Sep. 23, 2016
Packers Wild Card Preview
Well, the table has been set, and now it is time to eat. For those of you who are saying that Aaron Rodgers "called his shot", he hasn't yet, and none of you can say that he did until Super Bowl Monday. That's four games left to play, starting with the (likely) only one on friendly confines against the New York Giants. Yes, the Packers did beat the Giants in Lambeau week five, but the Packers had Eddie Lacy, people were saying "what is wrong with Rodgers" and Odell Beckham Jr. recently flipped out again. It was week one of Tom Brady's season. In other words, these teams are not in the same place anymore, and it will be a different game.
Does anybody know the great Eli Manning's record in the first round of the postseason? 2-3, for those of you who don't. He's not invincible once he gets to the playoffs, and he's never gotten through Lambeau Field easily (although he has done it twice en route to a Super Bowl). And for all of this talk about how Giants' coach Ben McAdoo knows Aaron Rodgers as good as anybody, doesn't that hold true the other way around too? And if there is one man more important than a quarterback on a team, it is likely the head coach. Ben McAdoo grew up in Mike McCarthy's system, just saying...
Aaron Rodgers is also one of the three most likely NFL MVP candidates, and had he played like that all season the way he did in the second half, he might have broken single season records. Despite that, he was the NFL's touchdown pass leader, and despite everything being "wrong" with him early on, he only has seven interceptions. He has six great offensive weapons led by wide receiver Jordy Nelson and tweener Ty Montgomery (I'm making up that term), and once again has a pass rush on the other side of the ball.
The only thing here that worries me are the cornerbacks, or lack thereof, and that has worried me ever since Sam Shields went on IR with a possible designation to return (he didn't, obviously). Despite Jordy Nelson having better numbers than Beckham, he is the more talented receiver of the two, so that matchup scares me. Plus, Sterling Shepard and (maybe) Victor Cruz are always dangerous, and they have the edge over guys like LaDarius Gunter and Makinton Dorleant. The good news is the Packers won't have to stack the box to stop running backs Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings, and if you haven't heard of them, that's the reason why. The Packers have a good run defense anyways.
The Giants' defense is their strength, and they have both the pass rush abilities up front to go along with stopping the run. In the secondary, S Landon Collins has 125 tackles, four sacks and five interceptions, and cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins are having great years as well. DT Damon Harrison has 86 tackles, and it's a rare thing for a defensive tackle to have so many tackles. However, the Packers offense can still do some damage here, and that is because of the best pass blocking offensive line, and seven active receivers with over 200 receiving yards. Aaron spreads the ball around.
Injuries aren't very big anymore here, and the main one for the Giants is DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who is ruled out. CB Janoris Jenkins is banged up, but he should be playing on Sunday. Everybody else for the Giants is relatively healthy. As far as the Packers are concerned, RG TJ Lang is questionable with yet another different injury, but he always plays (knock on wood) so expect him in there. RB James Starks is still in concussion protocol, but he isn't really needed right now, and CB Quinten Rollins is too, but he is vital to get healthy for Sunday. I'm guessing we will see Rollins, but not Starks. The other corner Damarious Randall was limited, but should play, and same with linebackers Joe Thomas and Nick Perry. Finally, WR Randall Cobb, who missed the last two games, practiced Wednesday and I see no reason for him not to play on Sunday. In other words, both teams should be at almost full strength.
As far as my predictions go, I told everybody back before the game against Seattle that I'm done predicting against the Packers after that game, and I'm sticking with that. I believe Rodgers meant "run the table, including playoffs", and I'm going with that. I think we will be partying a month from now in celebration for the Packers, and I'm sticking to it. It won't be as close as some people think, but it won't be a blowout either. Final score: Green Bay 31, New York 21.