The Giants will have to embrace this Sunday’s playoff atmosphere in Green Bay if they don’t want the 2010 season to be defined by last week’s catastrophic, fourth-quarter meltdown (4:15 p.m., FOX).
After squandering a 31-10 lead and allowing four-straight unanswered touchdowns, the Giants (9-5) have to exorcise the demons of DeSean Jackson’s dizzying, game-winning punt return to secure their spot in the NFC playoff bracket. It’s simple for the G-Men this weekend: win and they’re in.
However, it’s almost that easy for the Packers (8-6), too, who can control their own destiny with a win. Aaron Rodgers will return from his concussion in an effort to halt the Pack’s two-game skid, and prevent Giants safety Antrel Rolle’s prediction to land a playoff berth on Sunday.
Bend but don’t break
The Giants’ second-ranked pass defense will need to play up to reputation if they’re to neutralize Greg Jennings. Tied for the NFC lead in touchdowns with 12, Jennings is dangerous in traffic and can beat most defenders in man coverage. With Jennings’ team-high 65 receptions, the G-Men can expect Rodgers to force passes in the receiver’s direction when under duress – especially if Big Blue’s pass rush (NFC-best 42 sacks) collapses the pocket.
Built for cold Decembers
The dynamic rushing tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw should find the open space they need to dominate the Packers’ defensive front. Jacobs is averaging nearly six yards per carry, while Bradshaw is second in the NFC with 1,182 rushing yards. Both runners have combined for 1,909 yards this season and 16 touchdowns with eight scores each. Green Bay’s 19th-ranked run defense isn’t scorched for big plays very often, but is allowing a consistent 4.6 yards per carry.
Keep it short and simple
Although the Packers are inconsistent against the run, they are dominant against the pass. The Packs’ pass defense is third in the NFL, with NFC-leading sack artist Clay Matthews (12.5) ending plays before they begin. Green Bay’s efficiency against big plays means there should be space for tight end Kevin Boss and Bradshaw on short-passing routes. Eli Manning can complement the rush attack and keep Green Bay off balance in case he does see an opportunity to take a shot down field.
For pride and postseason
Allowing Michael Vick and the rival Eagles to rally from a 21-point deficit isn’t the kind of misery a talented and proud defense like the Giants’ would allow in back-to-back games. The intangibles matter most on Sunday for the G-Men. With the postseason on the line, the potent Packers have just as much at stake as the Giants. Big Blue will need patience, consistency, and strong special-teams tackling when they hit Lambeau Field.