By any objective measure, the New York Giants have already had a successful campaign. They finished the regular season 11-5, runner-up to the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys in the National Football Conference’s East division and tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the second best record in the conference. The Giants earned their first playoff berth in five seasons as the NFC’s top wild card entry and the No. 5 seed.
Yet, they still potentially have much more to accomplish, including reaching and winning the Super Bowl, as former head coach Tom Coughlin’s unlikely group did in 2011, the last time they were postseason participants. The aforementioned goal is plausible, as the Giants have proved they are as capable as any team in the NFC of reaching the league’s decisive game. Their quest begins this Sunday (4:40 p.m.) when the Giants face the 10-6 Green Bay Packers on the road in legendary Lambeau Field.
Ben McAdoo, the Giants’ first-year head coach, will return to Green Bay, where he was an assistant coach for the Packers from 2006-2013, and where the Packers bested the Giants 23-16 Oct. 9.
The Giants and the Packers, the NFC North division champions, enter the first round of the playoffs with a combined record of 12-2 over the final six weeks of the season. The Packers won six straight to conclude their regular season schedule after a time when making it to the postseason appeared bleak after a 42-24 loss to Washington in Week 11 that put them at 4-6. It was then their superlative quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, asserted the Packers could go undefeated the rest of the way.
“I feel like we can run the table, I really do,” Rodgers said in late November. “The offense is starting to click a little bit more. We’ve just got to put together a game where we’re more consistent from the first snap to the last. We’ve been, I think, getting closer to that. We’ve really been clicking, at times, in the last few games.”
Rodgers’ words turned out to be a gross understatement. The MVP candidate, whose skills and acumen place him among the most gifted QBs in the history of the sport, has been sensational since foreseeing the Packers’ march to the playoffs. Rodgers and the Packers’ offense have been virtually unstoppable, finishing third in the league in points per game at 27, including posting 30 or more in their final four.
In contrast, the Giants’ offense has been sub-par this season and at times ineffectual, producing only 19.4 points per game. They failed to reach 20 points in any of their last four games, during which they averaged a scant 10.5. The Giants rolled into the playoffs on the strength of one of the NFL’s best defenses, which despite finishing 10th overall statistically, is debatably one of the top three units in football, and perhaps the best of all the 12 playoff teams.
But for the Giants to conquer the Patriots, the game will hinge on Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and the offense exceeding what has been their standard. They can’t be held under 20 points in Green Bay and expect to come away with a victory. At worst Rodgers will find a way to lead the Packers to at least 20.
The Giants’ inability to run the ball, an issue for them dating back to last season, will again limit their offense and could very well result in a 21-17 Packers win.