NFL divisional round: New York Giants (10-7) at Green Bay Packers (15-1)
Green Bay, easily the NFL’s top team during the regular season, begins its defense of its Super Bowl title in the final game of the divisional round weekend against a New York Giants team that is playing its best football of the season and which nearly beat Green Bay a month ago.
Many are comparing this Giants club to the 2007 one that shockingly won the Super Bowl. New York returns to the scene of one of the Packers’ most disappointing games ever: an overtime loss in the 2007 NFC Championship Game. On a minus-3 degree day at Lambeau Field, quarterback Brett Favre threw an overtime interception on what turned out to be Favre’s final pass as a Packers player. Lawrence Tynes kicked a 43-yard field goal to pull off the upset and deny the Packers a chance to play in the Super Bowl. Sunday’s rematch will be the Packers’ first home playoff game since that loss.
The Giants gave the Packers their second-toughest game of the regular season this year, getting 347 yards from Eli Manning in a 38-35 Packers victory. It wasn’t until quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on a 69-yard drive over the final 58 seconds that the Packers were able to secure a victory with the decisive Mason Crosby field goal. The Giants rolled up 447 total yards despite holding the ball for only 26 minutes, 47 seconds, getting big chunks along the way and averaging 8.7 yards per play. The Packers were the better team that day, but the teams were evenly matched for most of it.
Manning had no trouble at all six weeks ago moving the ball on the league’s lowest-ranked pass defense. WR Mario Manningham missed the first meeting and could be a factor here, as he looked like his old self last week. Green Bay’s secondary is a high-risk outfit, with CB Charles Woodson among the NFL leaders with seven INTs. The Packers had an NFL-high 31 interceptions, but also allowed 71 pass plays of 20 or more yards.
Running the ball will be crucial on Sunday for New York, if only to keep the ball away from the Packers and their dynamic offense, led by Rodgers. In the one game the Packers lost this season, to Kansas City on Dec. 18, the Chiefs rushed the ball 39 times and held the ball for more than 36 minutes. The Giants were the worst rushing team in the NFL during the regular season (89.2 ypg). But down the stretch, the Giants’ running game turned it up a notch, rushing for at least 100 yards in four of the team’s final five regular season games. And it exploded for 172 yards on the ground in the team’s 24-2 playoff victory over the Atlanta Falcons last week.
The big difference for the Packers is the return of linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk — neither played in the regular-season game vs. the Giants, who picked up 100 rushing yards in only 20 attempts.
For the first time since 1996, Green Bay is the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Last season, the Packers became only the second No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990. Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, the Packers have had a first-round bye on three other occasions (No. 1 seed in 1996, No. 2 seed in 1997 and 2007). Green Bay is 3-0 in the Divisional round coming off a first-round bye.
WAGERWEB.COM NFL FOOTBALL BETS — Packers -9 (52.5)
RECORD VS. SPREAD — New York 9-8; Green Bay 11-5
SERIES RECORD — Packers lead 31-23-2
LAST MEETING — Packers beat Giants 38-35, Dec. 4, 2011
LAST WEEK — Giants beat Falcons 24-2; Packers had bye
GIANTS OFFENSE — OVERALL (8), RUSH (32), PASS (5)
GIANTS DEFENSE — OVERALL (27), RUSH (19), PASS (29)
PACKERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (3), RUSH (27), PASS (3)
PACKERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (32), RUSH (14), PASS (32)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Giants and Packers meet for seventh time in postseason. First five meetings were for NFL Championship. … Giants playing in 31st postseason, most in NFL history. … Coach Tom Coughlin has led Giants to five postseason appearances, tied with Bill Parcells for most in team history. … QB Eli Manning has 11 postseason touchdown passes, most in team history. He had franchise-record 4,933 yards passing and eight 300-yard games in regular season. … Since start of 2005, including playoffs, RB Brandon Jacobs has 59 rushing TDs, tied for fourth-most in NFL. … RB Ahmad Bradshaw one of seven NFL players with 1,800-plus yards rushing (1,894) and 80-plus receptions (81) since start of 2010 season. … WR Hakeem Nicks had six catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns in Giants’ wild card win last week. … WR Victor Cruz had team-record 1,536 yards receiving in regular season, 193 more than previous mark (Amani Toomer, 1,343). … DE Jason Pierre-Paul fourth in NFL during regular season with 16 1/2 sacks. Joined Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan as only Giants with 16-plus sacks in a season. … In past 23 games, including playoffs, DE Osi Umenyiora has 20 1/2 sacks and 11 forced fumbles. … Packers have won 13 NFL championships, most all-time. … Packers won franchise-record 15 games, becoming sixth team in NFL history with 15 wins. … Packers scored 560 points, most in franchise history and second-most all-time. …. Aaron Rodgers had 122.5 quarterback rating, best single-season mark in NFL history. Rodgers had franchise record 4,643 yards passing and 45 touchdowns. He is only quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000-plus yards and have six or fewer interceptions. … In postseason, Rodgers has completed 67.8 percent of passes for 1,517 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions . … WR Jordy Nelson had career-highs in catches (68), yards (1,263) and touchdowns (15). … In seven career playoff games, WR Greg Jennings has five TDs and three 100-yard games. … WR Donald Driver has 46 postseason catches and needs two to pass Antonio Freeman (47) for most in team history. … Rookie WR Randall Cobb led NFC and was second in NFL with kick return average of 27.7 yards. … Since joining Packers in 2006, CB Charles Woodson has 37 interceptions and nine interceptions returned for TDs. CB Tramon Williams had three interceptions in last year’s playoffs, including 70-yarder for touchdown.