NFC North: Final Word 2011 Divisional

Final Word: Giants at Packers

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
1:30
PM ET
» Divisional Final Word: Saints-49ers | Broncos-Patriots | Texans-Ravens | Giants-Packers

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's New York Giants-Green Bay Packers divisional playoff game:

[+] EnlargeChad Clifton
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireChad Clifton will face one of the league's elite pass rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul.
Home-field advantage: The playoffs will return to Lambeau Field for the first time in four seasons. The Packers are 15-3 all-time at home in the postseason. They've also won 13 consecutive regular-season games at Lambeau. Over that stretch, which began in Week 7 of last season, the Packers have outscored opponents by an average spread of 37-18 and have a +23 advantage in turnovers. The Giants have won two of their last three games at Lambeau, including the 2007 NFC Championship Game, but have won a total of three games in the state of Wisconsin since 1957. What does all of this mean? The Packers no doubt prefer playing at home over the alternative, but their opponent Sunday can draw on some relatively recent success to minimize the intimidation factor Lambeau would otherwise carry.

Key matchup: We've spent time this week discussing the challenge facing the Packers' defense. (They are trying to become the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with a defense ranked below No. 25 overall, based on total yards allowed.) We've also noted that the Packers have scored 83 points in two games against the Giants in the last 13 months. (All of our coverage is available through this handy "Giants-Packers" link.) But one of the most interesting subplots will be the return of Packers left tackle Chad Clifton to full-time duty -- just in time to face one of the NFL's top players in 2011. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul earned first-team All-Pro honors after compiling 16.5 sacks, including six in the Giants' final four regular-season games. Pierre-Paul is expected to start at right end, and when he takes a break or moves elsewhere, the Giants probably will use veteran pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora. Clifton hasn't played a full game since Week 4 because of hamstring and back injuries, and at 35 he's giving up 12 years to Pierre-Paul. But Clifton knows every veteran trick in the book, and he has traditionally fared well against elite pass-rushers, most notably Jared Allen. The Packers trust Clifton to figure out a way to keep the pass rush away from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Philbin factor: After the death of Michael Philbin this week, the NFL community learned just how revered his father is by those who know him. The grief of Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin deeply touched the entire organization, and dealing with those emotions was an undeniable part of the team's preparation this week. Coach Mike McCarthy referred to it as a "punch in the heart" and fought back tears during a news conference Wednesday. It's too clichéd to speculate whether the tragedy will help or hurt the Packers' mindset when they take the field Sunday, or whether it affected their week in a tangible way. But if nothing else, we learned that Joe Philbin is deeply intertwined within the Packers' structure and success.

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