While there are many areas of this matchup that intrigue the onlooker, there is one ultimate and very simple key for the New York Giants in defeating the Green Bay Packers.
- New York Giants (11-5)
- Green Bay Packers (10-6)
- NFL, Wild Card Round, Jan. 8, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX
- Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
On one side we have Eli Manning, two-time Super Bowl champ who leads the New York Football Giants — a squad with a nasty defense and even nastier secondary. The opposition is Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best football player in the National Football League right now, leader of the hottest team in the land.
We already understand the generic narrative.
Green Bay is riding a six-game winning streak, strangely resembling the 2010 run that saw them knock off Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Ty Montgomery in the backfield and plenty of weapons abound, Rodgers and the offense are humming.
The defense, while usually formidable with veteran Dom Capers leading the charge, is hurting. Not only did the unit finish second to last in the league in pass defense (269.2 yards per game), it has more cornerbacks on the injury report than the actual depth chart.
Quinten Rollins is out and Makinton Dorleant was placed on injury reserve following Week 17. Damarious Randall comes into Sunday listed as questionable. Green Bay is beyond decimated at a critical position entering the most important time of the season.
You can see it now: Odell Beckham Jr. and company are licking their chops and it has nothing to do with a boat ride in Miami.
Working with the No. 3, 4 and 5 corners all game, OBJ, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz will have their way. Whichever route tree is planned, Ben McAdoo has to feel great about his offense’s chances.
There’s just one little problem with this scenario.
The offensive line must hold up to allow that mismatch to take shape.
Offensive Key: Controlling Perry and Matthews
Football, especially playoff football, always starts up front. Whichever team controls the trenches immediately receives a significant leg up in controlling the contest. As per the entire 2016 regular season, these Giants up front are incredibly shaky. Nothing has changed over the course of a week.
Ereck Flowers is a walking yellow flag. Bobby Hart is still looking to recover his man card after the abuse he took from Brandon Graham in Week 16.
Can you imagine these bookends attempting to control Nick Perry and Clay Matthews on the edge? Disastrous results can only be conjured up.
This is why McAdoo and the Giants offense has continued to look extremely fearful of throwing the ball deep. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s that they simply cannot. The offensive line and the constant defensive look doesn’t allow it.
What this will equate to is what Manning and the Giants have seen all season long. Capers will deploy a very safe, bland two-man under look. Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett will be playing in Milwaukee, not Green Bay. Their alignment on most plays will feature another zip code.
First and foremost, it’ll be a necessary evil for the Packers as both corners will need all the help they can get. More importantly, it’s the only way to attack this Giants offense.
This is where Paul Perkins and the run game comes in. Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh will need to dominate this game for the Giants to have any chance of throwing up points. Without some semblance of a rushing attack, Clinton-Dix won’t find himself near the box all day and Manning will only be able to look for West Coast-like crossing patterns, slants, zigs, and predesigned quick screens.
It would be a total shock if the Packers blitzed more than three times in total. Against Philly, Eli faced just two blitzes.
Eagles blitzed Eli Manning on 2 of his 63 dropbacks, per @ESPNStatsInfo. Wow! Confident they can get there w/4 rushers and protect deep
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) December 23, 2016
The #Eagles still managed to pressure Manning on 15 dropbacks, second-most vs. #Giants this year.
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) December 23, 2016
Defensive Key: Containing Rodgers on the edge
On the other side of the ball, Steve Spagnuolo, while he loves dialing up the pressure in big spots, knows better. Aaron Rodgers isn’t somebody you can blitz and live to tell the triumphant story.
His mobility and pocket presence coupled with a legendary release burns any defense looking to send five or more. The fact that Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb seem to exchange thoughts on the fly with their QB make matters even tougher.
Defensively, for Big Blue, it’ll come down to Olivier Vernon and Romeo Okwara not only getting to Rodgers with a four-man rush, but setting the edge and containing the mobile great one who often loves to rip off a big one once out of the pocket.
From there, Landon Collins and his stud secondary will need to take over and make a few plays.
Obviously, there are always many unforeseen factors that hit a game hard and oftentimes break it down. When it comes to a struggling offense such as a Giants, however, matchups along the outside mean very little if the quarterback doesn’t remain upright.
Flowers and Hart against Perry and Matthews is an extremely worrisome proposition. This is especially the case while knowing Green Bay will present a two-deep look on almost every play.
If the line can control those two edge guys and do at least some damage in the run game, OBJ and company will have the chance to take advantage of the lopsided outside matchup.