It'll be close, but Green Bay will edge the Giants
Sunday’s game between the Packers and Giants (4:40 p.m. ET, FOX) is undoubtedly the biggest of the weekend. It has Super Bowl implications with both teams looking like serious contenders to win it all. It’s a rematch after the Packers beat New York back in October, but things have changed since that game.
The winner most likely will go on to play the Cowboys – assuming the Seahawks handle the Lions. New York already has knocked off the NFC's top-seeded team twice this season, and the Packers are the hottest squad in the NFL. That should continue on Sunday against the Giants. Here are three reasons why.
The Packers’ pass rush will get to Eli Manning
With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry healthy, the Packers’ pass rush is getting better by the week. They’re bookend linebackers who have the speed to get to the quarterback, particularly against the Giants’ questionable tackles. It’s been a revolving door on the offensive line all year for New York, and while the Giants have allowed only 22 sacks, the pass protection has benefitted from Manning getting the ball out quickly.
Back in October, the Packers sacked Manning four times. They successfully blitzed with defensive backs like Micah Hyde; typically, you don’t need to blitz the Giants because Manning sometimes feels pressure that isn’t there, but he’s one of the worst quarterbacks when he is blitzed. Through Week 12, he had a passer rating of just 67.7 versus blitzes and 96.2 when four or fewer rushers were sent at him. When pressured, he’s coaxed into mistakes.
USA TODAY SportsMary Langenfeld
Eli Manning isn’t playing well
The biggest thing holding the Giants back also happens to be the guy who’s going to drop back 40 times on Sunday. Eli Manning is not playing good football. Since Week 13, he has a passer rating of just 77.0 with six touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer rating is 19th-best in that span despite being sacked only eight times. And it’s not just those five games that have been ugly. He hasn’t played well all season.
He’s thrown 16 interceptions, which is the most since he threw 27 in 2013. His 6.7 yards per attempt are his lowest since 2007 (6.3), so it’s not as though he’s throwing it downfield all that often. Back in October, when the Giants played the Packers, he completed just 18 of 35 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked four times as the Giants lost 23-16. Granted, the Packers’ secondary isn’t playing great, but Manning is playing even worse. And unless he gets the ball to Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants’ passing attack is in trouble.
USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
Green Bay’s offensive line is great
By looking at the numbers, you may not think the Packers had one of the best offensive lines in the league this season. They were right in the middle with 15 sacks allowed, but Aaron Rodgers was hit only 76 times – 22nd-most in the league. And if you watch the line work, you’ll realize just how much time Rodgers has in the pocket. Oftentimes, he’s left standing there waiting for his receivers to get open while not worrying about the pressure in the slightest bit.
The Giants boast one of the best defensive lines in the league, but the Packers’ pass protection can negate that. In their first meeting back in October, the Giants didn’t sack Rodgers once. The pressure rarely got to him in the pocket as he was able to remain comfortable, going through his progressions. If the Giants can’t put pressure on Rodgers, he’s going to either find an open receiver or he’ll escape the pocket and burn them with scramble drills, allowing his targets to shake free.