Saturday, January 14, 2012

Giants: Packers - Preview III

Giants fans are all pumped up about the game this Sunday, with the sudden rise of the Giants defense and the rediscovery of the running game, they are almost expecting to win the game. I am as an exuberant and irrational as the next fan but I think we need a little dose of reality mixed in with our optimism. Look at it this way: Eli had a great year and has certainly thrust himself into the conversation when talking about the best QBs in the league. He threw for 4,900 yards, for 29 TDs and 16 INTs. Unfortunately, the guy on the other sideline had numbers that dwarfed Eli's impressive statistics. He threw for 45 TDs, more than 50% more than Eli and threw only 6 INTS compared to Eli's 16. Eli may have thrust himself into the picture when talking about the best QBs in the league, but Rodgers is first on line.

I guess the question is not - is the Packers offense with Rodgers better than the Giants offense with Eli, because they clearly are. The question is can the Giants defense rise up, make a few plays and level the playing field so that the Giants have a chance. But let's not fool ourselves, the Packers are defending Super Bowl champions, coming off a 15-1 season, with the best player in the NFL on their team, who happens to play the most important position on the field. Beating the Packers is not going to be an easy task. They are favored by 7 1/2 and probably should be favored by more. The only chance the Giants have is if their DL can knock Rodgers to the ground often enough to make him merely mortal instead of the superhuman player that he is.

Giants defense has improved by playing more man coverage underneath with safeties playing zone on top. There are a few holes that this creates. First, if the safeties are giving help to the outside WRs, which they should to take away the big plays, the middle of the field with Jermichael Finley, the Packers uber-talented TE will have space to roam. Second, with the underneath CBs playing exclusively man, lanes for Rodgers to run will open up and he is a very good runner. To handle this, Giants need a big game from their LBs, particularly Boley and Williams in coverage on Finley. This is a tough task, but I think Williams might be up for it. He was a half step late last time Giants played the Packers, but he has improved since then and he is a talented, athletic player. Keeping Rodgers from running is a tough challenge. Keeping a LB spying on him reduces coverage on the back end. Keeping the DL with very controlled disciplined rush lanes to keep him in the pocket compromises their ability to get to the passer. I would occasionally keep a LB in the area to challenge him, but would not sell my defense down the river to stop Rodgers running. Giants have atheltic DL and you have to hope that they can jkeep him controlled.

It also seems like a game where Amukamara will have to play some CB. Packers go with 4 WR often and the Giants will likely play 6 DBs against this formation. Fewell has been saying that Amukamara looks more confident and is playing better in practice. Let's see if he's right. Giants will probably be in a lot of nickel coverage because of Packers inclination to pass the ball. Further, the Packers don't run the ball very effectively and even when they do run, they don't have the power running game that can hurt a light defensive configuration. 

This is going to be a very difficult game to win. Giants have to play a near perfect game on offense. I think they may need to score in the 30s to win this game, because even a very good defensive effort will likely not keep the Packers below 28 points. The worry is that the Packers defense finally wakes up and has a good game making it difficult for the Giants offense. This is essentially the same Packers defense that played very well last year when the Packers won the title. For some reason they took an enormous step backwards this year with mostly the same personnel. I think the Packers changed their defensive strategy and became a high risk, gambling defense. This leads to lots of yardage yielded but also lots of turnovers. The Pacekrs defensive strategy seems to be a team wide game plan. It is as if they are saying: our offense can outscore your offense if they get the same number of possessions in the game. If, on the other hand, we have more possessions for our offense because we get a few turnovers, we will CERTAINLY outscore your offense and win in a rout.

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