Nov 222012
 
 November 22, 2012  Posted by on November 22, 2012 Game Previews and Reviews
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Approach to the Game – Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, November 25, 2012: November has been unkind to the Giants once again. After another 6-2 start that had everyone feeling good about the Giants, two losses in a row and poor play from all three phases of the team have the media and fans once again questioning whether the Giants will sink or swim in the final six regular season games.

The playoffs don’t matter unless you make them. Only one team is going to come out of the NFC East – the team that wins the division. It’s a six game season. The Giants will have to win at least three more games and probably four. You just never know. Two years ago, 10-6 wasn’t good enough. Last year, 9-7 was.

In my game preview for the first regular-season game, I talked about what is at stake for the Giants this year. Another NFL title does not just mean another NFL title. It means attaining legendary status as a dynasty. But that kind of honor must be earned. The work will be desperate and the ultimate prize will be not be easy. That’s why it is so rare and special. The odds are stacked against the G-Men.

But give yourselves a chance to at least make another run Giants. Don’t find yourselves sitting at home in January.

The Giants and Packers know each other well. They are the last two Super Bowl winners. This should be a good game.

Giants on Offense: The strength of this team in recent years has been the passing game. If Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, and Hakeem Nicks don’t get their heads out of their asses, the Giants have no chance. It’s time to get back to the Manning-Cruz-Nicks combination that we saw in the second half of the Tampa Bay game. The Giants also need Martellus Bennett and Rueben Randle to play consistently well.

Statistically, the Packers have dramatically improved their defense this season. They are 16th in the NFL in terms of yards allowed and 10th in points allowed. Their run defense (11th) is stingier than their pass defense (21st). The Packers have some injury issues in the secondary with CB Sam Shields and S Charles Woodson out. But rookie CB Casey Hayward has five interceptions. The Packers employ a wide variety of defensive packages but S Morgan Burnett and LB A.J. Hawk are the leading tacklers.

One of the key reasons why the Giants have not been as sharp offensively in recent weeks is the regression of the offensive line, especially in terms of pass protection. David Diehl has struggled at right tackle, but the interior trio of Kevin Boothe, David Baas, and Chris Snee has not been good either. They need to step it up. These guys need to realize that the are not just playing for the team at this point, but their future in the NFL as well as their financial well-being. Assuming OLB Clay Matthews plays – and Tom Coughlin is assuming he will – keeping him at bay will be critical issue. Matthews (9 sacks) is once again terrorizing quarterbacks on the pass rush.

The weird thing about the Giants’ offense is that Ahmad Bradshaw is averaging 4.5 yards per carry while Andre Brown is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. With those kind of numbers, you would think the Giants’ running game is doing great. But we all know it simply hasn’t been consistent enough. Again, these guys and their blockers need to step it up. The best way to help the passing game is to put Eli and his targets in manageable down-and-distance situations.

We can talk about this match up and that match up and this strategy and that strategy, but what it really comes down to is the Giants players need to execute better. The blockers need to block, the runners need to hit the hole and hold onto the football, the receivers need to catch the ball and make plays after the catch, and Eli Manning has to be Eli F’ing Manning. It’s time to start playing some freaking good football. Enough of this crap. Your NFL Champions…play like it.

Giants on Defense: I’m pretty pissed off at this unit from the coaching staff to the players. There is no excuse for this unit not to be playing better. Every single week we hear about mental breakdowns and miscommunication. It’s week 12…give me a break. These guys had a full training camp, a full preseason. Either the schemes are too complicated or the players are too stupid.

And where the hell is Justin Tuck (3 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (4 sacks), and yes, even Jason Pierre-Paul (6.5 sacks)? Last year, Tuck and Umenyiora were hurt. They had built in excuses. Not this time. The defensive foundation of this team is the defensive line. Everything in terms of the scheme and overall performance depends on it and the Giants are not getting their money’s worth from the unit. Again, these guys need to realize they are playing for their NFL futures here too. JPP wants a big new contract. Umenyiora will hit the open market. And Tuck is making a lot of money and not living up to it. Stop making excuses and get to the quarterback.

There has been talk we will see the three safety package this week with the return of Kenny Phillips. But Phillips is bound to be rusty and certainly doesn’t sound overly confident yet about his knee. “I think it’s more mental, believing in my ability, basically,’’ said Phillips on Wednesday. “Knowing when I see something telling my mind I’m healthy enough to go get it. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. Hopefully by Sunday I’ll have my confidence back.”

Also possibly returning but also likely rusty are linebackers Jacquian Williams and Keith Rivers. Facing the dynamic passing attack of the Green Bay Packers, it’s less than ideal that Phillips, Williams and Rivers are not at full-strength. But you have to play with the cards you are dealt.

The Packers are 11th in passing but that’s misleading because they have been playing their best football as of late. On the other hand, they are 24th in rushing for a reason. This is still very much a passing team that struggles to run the football on a consistent basis.

Meanwhile, the Giants are 25th in pass defense. So it’s pretty obvious what this game comes down to: the ability or inability of the New York Giants’ pass defense against the Green Bay Packers’ passing game.

The Packers’ offensive line has struggled, but so has the Giants’ defensive line. So much in this game depends on whether or not JPP, Tuck, and Umenyiora bother to show up. If they don’t, the Giants have no chance. I would suggest that the Giants don’t play a lot of games up front or blitz too much. Aaron Rodgers feasts on the blitz. Just line up and beat the man in front of you. Hopefully, Linval Joseph’s swollen knee improves and he plays and plays effectively. The Giants also need a big game out of Chris Canty.

I wouldn’t play Mathias Kiwanuka much at linebacker against this offense. I would suggest the Giants play him a lot on the defensive line and use either a lot of the three safety package or get Williams or Rivers on the field. TE Jermichael Finley is not having the same type of year that he did last season but he’s still dangerous. And the Packers still like to spread you out and throw the football all over the park. Some of the threats at receiver are familiar: Jordy Nelson (43 catches, 5 touchdowns) and James Jones (42 catches, 8 touchdowns). But it’s Randall Cobb (54 catches, 7 touchdowns) who really has emerged as a jack-of-all-trades threat. Cobb is moved around all over the place, including the backfield, and he presents all kinds of match-up problems.

Rodgers (27 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 107.3 quarterback rating) has to feel pretty darn good heading into this game against the 25th rated pass defense. Can the Giants’ rushers get to Rodgers? Can the back seven cover the receivers, tight ends, and backs?

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants’ special teams have quickly turned from a strength into a liability again in the span of two games. There have been too many huge kick and punt returns given up. Not enough discipline, too many missed tackles. And with Randall Cobb returning both kickoffs and punts, the caliber of competition is even better this week. Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby has struggled in recent weeks however.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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