Packers Face Huge Test Against Rested, Angry Champs

Eli's back and he's ready to make his post-bye run, following two losses heading into the Giants' bye week. In come the Packers for a prime time matchup that will supremely test the backups that the Pack are counting on.

The Giants are either in the middle of, or coming out of their annual November swoon. When we last saw them, they were getting demolished by the perennially mediocre Bengals. The week before they lost at home to the Steelers. Manning has been pedestrian in recent weeks, but typically has strong Decembers. I checked the calendar: this game is being played in November. Score one for the green and gold.

Eli and the Giants have won their last four games following a week off and returned from the bye with a players-only meeting. They hope to figure out what has happened to their pass rush, which has disappeared in the last month. Their line features 7 or 8 guys they rotate, but is led by Jason Pierre-Paul, who will spend most of the night matched up with Marshall Newhouse. Because their line gets good pressure, they can play their safeties back and make Rodgers try to beat them underneath.

It appears that their best secondary player, Kenny Phillips, will return after missing six weeks with an MCL injury. He removes a weak link in the defense and will make things tougher for the Packers' offense. Their defense ranks 25th in yards allowed through the air--Phillips' return will help tremendously. It will be incumbent on the Pack to get the ground game going early, to force them to move their safeties up to respect the running game.

We'll be watching the offensive line very closely to see the kind of job they're doing giving Rodgers time to operate. Evan Dietrich-Smith was just so-so in his first start against the Lions and he'll face an even stiffer test against the Giants' front four. TJ Lang at right tackle is a work in progress. He'll hav ehis hands full with Justin Tuck.

The Packers have listed Greg Jennings as questionable for this game, but I'd be very surprised if he's active. Mike McCarthy will sit down with his doctor on Saturday morning to discuss his progress. I'd say there's a much better chance he's on the field next Sunday against the Vikings.

Defensively, the Packers will once again be without Clay Matthews, who will miss his second game with a hamstring injury. Dezman Moses had a very strong game against the Lions and will need to be just as good against Eli. He'll have chances against the aging David Diehl, who appears to be on his last legs and has caused Manning to rush some throws and altogether feel a little uncomfortable in the pocket.

With Sam Shields and Charles Woodson still at least a couple weeks away, the young secondary players will need to sustain the level of play we've seen in recent weeks. Casey Hayward has been a revelation and Davon House seems to get better each week. They'll have their hands full with Victor Cruz in the slot, while Tramon Williams shadows Hakeem Nicks on the outside.

We all know that if this game comes down to a field goal battle, the Packers are sunk. Mason Crosby is fighting through the worst slump of his career, while Lawrence Tynes has been as steady and reliable as anyone in the league.

Interestingly, the Packers have won the last three regular season matchups in this series, all on the road. We know the last two post-season games have gone the Giants' way.

The Pack, along with the Broncos, are the league's hottest teams, riding five game winning streaks and Mike McCarthy is terrific on Sunday nights, winning six of his last seven games (the only loss coming in New England with Matt Flynn in 2010). And oddly enough, the Giants, who typically play up to or down to their opponent, have been a better road team than a home team of late.

But when you add everything up: no Claymaker, Giants coming off two straight losses and the bye, shuffled Packers offensive line, return of Kenny Phillips, it seems to me the Giants have the intangibles in their favor. Rodgers is great enough to engineer a mild upset, but I gotta believe the Giants play a strong, focused, error-free game.

Giants 30 Packers 28


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