Giants Have Backs Against the Wall: Pack Will Keep Them TherePosted:Dec 2nd, 2011 4:46 pm
It's become very fashionable to predict that the Giants will end the Packers' streak on Sunday.
On paper, it looks like the toughest test yet in the regular season. Three weeks ago the New York Giants looked like the team to beat in the NFC East, after knocking off the Patriots in Foxborough. But now they've lost three straight and they've adopted the "backs against the wall," "us against the world" mentality.
Their defense gave up the second most yards they've ever surrendered in a game as Drew Brees and company hung 577 yards on them. That got defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to call them an embarrassment, quitters, etc. so many believe we will see a much more intense effort from that unit in their big game against the Packers.
And as of this writing, it sounds like running back Ahmad Bradshaw expects to play on an injured foot that has caused him to miss the last four games--he will not practice this week. A healthy Bradshaw changes everything about the Giants' offense. Right now, it's all on Eli Manning and the passing game, because Brandon Jacobs is a shell of his former self. If Bradshaw looks like Bradshaw, he will give the Packers a legit running game to defend, as well as a very good receiver in the screen game.
Many will also point to the symmetry of the Packers facing the Giants, against whom they began this magical streak last December 26th, a 45-17 pasting at Lambeau. Could the streak begin and end against New York, a team that might consider themselves a lot like the '10 Packers--devastated by injuries and playing playoff games in December?
In the NFL it matters much less who you play, but rather when you play them. The Packers are facing a desperate Giants team that was embarrassed on Monday Night Football and sees its season slipping away. But with two games left against the Cowboys, their season will not end with a loss on Sunday.
The reality is, the Giants' season began slipping away when three cornerbacks were lost for the season in training camp. That put a bit more pressure on their defensive line--one of the best in the league entering 2011. Opposing offenses knew that NY rarely had to blitz because their front four was outstanding at getting to the quarterback. Well that's no longer the case. They didn't get close to Brees on Monday night and haven't the past three weeks. Osi Umenyiora is out with a sprained ankle and Justin Tuck will play on a bad ankle (among a number of injuries)--he has not played anything like the Tuck of the past all season. They have one stud pass rusher: Jason Pierre-Paul, who ranks among the league leaders in sacks. Bryan Bulaga will have his hands full with him, but with Osi and Tuck not factors, the Pack and gameplan against Pierre-Paul.
The problem the Giants face is stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' high-flying offense. If they can't get to him, they will have to blitz and we all know that no QB in the league is better against the blitz than Rodgers. A key will be the health of linebacker Michael Boley. He missed the Saints game with a hamstring, but is expected back Sunday. He's the signal caller on the Giants D. Fellow linebacker, rookie Mark Herzlich, the best story in the NFL, has looked good at middle linebacker the past two weeks, but hasn't practiced this week with an ankle injury.
As for the secondary, the early injuries decimated the corner position. Rookie #1 pick Prince Amukamara finally hit the field a few weeks back and is playing the nickel, but he, Corey Webster and Aaron Ross are all beatable. At safety, Antrel Rolle continues to run his mouth, and can play against the run, but struggles in coverage.
The Pack will undoubtedly face a focused defense that will play a lot better at home than it did on Monday night--and they know the Giants will try to expose Evan Dietrich-Smith who will start at right guard in place of Josh Sitton. But it's hard to see a scenario where the Packers don't hang 30 points on this team.
Defensively, the Pack may be without both inside linebackers. Neither Desmond Bishop nor A.J. Hawk have practiced with their calf injuries, meaning rookie D.J. Smith (seven tackles last week) and Robert Francois (interception last week) need to step up in a big spot on the road. Last year, Manning threw four interceptions and his red zone pick last week showed that he can still be forced into mistakes. Eli, let me re-introduce you to your good friends Charles and Tramon.
Manning will not have a full complement of weapons to try to keep pace with Rodgers. Wide receiver Mario Manningham is out with a knee injury. Their best guy, Hakeem Nicks has not practiced all week with a rib injury and concussion (cleared by medical staff). Victor Cruz has emerged as a big playmaker with the injuries to the starters; he missed practice Wednesday with a hip injury, but practiced fully on Thursday. And Manning no longer has dependable tight end Kevin Boss. Jake Ballard has had his moments, but drops as many as he catches.
Look for the Giants to pay a lot of attention to Jennings and Nelson--it feels like Finley and Jones may be ready for big games. Brandon Saine could also see more snaps on third downs. The Pack's season-long recipe of big plays in the passing game and taking care of the football should continue.
With ten days to prepare versus six for the Giants, the Packers enter this game healthier, more confident and more talented. The Giants may stick around for a while, but Green Bay continues on its mission.
Packers 34 Giants 24
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