Tonight's late game pits two top teams against one another. But while the Green Bay Packers (7-3) and the New York Giants (6-4) are similar sides whose records point to some prominent play-off credentials, their respective form in recent weeks has been going in opposite directions. The Giants have been laid low with two disappointing defeats, whereas the Pack are positively surging (and could potentially take over from the Bears atop in the NFC North with a win this evening).
Big Blue fans are already scoffing that the Giants haven't lost three straight matches since 2009, but this sounds more like wishful thinking than anything rooted in the firm belief of recent evidence. The argument goes that while the Super Bowl champs are always prone to throwing in the odd stinker, they deliver in the games where it matters most. Two Vince Lombardi trophies under El Manning and Tom Coughlin attest to this theory, but their truly landmark performances have always arrived in the postseason.
Is this representative of the random chance of knock-out competition, or clutch play? It's a little from both columns, but for now the reality is that Manning is in a funk. He hasn't thrown a touchdown in 99 passes - a career-cold stat - and is under pressure to deliver the divisional title with the Washington Redskins breathing down the Giants' backs in the NFC East. Two Super Bowl rings say he's an elite quarterback. However, his perennial critics are sharpening their nibs again.
Aaron Rodgers has also had his detractors since leading the Packers to the XLV Bowl, but it's more difficult to pick holes in his form. He produced a game-winning drive to cage the dangerous Lions last week, and is riding a five-match streak for victories. In fact, in his past seven games, Rodgers has 24 touchdowns for just four interceptions and a QB rating of 117. His last two regular-season efforts against the Giants also compare favourably (eight TDs, one interception and a 121 rating).
Rodgers' completion percentage actually improves against the blitz (from 66% to 70% when you run Pro Football Focus' numbers) and that could be the game-changer here with a Giants D that loves to bring the heat at home. The Pack may not run the ball that effectively, but they pick their passing lanes with precision. Wide man Randall Cobb is in the form of his life (with six TDs in his past four games) and another quick start should silence an agitated MetLife Stadium.
On the other side of the ball, Eli will have to contend with a resurgent Green Bay defensive line which initially struggled to accommodate six new signings in the latest draft. These new blood lines have now been fused into a cohesive system with corner Casey Hayward at its heart. Manning Jnr will certainly get the hurry-up.
The Vegas Line offers the Packers a useful field-goal start and this could be the moment to kick the Giants while they're down. They could yet rise again for the play-offs but that's a conversation for another day.comments powered by Disqus