Giants, Packers air show in focus Sunday


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Eli Manning (left) and Aaron Rodgers (right) are set for a showdown in a NFC Divisional Playoff game.For the first time since the 2007 season, the road to the Super Bowl goes through the frozen turf at Lambeau Field. For the New York Giants, this is a familiar path for them. It’s the same trip they took during their Super XLII-winning season, beating the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in overtime at Lambeau in the NFC Championship game.

When the Giants have the ball

Manning re-wrote the Giants passing record books this season as he showed no fear with the deep ball. Manning’s ability to air it out against a Packers defense that finished last in the NFL in passing yards allowed will be key to a Giants victory.

Eli Manning This Season
Passes 21+ Yards Downfield

Manning led the NFL in attempts (89), completions (38), and yards (1,403) on passes of more than 20 yards downfield. However, he’s struggled to find his touch on these throws recently, throwing two interceptions over the last four weeks, matching the amount he threw in the first 13 games.

The Giants run game was stuck in neutral for much of 2011, ranking last in the NFL. However, they’ve found success on the ground recently, piling up 100-plus yards in five of their last six games. This upward trend could be the difference against the Packers, who ranked 26th in rush yards per attempt allowed.

The ability to get out on the edge has been key during this six-game stretch. The Giants are averaging 5.8 yards per rush outside the tackles since Week 13, compared to 3.3 yards per carry in the first 11 games. The Packers have allowed the second-most yards per rush outside the tackles this season (6.5).

When the Packers have the ball

It’s no secret that the Packers offense is powered by the prolific arm of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers torched the Giants in Week 13 when flushed outside the pocket, completing 6-of-7 passes for 87 yards, an area where the Giants struggled all season to contain quarterbacks (see chart on right).

Aaron Rodgers vs Giants Defense
Outside the Pocket, NFL Ranks

The Giants do have the pass rushing ability to get to Rodgers and disrupt his timing without sacrificing secondary coverage. They have the second-most sacks this season when sending four or fewer rushers (34); Rodgers has been sacked 24 times against standard pressure, the sixth-most in the NFL.

The good news for the Packers is that Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga are slated to start Sunday, meaning that the Packers will have their original starting five offensive linemen in the lineup together for the first time since the third week of the season.

The group of Clifton, T.J. Lang, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton and Bulaga has played just 126 of the Packers’ 987 snaps this season, but was also the most effective. The combo allowed a sack once every 24.7 pass attempts, compared to one every 12.6 attempts for all other Packers’ line combinations.

Stat of the game

The Packers are the sixth team in NFL history to win at least 15 games in the regular season. Of the previous five teams to do this, only two won the Super Bowl (1985 Chicago Bears, 1984 San Francisco 49ers).

-- Katie Sharp contributed to this post