Giants vs Packers: The key matchups

Common sight for left tackle Marshall Newhouse (74) this season.

Giants pass rush vs Packers OL: Aaron Rodgers was sacked 41 times this season, 38 times in 2010, and the Packers led the league in 2009 with a ridiculous 51 sacks allowed.  Rodgers is no stranger to hitting the turf.  And yet, it’s still such an amazingly productive offense despite those numbers.  In the first matchup, Rodgers was sacked only twice, but Jason Pierre-Paul got good pressure all day working against the Packers’ weak link, LT Marshall Newhouse.  Last week, the Giants alternated JPP and Osi Umenyiora at RDE.  I think I like that strategy.  It makes the opposing LT have to worry about two different sets of pass rushing moves from two highly skilled pass rushers.  Expect the Packers to give Newhouse a ton of help.

One way the Packers will give help, if they have to, is they’ll use Jermichael Finley in a formation that I haven’t seen other NFL teams use.  In the shotgun formation, they like to line up Finley in sort of a FB type position, close to the line of scrimmage.  That way, if Finley reads blitz or if the opposing defense is getting pressure with their front four, he stays in to block.  If the heat isn’t coming, Finley will make his way through the line, try to slip into a hole in the D and serve as a checkdown option.  The Packers would prefer not to use Finley this way, but they do when the opposing defense is getting to Rodgers.  If the Giants can make the Packers waste a mismatch nightmare like Finley in this manner, it’s a huge win.  Here’s what that formation looks like if a 3rd grader were drawing it up:

The Giants DL vs the Packers OL is THE matchup of the day, and in my opinion, the only way the Giants can win.  They need to not just win the battle upfront, they have to dominate.

Update: Looks like Chad Clifton is a go for Sunday, meaning that the Giants won’t have Marshall Newhouse to kick around.

Packers WRs vs the Giants secondary: This matchup is largely dictated by the one above.  If the Giants can get constant pressure all day on Aaron Rodgers, the Giants may be able to contain the Packers’ weapons in the passing game.  If they can’t generate that pressure, they have no shot at slowing this offense down.  Jordy Nelson might be the most underrated player in the sport.  Despite playing just 58.6% of his team’s snaps on offense, he had 68 catches for 1263 yards (18.6 per reception) and 15 TDs.  That’s nuts.  The rest of the group:

Greg Jennings: 67 for 949 (14.2 YPC) and 9.

Jermichael Finley: 55 for 767 (13.9 YPC) and 8.

James Jones: 38 for 635 (16.7 YPC) and 7.

Donald Driver: 37 for 445 (12.0 YPC)  and 6.

Randall Cobb: 25 for 375 (15.0 YPC) and 1.

All of the above weapons (Nelson in particular) have one thing in common – They all get yards after the catch.  It’s almost like having to deal with 3 or 4 Victor Cruzes.  In addition to having great speed, Jennings, Nelson, Jones, and Finley (great speed for a TE) are all difficult to tackle.  Cobb is a blazer.  And even Donald Driver, who turns 37 in 3 weeks, made this ridiculous run after the catch just one year ago:

That play is emblematic of the mentality of Packer receivers.  Once they get the ball in their hands, they think they’re running backs.  You better come ready to tackle, or they’ll make you pay.  The one area where they’re not great is dropped passes.  In the first Giants-Packers matchup this season, Packer receivers dropped 7 passes.  Seven!  The Giants can’t depend on that happening again.

Aaron Ross suffered a head injury last week, but he is expected to play.  That helps, but again, if the Giants can’t get consistent pressure all day on Rodgers, they have no shot stopping this group.

(More after the jump)…

Eli's one huge mistake Week 14

Eli Manning and Ahmad Bradshaw vs. the Packer ball hawks: The Packers are dead last in yards allowed this season.  They actually give up more yards per game (412) than they rack up on offense (405).  However, the major difference is that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t throw interceptions (a grand total 6, that’s 1-2-3-4-5-6… on the year), while opposing QBs threw 31 interceptions to Green Bay defenders.  That led the league.  The next closest team had 23.  That’s what happens to QBs when they know they have to keep matching that ridiculous offense on the other sideline.  Eli Manning is going to get his yards.  Mark that down right now.  Can he keep from throwing the ball to the other team?  In the first matchup, in an otherwise great game, he had one really bad mistake.  He didn’t see Clay Matthews, who had dropped into coverage, and tried to dump it down to his RB.  Matthews rather easily stepped in front of the pass and took it to the house.  Monster play.  Eli needs to be perfect this week.

Meanwhile, former fumble specialist Ahmad Bradshaw had no fumbles this season, a year after he put the ball on the ground 7 times, losing 6.  In 2010, Bradshaw was carrying the ball carelessly, and Charles Woodson popped it out without a ton of effort.  Players remember that stuff.  Lambeau is going to be cold on Sunday, which makes it more difficult to hang onto the football.  Expect the Packers to be looking to pry the ball loose whenever Bradshaw is trying to fight for additional yardage.  The Giants can’t afford to fumble.

The kicking game: Last week Lawrence Tynes missed a 32 yarder.  Can’t have that in Green Bay.  One area in which Tynes has been good this season, however, is kicking the ball deep into the end zone and getting touchbacks.  Randall Cobb (2 return TDs) is very dangerous.  Tynes and punter Steve Weatherford, who had a great season, have to do a good job keeping the ball out of Cobb’s hands.

Giants run game vs Aaron Rodgers: The Giants are going to have to run the ball effectively and shorten the game on Sunday to win.  The longer they can keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines, the better.  We all know by now that the Giants had the 32nd ranked (dead last) rushing attack in the league this season.  I didn’t see that last week.  For the first time all season, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs had some gaping holes to run through, on the way to racking up 172 yards on the ground.  It was almost kind of a weird sight seeing those two guys in space.  They also ran for a respectable 115 against the Jets and 106 against Dallas to close the regular season.  They don’t necessarily need a performance like the one they had against Atlanta, but they do need to be able to move the chains with regularity.

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  7. […] Looking back at my “key matchups” post, I thought the Giants’ DL not only had to beat the Packers OL up front, but they had to […]

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  9. brisulph says:

    Giants can win this one, but I would say chances are about 25%. Not a good number, but hardly impossible odds to come through on. As stated here and elsewhere:

    -win the turnover battle
    -eat a bit of clock on offense
    -get to Rodgers, forcing earlier passing plays than he would like
    -Don’t let the TE position eat the middle of the field up

    They do that for most of the day (or preferably all of it), this is a very winnable ballgame.

  10. JenFromNoVa says:

    There are two very distinct differences between the Giants of the regular season and the Giants playing now. The first is the return of the run game. Bradshaw and Jacobs are healthy and are tearing up the field. This fact will allow the offense to mix plays up quite a bit more and eat up more of the clock on their possessions. This is key since keeping the ball out of Rodgers hands as much as possible will be necessary. Second, the defense is stronger and healthier now as well. Look for them to go after Rodgers – he will be sacked several times.

    Some continue to note that the Packers will be healthier and rested as well. However, I wonder if “rested” will translate into “rusty” instead. Rodgers will not have played for three weeks and their preparation this week will be quite a bit different than usual with Philbin (prayers out to him and his family) not being there. Sure, Mike McCarthy is already offense-minded (and I believe he makes the offensive calls) but prep will definitely not be what they are used to. I believe it will be a close game but think the Giants will pull it out.

    Jimmy – looking forward to your picks for this and the other games this week!

  11. benjmain says:

    y’know as craptastic as the giants have played for a majority of the season, it’s situations like these (away game, high stakes, heavy underdog) where the Giants have historically pulled through under Coughlin. Plus, at 9-7, i feel like Giants are playing with house money. all the stars are aligned for an upset. The problem is, I don’t think the Giants A-game beats the Packers A-game.

  12. Gary says:

    Nice breakdown. I feel like you’re basically saying the Giants have to be almost perfect in all facets, and I agree.

  13. Immynimmy says:

    Whoever wins the TO battle and the trenches wins the game. Playing at Lambeau, I don’t see the Giants with the upset…Packers will win, but it will be a nail biter: 31-24

  14. Craig C says:

    Agree on Nelson. Great breakdown.

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