Last season the Green Bay Packers played the New York Giants twice and in both games the Green Bay defense gave up big plays to the Giants offense. This ultimately led to the Packers season ending in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
This season the defense for the Packers has improved moving from last in yards allowed to 15th so far this year. Also, the Giants offense has been struggling the past few weeks which plays right into the hands of the Packers. However, Green Bay knows that they still have to be at their best going against a Giants offense that is capable of a big play with every snap of the ball, especially with the dynamic wide receiver duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
“Those guys have big playmaking ability,” safety Morgan Burnett said, “If you get a little lackadaisical, or have any mental errors in your technique or the certain play that’s called, those guys can make you pay for it.”
Last year the Giants did make Green Bay pay for their bad defense, especially the combination of Eli Manning to Nicks, who had three touchdown catches in the two games all 30 yards or more. This season though Nicks has been hurt and has struggled to be a big playmaker for the Giants this season with just two catches of 30 yards or more. Combine that with the fact that Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass in three games and the Packers seem to be in prime position to stop the big plays.
The biggest problem for Green Bay will be that they are still banged up on defense and will most likely be without the services of Clay Matthews, Sam Shields and Charles Woodson. Those are not the only players who won’t suit up for the Packers so they will be very short-handed this weekend on defense. The replacements will have to stay disciplined and focused throughout the entire game to keep the big plays from happening.
Another benefit for the Packers this time around with the Giants is the improved pass rush. In the two games last season, Manning was able to stand in the pocket without anybody coming near him. The Packers were ranked 27th last season in sacks and this season they are second in sacks with 33 for the year. With Matthews possibly out and first-round draft pick Nick Perry already sidelined, the pass rush might not be there like it has been so far this season, but the Packers defense knows that to prevent big plays down the field it starts by pressuring the quarterback.
“The biggest difference is we’re making teams work,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “This is the NFL and guys are going to make plays, but the more you make teams work, the more stress you put on the offense, the more they’re going to struggle.”
This is a big matchup for both teams and the best should be expected from both the Packers and the Giants this weekend. The way the teams are playing right now, the game should not be as explosive as the games were last year and feature more of the defense. The Packers need to make sure that they can apply pressure on Manning and slow down the big plays down the field.
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