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Giants at Packers 2016, Week 5: When Green Bay has the ball

How will the Giants contend with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers?

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

How does the New York Giants’ defense match up with the Green Bay Packers’ offense? Let’s take a look at that question as we continue to preview Sunday’s encounter at Lambeau Field.

By the numbers

Packers’ offense

Points per game: 25.0 (11th)
Yards per game: 293.7 (29th)
Passing yards per game: 193.3 (29th)
Rushing yards per game: 100.3 (16th)
Passing: Aaron Rodgers, 55-of-94 (58.5 percent), 617 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT, 98.6 passer rating
Rushing: Eddie Lacy (48 carries, 214 yards, 5.0 yards per carry)
Receiving: Jordy Nelson (17 receptions, 206 yards, 12.1 yards per catch, 4 TDs)

Giants’ defense

Points per game: 21.2 (15th)
Yards per game: 346.2 (11th)
Passing yards per game: 262.2 (18th)
Rushing yards per game: 84.0 (9th)

About that Rodgers fellow

The Giants haven’t beaten a top-flight team with a proven top-flight quarterback since November of 2012, when they defeated Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, 38-10. Beating the Dallas Cowboys to start the season was nice, and Dak Prescott is a good player, but he was a rookie making his NFL debut. The Giants beat Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in Week 2. Great quarterback yes, but not a top-flight team. The Saints won seven games each of the past two years and are 1-3 now.

If they can do what they did to the Saints, holding them to one touchdown in a 16-13 victory, the Giants might have a shot at breaking that drought. Can they summon the kind of game they played against the Saints in Week 2? They obviously haven’t been nearly as good the past two weeks. Let’s look at some of the variables.

The depleted secondary

After two weeks, the Giants were first in the NFL, surrendering a league-low 8.8 yards per completed pass. Now, they are 10th at 10.3 yards per completion, and they have given up three plays of more than 40 yards in the past two games. The difference? You know what it is.

Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe have not been playing. Trevin Wade, Andrew Adams. Leon Hall and Michael Hunter have. The Giants are injury-ravaged in the secondary, and that has been having a huge impact.

Will they get some help this week? Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) dressed but did not play against Minnesota. Berhe was expected to be cleared from the concussion protocol this week, but did not practice on Wednesday.

Rodgers’ current 58.6 percent completion rate is his lowest since he became the Green Bay starter in 2008. Still, with Jordy Nelson (17 receptions, 4 TDs), Randall Cobb (12 catches and Davante Adams (8 receptions) at his disposal Rodgers has to be licking his chops after watching the film of Monday’s Giants-Vikings game.

Where’s the pass rush?

The Giants spent $85 million on Olivier Vernon. They re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul. They spent $46.25 million on Damon Harrison, albeit primarily for his run defense. Vernon has played well enough overall, but has only one sack. The Giants have a league-low four sacks and, per Football Outsiders, are one of the league’s two worst pass-rushing team with an Adjusted Sack Rate of 2.9 percent. Per Team Rankings, the Giants are 31st in the league with a pure sack percentage of 2.42.

JPP is actually ranked sixth in the league among edge defenders in pass-rush productivity by Pro Football Focus.

Pierre-Paul and Vernon each have five quarterback hits, but only one sack. The Giants’ only other sacks came from safety Landon Collins and cornerback Leon Hall. The Giants aren’t getting much from Owamagbe Odighizuwa (one quarterback hit) and Romeo Okwara (zero) as specialty pass rushers.

Rodgers was, predictably, complementary of the Giants’ pass rush even though the numbers haven’t been there.

“They've always had a really good pass rush with Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora for years, and now they went out and signed Olivier Vernon, who's an elite pass rusher. And they've always had the guys outside that can cover us,” Rodgers said. “That's kind of been the staples and moving parts over the years. But it starts with the pass rush when you're playing the New York Giants and that's always been a staple of their defense.”

BBV’s Dan Pizzuta looked at the Giants’ pass rush last week and concluded that the defensive line was on the brink of a breakout. It didn’t happen against the Vikings. Can it happen against the Packers? Green Bay has surrendered eight sacks in three games and its offensive line is ranked 27th in the league in pass protection by Football Outsiders, so maybe.

Will the Giants ever get a takeaway?

The Giants still have only one takeaway on the season, and that came on special teams. They are 30th in the league in takeaway/giveaway ratio at -8. That certainly makes it difficult to win. Rodgers is not exactly an easy quarterback against whom to change that trend. In eight full seasons as a starter, his career high in interceptions is 13, and he has thrown double-digit interceptions only twice.