games in a row to close out the regular season, while New York won nine out of their last 11 games.
The NFC North champion Packers did beat the Giants by a score of 23-16 in Week 5 of the regular season at Lambeau Field, but the G-Men went on a six-game winning streak of their own after that.
Although the Giants did not win the NFC East, they did beat the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys twice in the regular season.
When it comes to meeting in the postseason, this will be the eighth time that the Packers have played each other.
The Packers defeated the Giants in the 1939, 1944, 1961 and 1962 NFL title games, while the G-Men beat the Packers in the 1938 title game and the 2007 NFC title game.
The only time the Giants and Packers played in the postseason without a championship on the line was in the 2011 playoffs, when New York defeated Green Bay at Lambeau Field in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
In both the 2007 and 2011 postseason games, it was quarterback Eli Manning who led the Giants to victory.
Overall in his career against the Packers in the regular season, Manning is 2-4. But the game on Sunday afternoon is not in the regular season. No, that’s the postseason. That’s the time of year when Manning has shined against the Packers, as he a perfect 2-0 at Lambeau Field.
Plus, after each one of those victories over the Packers, the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl and each time it was against the New England Patriots.
Rodgers is 3-1 against the Giants in the regular season, but 0-1 in the postseason. In the 2011 playoff game which matched Manning versus Rodgers, No. 10 got the best of No. 12.
Manning threw three touchdown passes versus one interception for 330 yards. That adds up to a 114.5 passer rating.
Rodgers, who was coming of a 2011 NFL MVP season, threw two touchdown passes versus one pick for 264 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 78.5. That being said, Rodgers was victimized by a number of dropped passes that day by his receivers.
Overall in the postseason, Rodgers has done quite well overall, as he is the fifth-highest ranked quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating of 98.2. In 13 starts in his career in the postseason, Rodgers has thrown 27 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 3,454 yards.
Manning is ranked 12th in that category, as he has a career passer rating of 89.3 in the postseason. In 11 games, Manning has thrown 17 touchdown passes versus eight interceptions for 2,516 yards.
It goes without question that the quarterback play will be a key factor in determining who will win on Sunday afternoon. Based on the way each of the quarterbacks have performed during the 2016 regular season, the advantage has to lie with Rodgers.
Rodgers had another NFL MVP-type season, as he threw 40 touchdown passes versus just seven picks for 4,428 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.2.
Manning meanwhile, threw 26 touchdown passes versus 16 interceptions for 4,027 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 86.0.
Then there is the mobility and the running skills of Rodgers compared to Manning.
Rodgers is very elusive in the pocket, while Manning is almost like a statue at times, although he can step up in the pocket and has a quick release.
That being said, Rodgers was sacked 35 times, but most of those sacks came as No. 12 held the ball too long going through his progressions. That and his receivers just not getting open at times earlier in the season. Manning, on the other hand, was sacked just 21 times, but is also prone to throwing an interception when the pass pressure is heavy.
When it comes to running with the football, there is no comparison. Rodgers ran for 369 yards in 2016 and had four touchdowns toting the rock. Manning almost never takes off and runs with ball and had -9 yards rushing this season.
Comparing the two offenses, the Packers are ranked eighth (368.8 yards per game) in the NFL in total offense, while the Giants are ranked 25th (330.7 yards per game).
Both the Packers and Giants have struggled running the football this year.
The Packers have been hit hard by injuries at the running back position with Eddie Lacy being put on injured reserve in October with ankle injury. Green Bay has tried to fill the void with Ty Montgomery (457 yards, 5.9 average and three touchdowns), as the converted wide receiver has given the running game a boost.
The Packers rank 20th in the NFL in rushing, as they average 106.3 yards per game.
The G-Men are ranked only 29th in rushing in the NFL, although the ground game has gotten a bit better recently. Still, the Giants only average 88.2 yards per game on the ground.
As of late, New York has been using both Rashad Jennings (593 yards and three touchdowns) and Paul Perkins (456 yards) at running back.
In the passing game, both teams are much better in that aspect of the offense.
The Packers are ranked seventh in the NFL in passing offense. A lot of credit for that has to go to the offensive line’s ability to protect Rodgers. In fact, Pro Football Focus named three offensive linemen on the Packers as the best pass-blockers in the NFL at their various positions.
Those players are left tackle David Bakhtiari, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
Rodgers has plenty of weapons in the passing game to use at his disposal as well.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson led the way in 2016, as No. 87 had another banner year, just a year after an ACL tear, with 97 receptions for 1,257 and 14 touchdowns.
Wide receiver Davante Adams had his best year as a pro in 2016, as he had 75 catches for 997 yards and 12 scores.
In addition to that, wide receiver Randall Cobb had 60 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns, while Montgomery chipped in with 44 catches for 348 yards.
Both Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers each had 30 catches at the tight end position and combined for three scores.
Aaron Rodgers has gone out of his way to say that the reason for the success of the passing game for the Packers over the past seven games is the presence of Cook and his seam-stretching ability down the field.
The Giants are ranked 17th in passing offense in the NFL.
The offensive line has issues on the outside with the pass-blocking, as both left tackle Ereck Flowers and right tackle Marshall Newhouse are prone to allowing pass-pressure.
In terms of weapons for Manning in the passing game, he has one of the very best receivers in the game with Odell Beckham Jr. No. 13 had 101 receptions for 1.367 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016.
Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard had a nice first year in the NFL, as he had 65 catches for 683 yards and eight touchdowns.
The salsa dancer, Victor Cruz, chipped in at wide receiver with 39 catches for 586 yards and one score, while tight end Will Tye had 48 receptions for 395 yards and one touchdown.
Jennings and Perkins combined for 50 catches for 363 yards and one score.
While the Packers have the advantage over the Giants on offense, the G-men definitely have the advantage over the Pack on defense.
New York is ranked 10th in total defense in the NFL, while the Packers are ranked 22nd.
Both teams are solid against the run, as the Giants are ranked third in rushing defense, while the Packers are ranked eighth.
It’s in the passing game where both defenses can be exploited, but more so with the Packers.
Green Bay was ranked 31st in passing defense, as they allowed 32 touchdown passes and opposing quarterbacks to have a 95.9 passer rating.
New York was ranked 23rd in passing defense, as they allowed 15 touchdown passes and opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 75.8.
Both teams had 17 interceptions in 2016.
The Packers strength in the secondary is at the safety position, led by Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (a combined 173 tackles and seven picks). Injuries have taken their toll on the Packers at the cornerback position and this is where most of the damage is being done.
Losing Sam Shields (concussion) after the first game of the season has had a devastating affect on the position. Both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins have played through groin injuries in 2016 and their play has suffered because of it.
Rollins doesn’t look like he’ll play versus the Giants due to a concussion he suffered against the Lions in Week 17. Randall was in and out of the game because of shoulder and knee issues, but he looks like he’ll be able to play against the Giants.
The Packers desperately need an effective pass-rush to help the secondary out. Not so much to sack Manning, but to get him off his spot and force bad throws or interceptions.
The Packers were tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks with 40. Nick Perry led the way with 11, while Julius Peppers had 7.5 and Clay Matthews had five.
The Giants started out very slow in rushing the passer in terms of sacks this season, but ended up tied for 14th in the NFL with 35.
Olivier Vernon led the way with 8.5 sacks, while Jason Pierre-Paul had seven. Pierre-Paul recently had hernia surgery and it doesn’t appear that he will play versus the Packers.
The secondary of the Giants is very strong, led by Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (nine combined interceptions) at the cornerback position.
Safety Landon Collins led the Giants with 125 tackles, plus had four sacks and five picks.
In terms of special teams, both teams have very solid placekickers. Mason Crosby continues to be one of the best in NFL, as No. 2 had 122 points and converted 26 out of 30 field goals, including six of eight from 40 yards or more out.
For the Giants, Robbie Gould took over for Josh Brown as placekicker after five games and has been perfect in field goal attempts, as he was 10 for 10 in 2016. As a team, the Giants were 21 out of 22 in field goals this past season.
The Giants have a clear advantage over the Packers in the punting game, as they were ranked third in the NFL in punting overall in 2016, while the Packers were ranked 30th.
Punter Brad Wing of the Giants has a big leg and has averaged 46.2 yards a punt, plus has a 40.9 net average. Wing also placed 30 punts inside the 20.
Meanwhile, punter Jacob Schrum of the Packers is hot and cold. Sometimes he hits some beauties and at other times, he hits some real ugly ducklings, like he did with his last punt in the Detroit game last Sunday night.
Schrum had a an average of 43.1 per punt and a net average of 39.1. Schrum also placed 19 punts inside the 20.
The good news for the Packers in the punting game is that they were ranked fourth in the NFL in covering punts over the 2016 season, while the G-Men were ranked were ranked 23rd.
In terms of covering kickoffs, the Packers were dead-last in that category in the NFL in 2016, as they gave up an average of 26.1 yards per return and allowed one score.
The Giants weren’t much better, as they were ranked 25th in that category in the regular season, as they allowed 22.8 yards per return.
The Packers have used a number of players for both the punt returns and kickoff returns this past season. As of late, the Packers have used both Christine Michael and Jeff Janis on kick returns, and Micah Hyde on punt returns.
The Packers were ranked 24th in kick returns and 20th in punt returns in 2016.
The Giants utilize Dwayne Harris for the most part in both punt and kickoff returns. The G-Men were tied for seventh in the NFL in kick returns and were 11th in punts returns this past season.
With NFL Wild Card weekend right around the corner, specifically the game between the Giants and Packers, I wanted to get some insight from one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry.
I try and talk with Landry each week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, but I didn’t have the opportunity earlier this week. Still, Landry and Duemig did talk about all the Wild Card games this weekend, which included the Giants-Packers matchup.
Landry also talked about how he thinks things will unfold in the NFC playoffs.
“These are two teams [Giants and Packers] going in who are playing well,” Landry said. “The whole key to this game and the whole key to playing the Packers, is you have to keep Aaron Rodgers contained.
“He is the best I have ever seen outside the pocket. Better than Tarkenton. Because he throws the football so accurately. He’s throwing receivers open outside the pocket, that he paralyzes your ability if you have a good pass rush, because he can extend it and the pass rush can’t get to him and the coverage can’t hold long enough, that he just beats you with enough big plays.
“If you can do that [containing Rodgers], you have a much better chance of beating them. The Giants are confident and have done it before. Eli has done it before at Lambeau. This Giants defense is really good. It can cause problems for you and this is where the matchup is most intriguing.
“I like Green Bay. I think Green Bay and Atlanta will end up in the NFC Championship Game, more than Dallas. We’ve got time to address that because we have another week before we get there. I like Green Bay at home here, but they [NFL] certainly have these matchups lined up correctly, because I think this is the best matchup of the four. And certainly the most intriguing with two hot teams.
“I can see both of these teams causing a lot of damage and going deep into the playoffs. Outside of Pittsburgh, those are the only three teams playing this week, Pittsburgh, the Giants and the Packers, who can do some damage going further past this weekend.”