Green Bay Packers host New York Giants in NFC Divisional Playoffs

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (15-1, 8-0 home) look to maintain their perfect season on home turf at Lambeau Field, as they welcome in the high-flying, confident New York Giants (9-7, 5-3 away) led by Eli Manning for a fantastic showdown between two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks and two high-powered passing attacks. In this rematch game between two very capable offenses, the bottom line could be simply which side is able to perform better on defense, and who will be able to avoid making big mistakes that prove costly on the bottom line.

Though the Packers have certainly been the team to beat in the NFL this season, narrowly missing out on a perfect campaign after a Week 15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Giants may be carrying the most momentum into today’s match-up winning their last three games with outstanding defensive play that has held opponents to just 10 points/game. Coming off a dominating 24-2 performance against the Atlanta Falcons at home, the Giants will be facing their stiffest challenge yet against the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense, which seems able to score at will especially at home, against any defense in the NFL. However, what the Giants have been doing exceptionally well over the past 3 games is getting the pass rush going, behind a defensive front that tied for 3rd in the league with 48 sacks on the year courtesy of Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 sacks, 3rd in the NFL), Osi Umeyiora (9.0 sacks) and Justin Tuck (5.0 sacks). New York appears to have peaked at just the right time, and against an agile Aaron Rodgers that is good at scrambling out of the pocket, the fact that the Giants’ defense is playing confident, fast, and hard-hitting football bodes very well for their chances against one of the most potent offenses in the league. There’s little doubt that New York’s goal for today’s game will be to keep Aaron Rodgers from putting up the same amount of points (38) that led the Pack to a 3 point victory back in Week 13, but as the Giants were able to hang tight with Aaron Rodgers while not playing their sharpest defense at that time certainly looks good for them heading into a tough road environment like the one at Lambeau Field.

On offense, the Giants are led by their own Super Bowl MVP in Eli Manning, who had a very impressive year with %61 percent passing, 4933 yards, and 29 touchdowns. What immediately stands out in this match-up however, is the amount of interceptions Manning allowed this season (16, tied for 7th most in the NFL), which will have to be curtailed against a very opportunistic Packers secondary which led the league by far and away with 31 INTs (2nd was 23). However as Manning has gone two consecutive weeks throwing 3 touchdowns with no interceptions and a QB rating north of 129.3, it appears as if he is peaking right alongside the rest of the Giants, and a clean sheet on Sunday would certainly help the Giants to keep pace and keep the ball out of the hands of the potent offense of the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Manning’s key receiver this year has been Victor Cruz (82 catches, 1536 yards, 9 TDs), who should be a marker for why the Pro Bowl shouldn’t be selected until the regular season is over as he tallied 342 yards and 2 touchdowns in his final two regular season games to set the all-time yardage record for the Giants. Cruz has outstanding hands despite two drops and a quiet 2 catch, 28 yard effort against the Falcons last week, and with the Giants likely needing to score in droves to keep pace with Green Bay, Cruz will be the target of choice once again.

That said, the Giants have plenty of talent in the receiving game outside of Cruz, with Hakeem Nicks pulling down 76 catches for 1,192 yards and 7 TDs on the year, and Mario Manningham (39 catches, 523 yards, 4 TDs) also stepping up more as attention is paid to Nicks and Cruz. Add in Jake Ballard at tight end (38 catches, 604 yards, 4 TDs), who should be reasonably health for today’s game after nursing an injured knee, and against the worst passing defense in the NFL that is giving up 300 yards per game the Giants should find plenty of opportunities to spread the wealth around and keep the Packers defense irritated. What will be interesting in this match-up of two very pass-heavy teams (the Giants are dead last in the running game at 89.2 yards on the year, the Pack is 27th at 97.4 yards) is how the running game gets factored in. Green Bay is pretty stout against the rush with a veteran defensive front that is allowing 111 yards/game, but the Giants mustered an impressive 172 yards on the ground last week against Atlanta behind Brandon Jacobs (14 carries, 90 yards) and Ahmad Bradshaw (14 carries, 63 yards), showing that they can indeed have success on the ground when needed. Those yards however came mostly because Atlanta was really never in this ballgame after the first half, so how they push the running game against a high-scoring offense like Green Bay will be interesting to watch. That said, the Giants would do well to run at Green Bay if only to try and limit the opportunities Aaron Rodgers has with the ball, as almost every Packers possession feels like a 2-minute drill these days.

For Green Bay on the other hand, their Super Bowl MVP is the heart and soul of the team as well, with Rodgers easily making one of the favorites for NFL MVP honors after throwing for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns on %68.3 passing. Adding 257 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, Rodgers is a defensive nightmare, and watching this guy play is a real treat for any sports fan. The Packers are extremely hedged on the pass, throwing 552 times vs. dialing up 395 run plays, so in order to stop them the Giants are going to have to shut down or at least contain key receivers including Jordy Nelson (68 catches, 1,263 yards, 15 touchdowns) and tight end Jermichael Finley (55 catches, 767 yards, 8 TDs) in order to stand a chance at keeping up. With Greg Jennings (67 catches, 949 yards, 9 TDs) as well as James Jones (38 catches, 635 yards, 7 TDs) and Donald Driver (37 catches, 445 yards, 6 TDs) all being threats to score at will, the Giants’ secondary will have their hands full, which is sure to put extra pressure on Giants safety and leading tackler Antrel Rolle (96 tackles, 2 INTs), safety Kenny Phillips (82 tackles, 4 INTs) and cornerback Aaron Ross (60 tackles, 4 INTs). They are tasked with the unenviable job of containing Aaron Rodgers’ weaponry, and without a stand-up effort from each one of them, Rodgers will be able to exploit any weakness shown with his precision passing. However, the most important thing for the Green Bay Packers in today’s physical match-up will be to protect and give Aaron Rodgers time. Rodgers has burned the Giants for 8 TDs and 773 yards in the last two Packers wins over them, and if he can find time in the pocket, the Giants secondary will be running out of gas well before the 4th quarter begins.

Betting Lines for the Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants at Bovada Sportsbook

The Bovada Sportsbook is our go-to for online sports betting on today’s exciting NFC divisional clash, and looking over the betting lines at their website, we find the home team Packers getting a healthy -350 odds on the money line to win this match-up straight up. The New York Giants come in as a +275 underdog, so if you’re looking to capitalize on the Giants continuing their outstanding defensive play and squeaking out a win at Lambeau Field, the odds look good for the risk involved. Against the spread, the Pack is a huge 9 point favorite at +110 odds, and though the -130 odds for the Giants to stay within 9 points might not be that favorable, the likelihood of this resurgent Giants team to keep this game close with their improved defense and ability to close out games well could make the wager against the spread on the Giants a very good choice for online sports betting. With both offenses known for their abilities to score with the passing game, and with Green Bay having an especially awful passing defense, the 53 points on the over/under appears very beatable, with -115 odds for the total going over (-105 under).

Our Pick to Win:

This may be one of the most exciting match-ups of the NFL playoffs, in a game featuring two former Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks, two high-powered passing offenses, and two defenses that may be in for a drubbing in the face of those very good passing games. However, defense may play a bigger key in today’s game than most would expect, and while the Packers haven’t been very good this year on the defensive side of the ball, something tells me that the Dom Capers’ led Packer D is going to pull out all the stops to prevent Eli Manning from passing his way to victory at Lambeau Field. That said, with the Packers dead last in pass defense, and the Giants secondary susceptible to Aaron Rodgers’ myriad abilities, I like the total points to get busted as both teams air it out, and as such I’ll take the better passing game that is prone to less mistakes to be the difference in today’s game. That means the Green Bay Packers prevail at home for a trip into the NFC Conference Championship game, beating the New York Giants 35-30.

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