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Week 12 Preview/Review: “Payback is a B***h”

First off, I want to wish everybody a happy belated Thanksgiving. There are a lot of things in this world that cause you to complain. However, Thanksgiving weekend is a time to realize what you have, and to be thankful that you have it. All right, enough with the sentimental stuff, let’s talk about grown men knocking the s**t out of each other on the gridiron. Last week’s game between the Packers and Lions was nip and tuck all the way through. Neither team had more than a 6 point lead during the game, and the Packers gained the lead and kept it with 1:55 to go in the fourth quarter, when Aaron Rodgers threw a 22 yard touchdown pass to who else, Randall Cobb, in the back left corner of the end zone. The throw itself wasn’t a great one from Rodgers, it was between two defenders and the throw really should have been picked off. However, that play was the epitome of the Detroit Lions secondary this year; when a play is there to be made, more times than not, it’s not made and the Lions lose because of it. Rodgers didn’t have eye popping stats; he was 19/27 (70% completion percentage) for 236 yards, 2TD’s and 1 INT; but Rodgers played best when the chips were down. After an 11 yard run up the middle by James Starks on the second to last drive of the game for the Packers, Rodgers completed three out of four passes for 66 yards, including the touchdown to Randall Cobb to take the lead.

The Packers were very balanced on offense last Sunday; having 29 rushing attempts and 27 passing attempts. On those 29 rushing attempts, the Packers gained 95 yards (average of 3.3 yards per rush). But like I’ve said all year long, it’s not about yards gained on the ground for the Packers, it’s about rushing attempts. As long as the Packers offense plants the seed in the defense’s psyche that they are committed to running the ball, it makes the passing game much more dangerous. The balanced offense attack from the Packers came at a very odd time; ever since Cedric Benson, their number one running back on the depth chart, became injured, the Packers have showed more of a commitment to running the ball and being balanced on offense. The back that has played the biggest part in that balanced has been the aforementioned James Starks; who had 25 carries last Sunday for 74 yards (3.0 yards per carry). Starks kick started the scoring drive where the Packers took the lead for good with an 11 yard run up the middle. That set up Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing game to quickly go down the field against the less than stellar Lions defense, and pull the lead into their possession.

The Packers defense lived up to its reputation against the Lions last Sunday; and that’s giving up a good amount of yards, but never “breaking” in giving up huge plays through the air or on the ground. Lions Wide Receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson dominated Tremon Williams and the Packers secondary with 5 catches for 143 yards and 1 touchdown. But Johnson was the only one who impacted the aerial attack for the Lions; no other Lions Wide Receiver had more than 35 yards receiving during the game.  The Lions new factor back Mikel Leshoure had 19 carries for 84 yards (4.4 yards a carry), but his longest run of the day was 15 yards. Where the Packers absolutely dominated the game was in the turnover battle; the Packers only committed 1 turnover, where the Lions committed 4. Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford had three of the turnovers by himself (two interceptions and one fumble) and all of his turnovers occurred when the Lions looked as though they were going to score points. Stafford has a gunslinger mentality as a Quarterback (a la some prior Quarterback for the Packers who wore number 4), so there are going to be plenty of chances to capitalize on miscues. The Packers did so, and that’s what ultimately won them the game.

Last Sunday’s win against the Lions, parlayed with the Bears embarrassing loss to Colin Kapernick and the San Francisco 49ers, gives the Packers the lead in the NFC North with a 7-3 record (the Packers and Bears have the same record, but with the win against the Bears in week 2, the Packers have the tiebraker). This week’s game against the New York Giants is a payback game for the Pack, seeing how the Giants went into Lambeau Field last January and stomped on the 15-1 Packers 37-20. Giants quarterback Eli Manning out-MVP’ed the league MVP Rodgers by putting up a fantastic performance; completing 21 of 33 passes for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns, with one of those touchdowns being a hail mary completion to Hakeem Nicks to end the first half. When the hail mary happened, I’m assuming most Packer Backers felt that it wasn’t happening for the Packers on that January afternoon. But tonight’s game with the New York Giants brings a whole new group of story lines into play, and really has all the makings of a “big” game. Is this a preview of another playoff match up in January? We’ll see in the future, but for right now, this is going to be a fun game to watch. And…away…we…go.

If you’re a fan of watching the defenses of Alabama and LSU slug it out in a 6-3 game, or if you’re a fan of watching a 1-0 pitching duel between two great pitchers, I suggest that you don’t watch the Packers/Giants game tonight. With two key defenders out or questionable and with a very weak secondary for the Giants and with Clay Matthews, Sam Shields, and Charles Woodson out for the Packers, and I feel like the only way the word “defense” is going to make it on tonight’s NBC telecast is when both defenses are introduced. Otherwise, the word of the night will be offense, followed by phrases of “bad tackling”, “beating his man deep”, “bad read on the ball”, and my personal favorite “shootout”. If you’re teaching your child how to count, this isn’t a bad game to reference, seeing how you’ll probably get up to 60 or 70 total points.

In the effort of making this preview fresh and always from a different perspective, I’m going to give you the best case and worst case scenarios for the Packers in tonight’s game against the Giants, and then at the end give my prediction about the game. I’ll give you the statistics of the Giants Key Players and their defense, then go with the Best Case/Worst Case from there.

Giants Offense: 9th in the league in points per game (26.7 ppg), 12th in the league in total yards per game (367.4 yards per game), 13th in the league in rushing yards per game (111.4 yards per game), 9th in the league in passing yards per game (256 yards per game)

Giants Defense: 12th in the league in points allowed per game (21.6), 22nd in the league in total defense (371.6 yards allowed per game), 15th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (113.8 yards allowed per game), 25th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (257.8 yards allowed per game)

Key Players:

Eli Manning: 222 completions, 364 attempts, 61.3 completion percentage, 2,641 yards, 12 TD’s, 11 INT’s

Amhad Bradshaw: 151 attempts, 675 yards, 4.5 yards per attempt, long 37 yards, 4 TD’s

Victor Cruz: 60 catches, 743 yards, 12.4 yards per catch, long 80 yards, 7 TD’s

Jason Pierre-Paul: 6.5 Sacks

Osi Umenyiora: 4.0 Sacks

Justin Tuck: 3.0 Sacks

Worst Case Scenario: Offense: Packers pass happy on offense, giving stellar defensive line for the Giants every opportunity to pound Aaron Rodgers. 2+ turnovers made by Packers offense. Defense: Allow Giants offense to control clock, keeping the Packers explosive offense off the field. Letting up touchdowns instead of field goals. Creating 2 or less than 2 turnover on Defense.

The following phrases are what the Packers can absolutely NOT do against the Giants tonight. To go over the offense; the Packers cannot go back on what they’ve built over the past 3+ games. Like I mentioned before, the Packers have become a very balanced team on the offensive side of the ball. Defenses cannot rely on the Packers to throw the ball 35, 40+ times on offense. Defenses not have to think about the run and the pass. Over the past 3 games, the Packers have averaged 31.3 rushes a game and 31 passing attempts per game. That is almost perfect balance!!!! The worst thing that the Packers can do is revert back to the pass happy offense they showed earlier in the season. This screws them in that it allows the Giants defensive line every opportunity to beat the ever living crap out of Aaron Rodgers. Over the past three games, the Packers have only allowed 2 sacks per game. This all comes back to the balance on offense. You’re playing with fire if you’re an offense going against the Giants defense line, and decide to throw the ball 40+ times. Also, the Packers can’t turn the ball over 2 or more times. With the injuries, I feel that the Packers defense is going to struggle mightily against the Giants offense, so don’t give them any more times to control the ball and put up points. On defense, the Packers can’t afford for the Giants to control the clock for the majority of the game. With the Packers offense being what it is, I think the Giants will use “a good defense is a strong offense approach” to tonight’s game. How many three and outs the Packers create tonight will drastically affect the outcome of the game. The Packers defense also has to turn the ball over and give up field goals instead of touchdowns; basically execute the same game plan as they did against the Lions last week. Give the Giants all the yards they want, but when they get to the red zone, only give up field goals. Whoever has the ball last tonight might also win the ball game, so a couple of turnovers will also help.

Best Case Scenario: Offense: Score early and often. Stay balanced on offense; commit to the run and go for play action passes down the field. Keep the Giants defensive line at bay with quick slants, wide receiver screens, and screens out of the back field. Defense: Get the Giants off of the field. Whether it’s by turnovers or by three and outs; get the Giants off of the field. With the injuries to the Packers defense, try not to get exposed. Give up Field Goals instead of touchdowns.

The following phrases are what the Packers absolutely NEED to do in order to win tonight’s game. Aaron Rodgers is 2nd in the league in passing touchdowns with 27 on the season, and he is going against the 25th ranked passing defense in the league. I’m sure during film study this week Rodgers was foaming at the mouth to get the game started. The Giants passing defense this year has been picked apart by Tony Romo on opening night, RG III in that shootout at MetLife Stadium about a month ago, and by Ben Roethlisberger the week after Superstorm Sandy. Over the past three games, the Giants defense has allowed an average of 2.3 passing touchdowns per game. The Packers need to take advantage of the Giants secondary. The passing game is going to be only 100% effective if they stay balanced on offense. If a defense knows what you’re going to do, it’s easier to stop it. Run the ball on first down, and set up the play action passes down the field. I expect Randall Cobb to play a huge role in tonight’s game. With the Giants pass rush being as dangerous as it is, the Packers need to counteract this with quick passes and screens. Who’s a better guy to use in the screen game than Randall Cobb. Cobb has shown before that when used in the screen game, he can be deadly. Defense: Get the Giants off the field. In a potential shootout of a game, and having a lot of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, don’t get exposed and get the offense off the field as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if the Packers defense gives up a lot of yards, just don’t give up points. The Packers offense I believe can get whatever they want against the Giants defense, so if the D gives up field goals, and the O gets touchdowns, the Packers win this game.

Prediction: I think Eli Manning comes back from the dead in tonight’s game. There’s no way that he’s not going to throw a touchdown for the fourth straight game. The Packers are too beat up on the defensive side of the ball for that not to happen. Believe me, I hope he throws 5 picks tonight and the Packers win 70-0, but, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think that the Giants try to play keep away to start off the game. But with the Packers rush defense being solid, I think they throw that game plan out the window and start winging the pig around the field. Both quarterbacks tonight will throw for over 300 yards tonight; so fantasy owners of Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning everywhere will be happy. I think that the Giants defensive line gets to Aaron Rodgers a couple of times tonight, but I think that the continued pass/run attack from the Packers offense keeps JPP, Tuck and Umenyiora at bay. I think it’s a offense display tonight, but eeked out in the end by the Packers.

Green Bay Packers:         35

New York Giants:             34



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