Sunday, January 15, 2012
How you feeling? Giants-Packers
By Dan Graziano
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Greetings from the frozen north, where Weather.com tells me it's 19 degrees right now outside my hotel room. And while, yeah, that's cold, the same site is telling me it's 18 degrees back at home in New Jersey. So you'll hear no complaining from me, and surely none from the New York Giants, who have to feel as though they caught a huge break drawing a Lambeau Field playoff game on a day with a high temperature of 28 and no precipitation.
I'll be headed over to Lambeau Field a little bit later, as will NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, NFL columnist Ashley Fox and a cast of thousands from ESPNNewYork.com. So we'll have you covered from there. Seifert reports this morning that Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who tragically lost his 21-year-old son earlier this week, will be at the game, likely coaching from the press box as he normally does.
The winner of this game gets the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. If the Giants win today, that game will be in San Francisco. If the Packers win today, the 49ers will travel to Green Bay for that game and this blog won't care nearly as much.
Meantime, though, a playoff edition of "How you feeling?" As you get ready for this afternoon's playoff game against the Packers in Green Bay, here's one reason for Giants fans to feel good and one reason for concern.
Feeling good: The Giants aren't going to be intimidated. First, there are a number of players left on the roster from the team that came in here four years ago and defeated Brett Favre's Packers (on a much colder day than this) in the NFC Championship Game. But perhaps more importantly, just five weeks ago this Giants team played Aaron Rodgers' Packers to the wire at home, tying the game with 58 seconds left and losing on a last-second field goal. That was the game that got the Giants feeling good about themselves again, even though they lost it. They're 4-1 since and playing defense at a much higher level than they played it in that 38-35 loss. And that game proved to them and everyone else that Eli Manning and the Giants have a good enough passing offense to go toe-to-toe with the Packers' own deadly air attack.
Cause for concern: Rodgers presents a challenge that's just different from any the Giants have seen in recent weeks. They were able to get pressure on Matt Ryan in last week's playoff victory over Atlanta, but Ryan is a stationary quarterback who hangs out in the pocket and isn't a threat to run. Rodgers isn't just mobile -- his legs are a legitimate offensive weapon. In the Week 13 game, Rodgers led the Packers in rushing with 32 yards on four carries. He picked up 6 yards on a third-and-5 in the third quarter. And he picked up 11 yards on a third-and-10 and 18 yards on a second-and-9 during a second-quarter touchdown drive. The Giants will need to get pressure on Rodgers with their great defensive ends, but they'll also need to make sure that pressure results in hits or sacks or hurried throws, because if they don't finish, Rodgers can escape and do them harm.