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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After losing to the Green Bay Packers on a last-second field goal, Antrel Rolle believed the New York Giants would get a rematch, even though they were just 6-6 at the time.
Now, as they prepare to meet again in the playoffs, the surging Giants believe they are a different team than the one that lost 38-35 to Green Bay on Dec. 4.
"We're a better team," Rolle said. "We're a more confident team. I think we're a better team in all three phases of the game, offensively, defensively and special teams.
"And I think we're mentally tougher, which says a lot," Rolle added. "Because this game is more mental than physical. Everyone has the physical ability, but once you have that mental aspect of plays, that's when things go great."
The Packers won't be lacking motivation. The last time these teams met in the playoffs at Lambeau Field, the Giants won the NFC championship game 23-20 in overtime on Jan. 20, 2008.
"The team that kept us from our potential Super Bowl in 08 is back on OUR turf now. Trust me, we haven't forgotten. Here.We...GoPackGo!" Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings wrote on his Twitter page on Sunday.
While the Packers may be looking for some playoff revenge, the Giants are eager to test themselves again against the defending Super Bowl champions now that they are healthy and playing their best.
"It happened for a reason, and hopefully it happened for us as a testament for redemption I guess," defensive end Justin Tuck said of losing to Green Bay in December. "That is something that is going to be on our mind and I am sure it is on theirs, too. I saw the Greg Jennings tweet about remembering what happened in '08. So it is going to be an emotional football game for both teams."
The Giants will enter Green Bay bursting with confidence after dismantling the Atlanta Falcons 24-2 in Sunday's wild-card mismatch. They are not only playing their best football right now, they continue to get better with each game.
|Antrel Rolle says Aaron Rodgers will see an improved Giants team on Sunday.|
There were no guarantees in the Giants' locker room a day after defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, "We gonna win ... we gonna win" in reference to their upcoming clash with the Packers.
But with the way Eli Manning and the defense are playing, the Giants believe they can beat anyone after winning three straight games. And they think they can play better defensively than they did Sunday, when they held the Atlanta offense scoreless.
"The best is yet to come," linebacker Michael Boley said when asked if the Giants played their best defensively against Atlanta. "We still got another game."
The Giants will have to play their best defense of the season to hang with Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau on Sunday afternoon.
The Giants' defense surrendered four touchdown passes to Rodgers last time and could not defend the Packers' receivers when they needed stops the most.
But the Giants have since cleaned up many of their glaring defensive issues, like the communication problems and mental lapses that helped Donald Driver score one of his two touchdowns against the Giants.
"It was just the little things that we could clean up in that game and that could take away 21 points, easily," Rolle said. "And they probably have the same mindset on their side, things they could have done better. They had a few dropped passes in that game, which obviously gave us a better chance at winning."
The Giants hit Rodgers six times and sacked him twice in that game, and that was with a banged-up defensive unit. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora did not play due to a high ankle sprain. Boley, the team's best linebacker, played limited snaps as he returned from a hamstring injury.
Now they are almost at full strength, with cornerback Aaron Ross undergoing a battery of tests for a possible concussion on Monday. But with the way the defensive line is playing, with 13 sacks in the last three games, the Giants feel better equipped to face Rodgers this time around with a healthy Umenyiora and a healthier Tuck.
"We are probably playing the best up front that we've played all year," Tuck said, "and our secondary is playing awesome too."
The last time the Giants were in Green Bay, they were smoked 45-17 last year in a late-December game that ignited the Packers' Super Bowl run.
But the last time these two teams met in a playoff game, the Giants escaped a frozen Lambeau with an overtime victory that sent them to Super Bowl XLII.
Rolle, who predicted a Giants-Packers rematch, didn't offer any prognostications Monday.
All he knows is that the Giants are playing really good football right now, better than when the Packers last saw them.
"Right now, we're peaking and we're jelling and, most of all, we're playing great team football," Rolle said.
"I don't have any crystal balls," he added. "I'm not trying to be Miss Cleo or anything. But it's just something I feel. I feel even deeper for this team. And I know what we've been putting out there for the last couple of weeks, that's the kind of Giants team that we are."