NEW YORK GIANTS (11-5)
at GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-6)
Lambeau Field – Green Bay, WI
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
Line: Green Bay -4.5, Total: 44.5
Eli Manning opens the quest for his third Super Bowl against Aaron Rodgers and the streaking Packers on Sunday.
While the Packers had already clinched a playoff berth entering Week 17 of the regular season, they went ahead and beat the Redskins 19-10 anyway (NYG +9.5), eliminating Washington from postseason contention in the process. The Giants ended the regular season 11-5, 9-7 against the spread, and with the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The win over Washington was the culmination of a furious run to the playoffs, as it was New York’s third win in four games and their ninth win in their final 11. The Giants defense led the way, holding the Skins to 284 yards of total offense and forcing them to commit three turnovers. They will travel to Green Bay for the premier matchup of Wild Card Weekend, a late-Sunday afternoon tilt with the Packers. Green Bay beat the Lions 31-24 (GB -3.5) on the road last Sunday night to seize the NFC North title from the hands of Detroit and grab the No. 4 seed in the conference. The Packers finished the regular season 10-6, both straight up and against the spread. They had to win their last six to get there, a run QB Aaron Rodgers predicted when he said that his team could run the table. They had no trouble moving the ball against the Lions, gaining 448 yards of offense and 28 first downs. The Packers have an incredibly beat up secondary, as CB Demetri Goodson, CB Sam Shields and S Chris Banjo are on the IR and CBs Damarious Randall, Makinton Dorleant and Quinten Rollins are all questionable (at best) for Sunday’s game. WR Randall Cobb is questionable, too. CBs Coty Sensabaugh and Janoris Jenkins and S Nat Berhe are questionable for New York.
It has been a mediocre year for Giants QB Eli Manning (63.0 CMP%, 4,027 yards, 26 TDs, 16 INTs), whose level of play has been somewhere between his disastrous 2013 season and his past two, which were considerably better. He finished the season 13th in the league in passing yards, 25th in yards per attempt (6.73) and 22nd in passer rating (86.0). His 16 interceptions are the fourth most in the NFL. For Manning, all of those numbers are worse than his corresponding stats from either of the last two seasons. Throw in the fact that the Giants have only scored 28 points in a game one time this season (and it was exactly 28, against the Eagles on Nov. 7), and it’s hard to argue that Manning’s year has been anything but disappointing. In his last five games, the only one in which he really played well was a 20-for-28, 201-yard, two-touchdown day in a win against the Lions. Surely part of the reason for his struggles is the fact that the Giants have a poor rushing attack; it’s 29th in the NFL at an average of 88.3 yards per game. The loss of RB Shane Vereen early in the season hurt, to be sure, and lead RB Rashad Jennings (181 carries, 593 yards, 3 TDs; 35 catches, 201 yards, TD) has been generally ineffective. Some hope may have emerged in the last couple of weeks, however, in the form of rookie RB Paul Perkins (112 carries, 456 yards). He had a career-high 56 yards against the Lions in Week 15, then topped it in subsequent games with 68 yards against the Eagles and 102 yards on 21 carries against the Redskins. At this point, it would be surprising if he didn’t get 15-plus carries to help open up the passing game against Green Bay. Despite Manning’s subpar year, there have been multiple highlights in said passing game. One is WR Odell Beckham Jr. (101 catches, 1,367 yards, 10 TDs), who is third in the league in receptions and receiving yards, and fifth in touchdown catches. The other is WR Sterling Shepard (65 catches, 683 yards, 8 TDs), who was second among rookies in receiving yards this season. WR Victor Cruz (39 catches, 586 yards, TD) is in on most snaps. The Giants defense ranks 10th in the NFL with 339.7 yards allowed per game and second with 17.8 points allowed per game. Jenkins and S Landon Collins were named Pro Bowl starters.
“I don’t have any kryptonite,” said Giants head coach Ben McAdoo this week when asked how he plans on stopping Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (65.7 CMP%, 4,428 yards, 40 TDs, 7 INTs). Indeed, the all-of-a-sudden MVP candidate has been heroic as of late: During Green Bay’s six-game winning streak, he has completed 71.0% of his passes for 277.8 yards per game, 15 touchdowns and not a single interception. For the entire season, he is first in the league in touchdown passes, fourth in passing yards and fourth in passer rating (104.2). He has thrown eight touchdowns in the last two weeks and, the week before that, he threw a 60-yard bomb late in the game to set up the game-winning field goal against the Bears. He showcased his ability to create extra time with his legs against the Lions, and he has rushed for 25 first downs over the course of the year, as well. Of course, he wouldn’t be able to do it without some weapons, chief among them WR Jordy Nelson (97 carries, 1,257 yards, 14 TDs). Returning from a season-long injury in 2015, Nelson had arguably the best year of any receiver this season: He is fifth in the league in receptions, sixth in yardage and first in touchdowns. Who is second? None other than Green Bay’s No. 2 receiver, Davante Adams (75 catches, 997 yards, 12 TDs). Only nine quarterbacks threw more than 26 touchdowns this season, the total number of scores that Adams and Nelson have between them. Six of Adams’ 22 receptions in the last six weeks have been scores, and Nelson has gone for 100-plus yards in three of his last five outings. Cobb (60 catches, 610 yards, 4 TDs) and TE Jared Cook (30 catches, 377 yards, TD) are important part of the passing game, as well. With Cobb sitting out recently, one unheralded receiver that has emerged is WR Geronimo Allison (12 catches, 202 yards, 2 touchdowns). The rookie out of Illinois has eight catches for 157 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ last two. With Eddie Lacy out for the year, converted WR Ty Montgomery (77 carries, 457 yards, 3 TDs) is the team’s de facto No. 1 running back. FB Aaron Ripkowski (34 carries, 150 yards, 2 TDs) saw an equal number of touches in Week 17, though. On defense, the Packers are 22nd in the NFL with 363.9 yards allowed per game and 21st with 24.3 points allowed per game. S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was honored with a starting spot in the Pro Bowl.