The New York Giants come off their bye with a Sunday night showdown against the Green Bay Packers, a team that’s won five straight games and jockeying for position in the talented NFC North. Rest assured, the Giants will get the Packers’ best shot, and the Giants may be (finally) fully equipped to handle it. With Kenny Phillips returning to practice this week, the team is running out of excuses for their November swoon.
I imagine the Giants were targeting this game as a return for Phillips. The Packers pose one of the league’s top offenses and the Giants have to find a way to slow them down. Turnovers did it in their playoff matchup last season, and that will likely be the key Sunday as well. The Giants are third in the league in takeaways with 27 and the Packers are tied for second with just nine giveaways. Something will have to give.
The Giants have been a difficult team to predict. Against two of the top teams at protecting the football (Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers), the Giants forced four turnovers in each game. They followed that up with six turnovers against the Dallas Cowboys. Clearly the defense has a nose for the football, but they live and die by the turnover.
In their four losses they’ve only created four turnovers total. In all four losses, the defense could not stop anything the opposing offense was doing. This is not a defense that’s going to line up and physically dominate. They have to create opportunities with sacks and turnovers. If that fails to happen, it will be a long day against Aaron Rodgers who is playing his best football.
Phillips returning gives them a better chance; the Giants could be as healthy as they’ve been all season. Only Domenik Hixon and Jaquian Williams have been ruled out. Phillips and Keith Rivers are questionable but should play.
It will be interesting to see how Perry Fewell uses all the safeties in the lineup. Stevie Brown has played well in place of Phillips and Will Hill returned from his four-game suspension last week. Add in Tyler Sash and you have a crowded back end of the defense.
Fewell ran a three-safety set last year with Deon Grant replacing a linebacker. I imagine he’ll use that quite a bit with how often the Packers throw the ball. You could also see Antrel Rolle move into the corner slot in Nickle defense with Phillips and Brown manning the safety spots. With the well-oiled machine that is the Packers offense, changing things up could create mistakes.
If the Giants lose for the third straight game, it would set up a huge matchup with the Redskins on Monday Night Football the following week, with the winner taking the lead in the NFC East. Instead of looking for excuses, the Giants need to find a way to win Sunday. Phillips’ return gives them the best chance to do just that.