Saturday, December 25, 2010

Giants: Packers preview

Rodgers is playing. Packers are 5-1 at home. Packers apparently rediscovered their running game last week, getting 140 yards rushing against the Patriots. Packers are 8-6 and two of those losses came with Rodgers missing much of the Lions game and all of the Patriots game with that concussion. That makes this a very tough game.

Furthermore, the match ups and style of offense that the Packers play is difficult to defend and a tough match up for the Giants. Packers do a lot of spread formation with 5 WR looks. Some of them are disguised, where they come in with 4 WRs, a RB in the backfield and send the RB in motion to get to the empty backfield. There is always one receiver who is hot among these 5, so if you blitz, Rodgers can get rid of the ball quickly. If you don't blitz and rely on 4 attacking their 5 OL-men, you might be at a disadvantage and have to rely on your DL to get to the QB all by itself on every passing play. Giants, to combat this, need a big game from their DL and need to blitz intelligently. There's nothing wrong with blitzing from this set, but it leaves your DB-field 1-on-1 with every one of the Packers WRs. If that happens, one missed tackle or bad angle results in a big play. The Giants need to blitz their S and/or  LB when they blitz and leave the CBs in coverage. Look for a lot of 3-S, 2-LB personnel grouping to combat the Packers passing attack and leave stopping the run up to the DL. The other side of the coin is that the Packers don't run the ball very well and if the Giants are effective at stopping the run, they will leave the Packers in 3rd and long. If that is the case, when they go to this spread formation, a blitz forces Rodgers to go to the short, hot receiver and the Giants can stop it short of the first down. There are a lot of "ifs" in that layout .... If Giants stop the run.... If they keep it 3rd and long ..... If they tackle effectively and prevent yards after catch.... If the DL has a good day. Packers are tough with dangerous WRs and a great QB. Their weaknesses on offense are a so-so OL and a poor running game. Giants have to take advantage of that to stop the Packers.

On defense, the Packers play a 3-4 with one very good LB in Matthews and a strong CB in Woodson. I think Woodson is a bit overrated. He is a gambling CB who gets away with a lot of holds when he guesses wrong and gets beaten. A double move to Mario Manningham to pick on Woodson's aggressiveness will work on Sunday. If Woodson matches up against Nicks, I would not be afraid to go after him with Nicks either. On the other side, the CB is Tramon Williams, not nearly as accomplished a player as Woodson.  Gilbride and Manning's MO has been to go after the weaker side and pick on him in important spots. They don't go after him on every play, because that gives the defense a chance to adjust and reveals their strategy. Rather, they establish the advantage, but spread the ball around and pick on the weak link in the big spots of the game. Packers defense is good and will be geared to stop the Giants running game. Giants need a big game from their OL to establish the run, control the Packers front 7 and give Eli room to throw. With Steve Smith out, Boss becomes an important weapon to attack the middle of the field. Gilbride figured this out and started to use him more in the last few weeks. He remains an important weapon to occupy the Packers LBs and prevent them from attacking and blitzing  too freely. Giants should not be afraid to pass first to set up the run late. Both - early in the down sequence (1st and 2nd downs) as well as early in the game to establish a lead.  They have to be aggressive with the offense and put up points, because the Packers spread offense can be dangerous.

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