Giants and Packers meet in marquee wild-card matchup
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Aaron Rodgers won’t be the only quarterback in Green Bay this weekend who knows how to ”run the table.”
Eli Manning has gone streaking, too, for the New York Giants. In fact, Super Bowl runs in the 2007 and 2011 seasons took the Giants through Lambeau Field each time.
Two of the league’s marquee franchises meet again in Titletown when the Packers host the Giants in an NFC wild-card game on Sunday.
”We just know what it takes to win, and obviously the feeling of being on the other side of that, which we’ve had,” Rodgers said about the importance of postseason experience. ”We’re pretty hot right now and usually the teams that are hottest and can stay healthy are the teams that are there at the end.”
The NFC North-champion Packers (10-6) roll into the playoffs on a six-game winning streak. They haven’t lost since Rodgers said he thought that Green Bay could ”run the table” after falling to 4-6.
In some ways, this season has a similar feel to the Packers’ wild-card run in 2010, when Green Bay also finished the regular season 10-6 and overcame a slew of injuries to win the Super Bowl.
Rodgers is leading the way again: fifteen touchdown passes and no interceptions during the six-game winning streak.
A master at extending plays playing behind a good offensive line, Rodgers is giving receivers time to get open and delivering laser-like throws.
”I just see a guy that’s playing with an edge … and he’s playing with a killer instinct,” first-year Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said.
McAdoo should know. He was an offensive assistant under Packers coach Mike McCarthy from 2006-13 before a two-year stint as Giants offensive coordinator. McAdoo has seen up close what Manning and the Giants (11-5) can do at Lambeau.
The Giants beat the Packers 23-20 in overtime in the NFC title game on Jan. 20, 2008. They won 37-20 on Jan. 15, 2012 in the divisional round, defeating a heavily favored Packers team that finished 15-1 in the regular season.
That year was the last time the Giants were in the postseason. Their four-year playoff drought is over after relying on the stingiest defense in the NFC (17.8 points per game) and the playmaking ability of receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
”Feels good to win games during the regular season, and to be in this position,” said Manning, who turned 36 on Tuesday. ”You definitely want to take advantage of it. You don’t know if you get more shots. You know how hard it is after these last years, how hard it is to get here.”
Some notes and other things to watch in Sunday’s game:
COVERING BECKHAM: Beckham had just five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown when the teams met in the regular season in Week 5, a 23-16 victory for Green Bay. The Packers’ secondary was battered by injuries then, just like it is now. Quinten Rollins (neck/concussion) will miss the game Sunday, while Damarious Randall is questionable with a knee injury. But second-year player LaDarius Gunter, who helped contain Beckham back in October, remains healthy. Gunter has become the most consistent cornerback for the Packers, who have also been without veteran Sam Shields (concussion) since the season opener.
CORNER CONCERN: Randall was a full participant in practice at midweek. If he can’t go, the Packers might have to rely on undrafted rookies Josh Hawkins and the newly activated Herb Waters – a former receiver – to help Gunter at cornerback. Safety/slot cornerback Micah Hyde may also get more work outside. Regardless, the secondary will get tested by Beckham and fellow receivers Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz.
THE NEW NYPD: The Giants’ secondary has proudly taken on a new nickname – ”NYPD,” or ”New York Pass Defense.” The NFL’s best unit in the red zone (39.5 percent) features three cornerbacks in Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple who can match up with the Packers’ potent receiving corps, along with sturdy strong All-Pro safety Landon Collins (team-high 125 tackles, five interceptions).
CAN COBB GO?: Receiver Randall Cobb has missed the last two games with a sore ankle, but teammates are helping fill the void. Undrafted rookie free agent Geronimo Allison has eight catches for 157 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. Tight end Jared Cook has joined Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams as another key target for Rodgers. The possible return of Cobb to an increasingly diverse passing attack could pose another problem for the Giants.
Cobb had nine catches for a season-high 108 yards against the Giants in October.
ON THE RUN: The Giants’ running game awakened in the 19-10 win last week in Washington for a season-high 161 yards, including 102 on 21 carries for rookie Paul Perkins. Rashad Jennings, who didn’t play against the Packers in October, added 52 yards rushing and a touchdown against the Redskins.
”Yeah I mean it can make it incredibly difficult,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said about the Giants’ recent rushing success. ”Then, on top of that, (they) can do a lot of play-action out of that. … We anticipate this being a much different game than the first time around. But it should be a good one.”
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL