Eli's Comin' But Pack Won't Hide

Quick quiz: who has more playoff wins at Lambeau, Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning?

OK, it was a trick question. It's a tie. They both have two. Of course, it's taken Rodgers a few more games to get there, but you get the point. No matter how cold it is, no matter how hot the Packers are, Eli and the Giants will be ready. They won't fear the conditions and the won't fear their opponent (And if you got the Three Dog Night reference in the headline, you're probably as old as I am).

We all know the Giants are a completely different team than the one that last visited Lambeau in Week 5, when they were coming off a short week (a Monday night game in Minnesota) and the Pack was well rested coming off the bye.

The matchup the country will be anticipating is the Pack's red hot passing game against the Giants' stingy pass defense.

The $100 million the Giants organization spent to upgrade the defense was still a work in progress in the first meeting. But that unit has been surging ever since they silenced the high flying Cowboys the first time. Only Houston, among the 12 playoff teams, has given up fewer points over the season and they are led by their back end, which they are affectionately calling NYPD, for New York pass defense.

Their secondary is good enough and deep enough to match up with the Pack's fine corps of receivers. Getting Randall Cobb back would be a shot in the arm for the Pack, since the Giants will likely match Janoris Jenkins against Jordy Nelson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Davante Adams. That would leave rookie Eli Apple to handle Cobb. Geronimo Allison will also get plenty of reps, allowing Nelson to move into the slot and forcing the G-men to decide how they want to match up. Their best player has been safety Landon Collins, with five picks and four sacks. He's a playmaker and the Packers need to be aware of him at all times.

The player to watch in the Packers passing game is tight end Jared Cook. It's no secret why Rodgers and the offense has surged since he returned from the ankle injury. Only three teams have surrendered more yards to tight ends than the Giants, so the Pack will likely test them early and often. If Cook is doing damage, it will open things up for everybody.

The Giants have not been very adept at rushing the passer all season. Olivier Vernon is the one guy to keep an eye on, but the way David Bakhtiari has played all season, it's hard to believe he'll be too disruptive. Jason Pierre-Paul is expected to miss the game, so Bryan Bulaga, who's a little nicked up, catches a break.

Their defense is just middle of the road against the run, and on a cold day it will be mandatory to get the ground game going. It would be great to see the version of Ty Montgomery that we saw on a cold day at Soldier Field chewing up yardage and making things easier for the passing game.

On the other side of the ball, things are far different. We all know that the Pack's defense is hurting, with a banged up secondary that was forced to activate wide receiver-turned-cornerback Herb Waters to the active roster. With Rollins likely out, Dorleant on IR and Randall banged up, but likely to try to play, Green Bay will line up LaDarius Gunter against OBJ, Randall on Sterling Shepard and Micah Hyde in the slot against Victor Cruz.

The Giants offense has been the definition of pedestrian all season--they have yet to crack 30 points. They rank 26th in the league at around 19 points per game. Yes, OBJ is a game breaker and can take one to the house at any time. But other than him, there's not much to scare you, except for the fact that Manning usually seems to take his game to the next level in the playoffs. Plus, they seem to have found a running game, with rookie Paul Perkins taking over by default in recent weeks and being very productive.

The Pack will need to stop Perkins and force Manning into bad down and distance situations. He's as mobile as Gilbert Brown after a visit to Burger King and will throw the ball away if he even gets a sniff of Clay Matthews' cologne. Manning's iron man streak is very impressive--a main reason is he eschews sacks at every opportunity by throwing the ball into the ground.

I'm a bit surprised that the line is higher than three for this one. I guess the six-game winning streak has most believing that the Pack has found a groove and will move on to the divisional round. I'm a bit concerned: the Lambeau mystique is really just a rumor based on recent post-season history and the Giants defense does match up well with Green Bay.

That said, Rodgers appears to be on a mission and Mike McCarthy seems to sense there is something special brewing. I'll buy into it for one more week.

Packers 23 Giants 21

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