- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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With Aaron Rodgers sidelined, the Packers are at a crucial stage of their season. They need to keep their head above water in the NFC's playoff picture until their star quarterback returns. Having lost last week, Green Bay needs to get a win Sunday in New York. Below are three key bullet points to help them get past the Giants and improve their record to 6-4.
Make the Giants one dimensional: New York has been among the worst running teams in the NFL in 2013 but have at least 30 rushing attempts in each game during their three-game winning streak. With little running game to speak of for most of the season, Eli Manning has been under siege by opposing pass rushers and has tried to do far too much in forcing the football. The results have not been pretty, with far too many Giants turnovers. New York's offensive line has thoroughly struggled in the run and pass game and is among the league's worst. Even though Andre Brown returned last week and was quite impressive rushing for 115 yards against the Raiders, New York's offensive line had a difficult time getting Pat Sims blocked and Brown did average just 3.8 yards per carry after toting the rock a whopping 30 times. Sims is a big-bodied defensive tackle who is quite similar to B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett in terms of girth and playing style. If the Giants are unable to move the interior of Green Bay's defensive line -- and I think that will be the case -- New York's running game, even with Brown back in the fold, could be ineffective.
Stay balanced on offense: This will be Scott Tolzien's first start. He did some good things last week against the Eagles. He isn't bashful about making throws or taking chances. Tolzien also has a strong group of receiving options, including Brandon Boykin, whom Tolzien favored last week. Prince Amukamara is playing well for the Giants and this secondary has done a good job disallowing big plays of late, but the rest of New York's back seven on defense is quite beatable -- and Amukamara is far from a shut-down defender. But the Giants' defensive line is deep and has been quite strong against the run of late. Still, New York will be looking to take away Eddie Lacy and the Packers' exceptional running game first and foremost. This should allow Tolzien to find matchups to his liking in the passing game. If Tolzien doesn't make too many mistakes -- which is an area of concern -- and continues to make throws, Lacy should find more and more running room and could take this game over in the fourth quarter.
Play better on the back end: The Packers' secondary was abused thoroughly by the Eagles last week and their best cover man, Casey Hayward (Hamstring), will not be playing against the Giants. Hakeem Nicks isn't as dangerous as he once was, but he certainly cannot be ignored either. Reuben Randle is highly talented, but also quite inconsistent at his young stage of his career. Victor Cruz has not been productive of late by his standards, but he can break a game open at any time or can pick apart a secondary with shear volume. These three combined for just 137 receiving yards, but should give the Packers' secondary all it can handle. And while Manning is in the midst of a terrible season, he hasn't all of a sudden forgotten how to play this game. Getting to Manning will be of the utmost importance to aid the struggling secondary. Clay Matthews, playing with a heavily wrapped hand, was less than effective in his first game back from injury last week. Should we expect more in his second game back? Perhaps, but that is difficult to predict. But what we do know is that, when right, Matthews is truly a special player. While Nick Perry (foot) remains doubtful for this game, the name to know here is Mike Daniels, who quietly has been a wrecking machine as an interior pass rusher. Daniels could give the Giants' offensive line fits.
With Aaron Rodgers sidelined, the Packers are at a crucial stage of their season. They need to keep their head above water in the NFC's playoff picture until their star quarterback returns.