Before the season started, most New York Giants fans looked at the 2022 schedule and were expecting a 2-2 start at best. Understandably, the fact that the rebuilding and still injury-plagued Giants are sitting at 3-1 has most of us feeling pretty good. The possible canary in the coal mine was the Giants being soundly beaten by a Dallas Cowboys team without Dak Prescott and a number of key offensive starters. The Giants obviously surprised the Tennessee Titans and beat two bad teams in the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears. But we’ll take it. After all, the Giants haven’t been able to brag about a winning record since 2016.
Nevertheless, the quality of opponent is about to significantly improve. The Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens will be heavily favored to beat the Giants. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-2, having crushed the Los Angeles Chargers and given the Philadelphia Eagles all they could handle. Unless New York can pull off another upset in the next two weeks, they will head into that Jaguars game at 3-3.
The 3-1 Packers are expected to make short work of the 3-1 Giants. Why? The advantage in quarterback play, the NFL’s 6th-ranked offense, and the NFL’s 5th-ranked defense. (The Giants are ranked 22nd and 15th, respectively, by comparison). The Giants also far more banged up, especially at quarterback, wide receiver, and in the secondary. Not having Azeez Ojulari also hurts.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- QB Daniel Jones (ankle)
- QB Tyrod Taylor (concussion – out)
- WR Richie James (ankle)
- WR Kenny Golladay (knee – out)
- WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – out)
- WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring – out)
- OT Evan Neal (neck)
- DL Leonard Williams (knee – questionable)
- DL Henry Mondeaux (ankle – out)
- OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf – out)
- CB Fabian Moreau (foot)
- CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf – out)
- CB Nick McCloud (hamstring)
- S Julian Love (concussion)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
When most people think of the Green Bay Packers, they still think of Aaron Rodgers and their passing game. However, the strength of this team is now arguably its defense, with is 5th overall ranking and 3rd against the pass (only 168 passing yards per game). The latter does not not bode well for a hobbled quarterback in Daniel Jones with the worst receiving corps in the league. On Sunday, Jones will be throwing to the likes of Richie James, David Sills, and Darius Slayton and probably Practice Squader Marcus Johnson. His tight ends don’t exactly instill fear in opponents either.
The secondary is rock solid with cornerbacks Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas and safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. They are helped immensely by edge rushers Rashan Gary (5 sacks, 18 pressures) and Preston Smith (2.5 sacks, 12 pressures) and defensive linemen Kenny Clark (2 sacks, 16 pressures), Jarran Reed, and Dean Lowry. Inside linebackers De’Vondre Campbell (36 tackles) and Quay Walker (26 tackles) can cover a lot of ground. The Packers are one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing defenses, pressuring opponents on 43 percent of their passing attempts. “It’s one of the best defenses on paper that we’ve had,” said Rodgers in camp.
Last week, the Giants basically ran a one-dimensional offense (71 yards passing) and got away with it because the Bears were so undisciplined on defense, particularly in backside pursuit off the edge. It’s hard to imagine the Packers doing that, especially after what they saw on tape this week. Just as importantly, Daniel Jones is playing with a bum ankle. The New York offensive line also still has issues in pass protection and stopping the Gary-Smith-Clark trio is particularly problematic.
The one weakness the Packers have had this year is run defense, being ranked 22nd overall (127 yards per game). Green Bay will load up the box against Saquon Barkley, have the backside defenders watch for the bootleg, and dare a gimpy Daniel Jones and his journeyman wide receiver to beat them. We all know it. It would seem that New York’s only chance is if somehow the Giants are able to out-muscle the defenders up front combined with some serious heroics from a cast of no-name wideouts. There is only so much scheming a coaching staff can do. At some point, the talent deficiency will rear its ugly head.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
As mentioned, Green Bay is 6th overall in offense, averaging almost 380 yards per game. However, they have had issues scoring, averaging only 19 points per game. They are 16th in passing (233 yards per game) and 7th in rushing (145 yards per game).
Meanwhile, through four games, Wink Martindale’s defense is 15th overall in yardage (332 yards per game) and 9th in scoring (18 points per game). The big negative thus far has been rushing defense (28th overall). The Giants have yet to pick off a pass too.
So as odd as it sounds when facing the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, the first defensive key is to stop the run. Aaron Jones has rushed 48 times for 327 yards (6.8 yards per carry). He is backed up by A.J. Dillon, who has carried the ball more times, 57, for 211 yards (3.7 yards per carry). Dillon is the big, power back who does the dirty work.
When it comes to throwing the ball, Rodgers no longer has a “go to” guy and has spread the ball around more to four wide receivers (Romeo Doubs, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Christian Watson), three tight ends (led by Robert Tonyan), and his two backs (Jones and Dillon). He is also focused more on the short- to intermediate-passing game. While the Packers still get big chunk plays in the passing game, it’s primarily because they lead the league in yards after the catch.
To be frank, this is the first big-time quarterback the Giants will face this season. Guys like Fabian Moreau and Darnay Holmes are really going to be tested, not to mention the Giants linebackers in coverage. It’s a game like this where the team’s lack of a quality starter opposite of Adoree’ Jackson and depth will show up. The absence of Aaron Robinson and Cor’Dale Flott doesn’t help matters. Martindale will undoubtedly try mix things up to confuse Rodgers, but that’s hard to do given his football acumen and experience.
An interesting side story to follow in this one Wink’s heavy blitzing scheme versus Rodgers, who is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks to blitz. Will Wink want to take chances with Rodgers, or go against his nature and play it more safe? Stating the obvious, this is not a good game to be missing Azeez Ojulari, especially with Kayvon Thibodeaux still getting acclimated to the game and Leonard Williams still dealing with a knee injury.
My two big defensive keys for this game are: (1) stopping the run, and (2) tackling well after the Packers complete short passes.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
If Nick McCloud isn’t limited by his hamstring, he should help the special teams coverage unit. What’s frustrating about the special teams right now is while they have made plays to help win three games, they have also made enough mistakes to make games closer than they should have been. To pull off an upset, the Giants need a complete game from the kicking and coverage units.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale on Aaron Rodgers: “The way to attack him changes from year-to-year of who he has with him. The thing that separates him is everybody knows that he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback, I think we’d all agree on that, and that’s from him throwing as many touchdowns as he has. So, everybody knows that, but what they don’t really appreciate, which I do, is just the great football mind that he has. He gets them in the right run game, he gets protections right, he knows the pressures are coming. He’s a great student of the game and I really admire how he goes about playing this game. It’s always fun, it’s a fun matchup.”
THE FINAL WORD:
I really love the Giants’ coaching staff. And when you have good coaching, I usually love being in games where no one expects you to win. But this is a tough one. The Packers defense is REALLY good. And they have absolutely nothing to be afraid of in the passing game with the Giants other than covering Saquon Barkley as a receiver. Jones is playing hurt. His receiving targets are Sills, James, Slayton and practice squaders. It’s hard to imagine the Giants being able to move the ball well against this defense. On the flip side, if the Giants have talent issues in the secondary as many of us suspect, Rodgers will exploit them.
If the Giants manage to pull this one off, I will be really impressed.