Sunday, December 26, 2010

Packers vs. Giants Preview

It's the day after Christmas and all we want is for the Green Bay Packers to still be in a gift-giving mode. No, not the kind of gifts they've given other teams in the six narrow losses of this season, but rather things NY Giants head coach Tom Coughlin another couple hours in a darkened room after yet another heartbreaking loss. Or giving Packer fans everywhere yet another week of hope that this injury-riddled and over-achieving season will continue into the playoffs.

Those would be just a few gift ideas. Both, of course, are contingent upon the Packers beating the Giants at Lambeau Field today. The Packers are favored by 3 points, the home field advantage spread, meaning the game is basically a toss up. There are many out in the pundit-sphere, though, that are calling this game in favor of the Giants. To be honest, they do have a better rushing game (but, really, who doesn't?), a better defensive front, and a better return game (ditto my earlier who doesn't comment). And, after the Giants' epic 4th quarter collapse against the Eagles last weekend, you have to figure they will come out ready to play (a cliche, but still true). Of course, they could also still be feeling the after-effects of that loss. If the Pack were to get up early, the Giants just might have the air sucked right out of them. Don't expect that to happen, though.

This is a game which both teams need in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. But the Packers need it more: lose today and they are out. Period. Win and, even should they lose to Da Bearz in the regular season finale, they still have a chance but would need a few other things to fall into place in order for them to squeak in. The Packers understand very well that going into this game they control their own destiny, as the saying goes. Win their remaining two games and they clinch a Wild Card spot. Lose today and start making plans for the offseason.

If the Packers defense can't contain the Giants two-headed running attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, it's going to be a long day, as that will allow QB Eli Manning to do what he can do very well when given the time. The Packers' task will be made even more difficult today with the absence, for yet one more week, of DE Cullen Jenkins and a question at outside linebacker. LB Frank Zombo is listed as doubtful after sustaining a knee injury in the game against the Pats, and even the two players signed in recent weeks to provide depth there have injuries to deal with. Not good. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will need to bring his most creative schemes to bear today if the Pack is to have a chance at winning this game.

Likewise, head coach Mike McCarthy will have to have his play-calling abilities on target...something which, in these close games, has not always seemed to be the case. Aaron Rodgers needs a big game and, coming off his second concussion of the season, the scenario makes him vulnerable to the Giants' pass rush, particularly if the Packers are not able to find a way to run the ball. The O-line needs to play its best game of the season if the Pack is to win this game. They will have their hands full against a great Giants defensive front. If they allow that D-line to control the line of scrimmage and -- worse -- get pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers, it will be a long day and a likely loss. Not sure what the running game will look like for the Packers, but if they can at least come close to duplicating last week's performance against the Patriots it will provide Rodgers with some breathing room. And, if not...let's not even think about that, shall we?

This will be a close game. It could be decided with a turnover -- which the Pack didn't create last week despite several clear opportunities. It could also be decided on special teams. That edge, as we all too well know, does not go to the Pack. The Giants are the healthier of the two teams and the more physical. A lot will depend upon the emotion of the game. This would be a great time for the Giants to come in nursing that Eagles hangover. Don't count on that, however.

Still, because the game is at Lambeau and the Packers know their playoff lives depend on this game, we're calling it 27-24 in favor of the Packers.

Let us pray...

Go Pack Go!!!