I can hear it now. You’ll be hearing it all week. The Giants are this year’s “it” team. They’re being looked at by many as the team that’s heating up at just the right time; the team that has what it takes to make a deep run: a talented quarterback, a solid running game and a fearsome pass rush.
But how hot are they, really? Yes, their 24-2 win over the Falcons was impressive. After a slow start, they rolled over Atlanta, dominating the game on both sides of the ball. Leading up to this game, they finished the season 3-3, including a home loss to the Redskins in week 15. Their last three wins came over the Jets and Cowboys twice, not exactly fearsome opponents.
And now they get the Packers in a rematch of the week 13 classic–that loss to Green Bay was their fourth straight. They seem to have righted the ship since that game, despite the loss to the Redskins to weeks later. With a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw, they now have a two-headed running attack. With Mario Manningham back, they have three receivers who can stretch the field. And with Osi Umenyiora back on the field, their pass rush is at full strength. One injury of note was the concussion to cornerback Aaron Ross. If he can’t go on Sunday it severely weakens their most suspect unit.
This just in: Aaron Rodgers is no Matt Ryan. Ryan is a pocket passer and a pocket passer only. He showed on Sunday he can’t move out of the pocket and his accuracy and decision making is very suspect when he’s on the move. Rodgers excels when on the run and let’s be honest, he’ll likely be forced from the pocket a bit next Sunday. With tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga back in their customary positions and a healthy Josh Sitton at right guard (he missed the first meeting), the offensive line will have all opening day starters for the first time since week 3.
Rodgers will have a full complement of weapons at his disposal and the early forecast looks like a fairly mild day for mid-January, with temperatures in the mid-20s and no snow. That should make for a fast track. The only real question about the offense is this: how will the week off affect them? Will they pick up where they left off, or will it take them a little while to find a rhythm?
As for the defense, they will have an opportunity to show that they aren’t as bad as the stats show. Yes they ranked 32nd in yards allowed, but they gave up 22 points per game (19th), less than the Giants, who surrendered 25 per game (25th). Their ability to create turnovers and lock down in the red zone makes them a better unit than advertised. They need to get off the field on third down on Sunday, something the Falcons defense was unable to do.
Much more to come on the big game as the week goes on. But just get ready to hear that the Giants have steam. You’ll hear about the ’08 NFC title game, when the Giants came in as big underdogs and upset the Pack in overtime when Brett threw a pick on the first possession. Are they talented? Yes. Do they have a QB who’s proven to be a great clutch, fourth quarter performer? Yes.
But the Packers do too. And they’ll be healthy and ready to defend Lambeau Field in Aaron Rodgers’ first home playoff game.