The Packers host the New York Giants in the Wild Card round this Sunday. The Giants have been a thorn in the Packers side for many years now, proving to be the more physical team year in and year out. I’m sure Green Bay is very motivated to atone for those two heartbreaking playoff losses to New York. The Packers were able to win in New York earlier in the season, but the Giants have rallied off 9 wins during the last 11 games of the season. Their loss to the Packers was the turning point of their season. They’re a completely different team than we beat in week 5. This Sunday, the game could come down to these three key match ups.
Packers Secondary vs Giants WR:
The biggest key to Sunday may very well be how well the Packer’s corners stick with the very talented Giants’ receiving core. Packers’ nation got some good news this week as Damarius Randall has fully returned to practice, meaning he should be ready to suit up, on Sunday. This gives the Pack’s corners a punting chance to perform well. Gunter has struggled as the number one corner this season, and the team just promoted the rookie Herb Waters from the practice squad. Herb started the season as a wide receiver, so it could be a lot to ask of him to perform in the playoffs. Randall and Gunter will have to hold their own this week.
The Giants have several big, powerful wide receivers. Obviously, Odell Beckham Jr is a huge match up problem for the secondary, but so is Victor Cruz and the rookie Sterling Sheppard. All three come in with a strong base, which make them threats to run after the catch, which has been an issue for the Packers secondary. If they aren’t giving up a long ball, they’re struggling in one on one tackling situations.
Eli Manning has a history of lighting the Packers secondary up. It could be a perfect storm of wide receivers with the right match up and a QB that has the team’s number. The Packers secondary will have to step up to take some of the pressure off Rodgers. This may end up being one of those shoot outs the Packers have become accustom of in January.
Aaron Rodgers vs Giants Secondary:
Aaron finished the season off with six wins, throwing 18 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. He looked smooth running all over the field against the Lions last week, so his leg injuries seem to be at a decent place heading into the playoffs. It’d be hard to ask for a better Rodgers as of late, but the Giants defense has been incredibly proficient themselves. Since the Packers beat the Giants in week 5, New York has been giving up 16 points per game, which is tied for the league best over the last 12 weeks of the season.
The Giants’ secondary is considered to be one of the best in football this year. Landon Collins has been the shining card of the Giants secondary this season, making plays at the line and the back end of the defense. Not a lot of guys have 100 solo tackles and 5 interceptions. Landon has the potential to make that huge play that changes the game, and you could see him matched up with Jared Cook in key passing moments. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was signed mid-season as the teams’ slot cornerback, and has been dominant leading the team with six interceptions. He is going to be a tough match up for Randall Cobb to create separation against.
There is a likelihood that Rodgers is going to have to play at his current MVP caliber level to make up for the great coverage the team expects to see on Sunday.
Mike McCarthy vs Ben McAdoo:
Ben McAdoo spent eight seasons as the tight ends/quarterback’s coach under Mike McCarthy, leaving to be the Giants offensive coordinator in 2014. McAdoo has the best knowledge of the ins and outs of the Packers of any head coach in the league. He got to work personally with Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback’s coach during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Who knows exactly what he knows about the team’s current system, but if anyone can guess what the play call will be on third down, it’s him.
On the other side of the coin, McCarthy mentored him for 8 seasons. He should have a general idea of his weaknesses as a coach. Perhaps the Packers have just as good of a shot at guessing the Giants third down play call. Both teams may look to get extra creative with their play calling this week. Regardless it should be an interesting matchup, hopefully McCarthy can have a Bill Belichick level of success against former coaches.