Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NYG/GB: Why We Could see Similar Results to '07 NFC Championship game on Sunday

Quarterback Eli Manning, on his way to a Super Bowl championship in 2007-08 postseason, knocked off legendary Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in overtime with a little help from Lawrence Tynes' game-winner from 47 yards out.

The game that day, Sunday January 20, 2008, was played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin at -7 degree weather with high winds and a wind chill factor of -27.

Manning managed to play through that weather and defeat Green Bay on the road thanks to a stout running attack led by Brandon Jacobs (67 yards, 1 TD) and Ahmad Bradshaw (63 yards, 1 TD) and with the high/low of this Sunday being 30/22, we could see Manning making a greater impact in the passing game.

These two squads met earlier in the year as well, with the then-undefeated Packers coming away with a slim 38-35 victory to improve to 12-0. New York played well overall, with Manning (347 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) playing one of his better games of the season and running for 100 yards and a TD as a team. But what they failed to do is put pressure on Aaron Rodgers, who did make one mistake with an INT but still managed 369 yards and 4 TDs.
After watching the KC Chiefs hand Green Bay its only loss of the season, I think I have discovered what it takes to defeat this Pack team: run, run, run.

Green Bay has allowed 100 or more yards on the ground on 10 different occasions this season, but it was Kansas City that pounded the ball the most against the Pack (39 times for 139 yards, 1 TD), which gradually wore down the front 7. Not only that, but it also keeps Rodgers and the offense off the field. A combination of Thomas Jones (15 carries), Jackie Battle (10 carries), Dexter McCluster (5 carries) and Le'Ron McClain (4 carries) was enough to possess the ball for 36 out of the 60 minutes of play.

How to beat Rodgers? Keep him off the field. As simple as that.

Throughout the regular season, New York accumulated just 1,427 rushing yards (last in league) with 17 TDs (sixth in league), and have run the ball for 100 or more yards eight times–never for more than 119 yards. But, during its three-game win streak (including Sunday's Wild Card victory), they have cracked 100 all three games and controlled the time of possession over the last two weeks 68-52.

Lets face it, the Giants are red-hot and have managed to control recent games because of its normally weak rushing attack. If there's one thing I know, it's that Green Bay's running game (1,558 yards, 12 TDs, 3.9 Y/C, 27th in league) isn't much better than that of New York, and a reliable running game is vital when it comes to the NFL postseason.
The saying "offense sells tickets, defense wins championships" will factor in to this matchup as well, with a relentless front 7 in New York. Green Bay's defense, while ranked at the very bottom in pass defense and 14th in run defense, forced a lot of turnovers (38, t-1st in league) and has thrived off that all season.

As for New York, they do that well too (31, t-4th), but they also happen to be one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league (48 sacks, t-3rd) and have numerous playmaking and difference-makers in the front 7: Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka. All of which are relentless in their attack, not to mention hungry.

Overall, the passing game and receivers' edge are given to the Packers, as well as the offensive line, in this one. But as far as running attack and defense, the edge certainly belongs to the New York Giants.
Other key stats:

*Though the Packers lead the head-to-head postseason matchup 4-2, the Giants were also considered huge underdogs to the 13-3 NFC East champion Packers back in '07, going up against Favre at home in the frigid weather. Yet, somehow, Manning found himself winner in the end.

*While GB was 8-0 at home this season, the Giants put up a respectable 5-3 road record on its way to a 9-7 season.

*Green Bay has been off for two weeks. That can sometimes work to an advantage–more time to prepare–but it can also sometimes work against a team in terms of restlessness and could make for a slow start in the game.

Just some things to think about while watching the game that I believe could very well end in an upset. After watching the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks upset Drew Brees' Saints in last year's Wild Card round, I believe anything is possible once playoff time rolls around.

My Prediction: Eli, NYG's rushing attack upsets Rodgers and moves on to the NFC Championship game.

Photo credit
Eli Manning: greenbaypostgazette.com
Jordy Nelson: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Osi Umenyiora: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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