Revenge will be firmly on the minds of the Green Bay Packers in their NFC wildcard clash against the New York Giants on Sunday. In the 2011 campaign, the Packers boasted the best record in the NFL at 15-1, narrowly missing out on the perfect season.
They were touted as the favourites to win the Super Bowl, but suffered an exit at the first hurdle as Eli Manning and company drove into Lambeau Field and snatched the victory in the divisional round.
The Giants won the Super Bowl by defeating the New England Patriots that season, but the contest on Sunday will be their first in the playoffs since their triumph at Lucas Oil Stadium in Feburary 2012. All eyes will be on Green Bay to see if New York can strike again.
The Packers ended the season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winning their final six matches of the campaign. Mike McCarthy’s men snatched the NFC North crown and the fourth seed away from the Detroit Lions to set up the contest with the Giants.
Aaron Rodgers and his offense came under fire in the first half of the season due to their struggles. However, after their hammering at the hands of the Washington Redskins, the Packers clicked into gear and the 33-year-old returned to the form that won him the MVP award for a second time in the 2014 season.
The Giants have been solid throughout the campaign, ending with an 11-5 record. Their defense can claim to be one of the most dominant in the league, allowing the second-fewest points in the NFL. They were the only team to beat the Dallas Cowboys at full strength and have the ability to pose problems for the Packers.
Given their history it would not be a surprise to see the NFC East outfit leave Lambeau Field with a victory. As a result, backing Ben McAdoo’s men to advance to the divisional round at +170 with Bovada sportsbook would be a sensible option. Although, the Packers will be able to cover the spread at 4½ in what should be a fascinating contest.
The Packers have been inconsistent to say the least this term. At the start of the campaign they were sluggish on offense, with Rodgers struggling to connect with his receivers. The quarterback and McCarthy came under immense criticism for their problems, with pundits lambasting their system and ineffective running game.
Defensively their issues were even greater as they collapsed against the Indianapolis Colts, the Tennessee Titans and the Washington Redskins.
The Packers’ secondary was exposed by Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota and Kirk Cousins, and although they improved somewhat towards the end of the season, there are still concerns that they could succumb to a quality passing attack in the playoffs.
An injury to number one cornerback Sam Shields has not helped the situation, having been placed on season-ending IR, while Quinten Rollins suffered a worrying fall in their final week win over the Lions. Should Rollins not be able to start it will leave the club extremely short of options to turn to in the prospect of facing one of the best wideouts in the NFL – Odell Beckham Jr.
On the bright side for McCarthy’s men, Rodgers has been outstanding over the final six weeks of the campaign, elevating his game back to the MVP-level expected of him.
His connection with wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been the driving force behind their improvement, while contributions have also come from DaVante Adams and Ty Montgomery in his new position at running back.
Montgomery has quietly become a sound option for the Packers out of the backfield, which was driven by necessity after injuries ruled out Eddie Lacy and James Starks. He will be vital in the playoffs to ease the pressure on Rodgers and ensure his side don’t become one dimensional.
The Giants have made a habit of defeating the Packers in Lambeau Field in the post-season, although they trip earlier in the 2016 campaign ended in defeat.
Manning and company entered Green Bay in the 2007 campaign fresh off a victory against the Dallas Cowboys and ended Brett Favre’s career with the franchise by winning the NFC Championship, prompting Rodgers’ rise to replace the Hall of Famer.
The Giants won Super Bowl XLII ending the Patriots’ historic run to claim their first crown since 1990. Lightning would strike twice in 2011 when they entered Lambeau Field again. This time they knocked off Rodgers and his outfit in a dominating performance before then advancing to Super Bowl XLVI to beat the Patriots and Tom Brady once again.
McAdoo was part of the Packers’ staff that was beaten on both occasions, and now he leads the Giants to face his former side intent on inflicting a third post-season defeat on the spin.
Manning has always been an up-and-down quarterback, but this year he has struggled in his throws downfield and has been bailed out by the brilliance of Beckham Jr on a number of occasions.
He will once again need to raise the level of his game to match those post-season performances, and if history is anything to go by he usually does, somehow becoming a different player in January.
The New York sides that defeated the Packers in the past boasted a ferocious pass-rush. Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were at the peak of their powers in those playoff runs. They’ve retired and now it’s up to Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul to pick up the mantle along with their lockdown secondary to quell Rodgers and his passing attack.
Usually an earlier meeting between the two sides will give some sort of clue as to what to expect. However, due to the Packers’ offensive struggles and the Giants’ defensive issues earlier in the campaign, we should anticipate a totally different contest this time around.
Green Bay have been outstanding on offense over the final weeks of the season, while the Giants have been equally brilliant on the other side of the ball.
Strength will meet strength, although in the playoffs defense usually has the edge with Rodgers’ high-powered offenses usually struggling to match their production of the regular season.
Manning has always managed to fire in the post-season and due to the quality of his defense, he may only need to connect with Beckham Jr on a few occasions to take the game away from the Packers.
Therefore look for New York to notch their third post-season win on the spin in Lambeau, which could spark another run for the Vince Lombardi trophy.
New York Giants to beat Green Bay Packers
Sunday 8th January 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Green Bay Packers to cover +4½ spread
Sunday 8th January 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
New York Giants to win the Super Bowl
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