The New York Giants’ matchup with the Green Bay Packers looks a lot more interesting than it would have been a few weeks ago. After Week 10, the Giants were 2-8, while the Packers were 3-6. ESPN was likely to seek a flex out of the Monday Night Football slot.
A few weeks later, the Packers are battling to break through an extremely crowded NFC Wild Card spot, while the Giants are ... battling for respectability, at any rate. Theoretically, if the Giants win this game, they can keep their slim playoff hopes alive while simultaneously digging a hole into the Packers’.
That makes the task in front of the Giants’ defense critical. Quarterback Jordan Love has been on a tear recently, leading the Packers’ resurgence. The Giants will need to find a way to bring him back down to earth. How can they accomplish that?
Disguise deep coverage
The most critical difference for Love has been getting rid of his turnovers. After throwing 10 interceptions through his first nine games, he’s thrown none over the last three contests.
The main reason for this is far better efficiency on deep passes. Through Week 10, Love threw deep on 15.3% of his targets, the fifth-highest rate among 37 qualified quarterbacks, but his production did not match the volume. He had the 30th-ranked Pro Football Focus deep passing grade (65.5), completing just 16 of 46 (34.8%, 22nd) of those passes for 564 yards with a 2:4 TD:INT ratio. His 9.6% turnover-worthy play rate ranked 27th.
Over the last three games, Love is throwing deep slightly less (13%, 13th out of 33 qualifiers), but his production has drastically improved. He ranks fifth with a 95.5 PFF deep passing grade, completing 57.1% of those passes (third) for 221 yards (5th), a 3:0 TD:INT ratio, and a 0% turnover-worthy play rate.
Love likes to throw deep. Therefore, the Giants should present him with pre-snap looks that appear favorable for deep passes, such as Cover 3 (down the seams) or Cover 1, and then shift into quarters or other two-high looks post-snap.
This may be easier to accomplish if Christian Watson is off the field. Watson has four touchdown receptions over the past three games, including two against Kansas City last week. He injured his hamstring at the end of the game, though, and his status is up in the air for Monday night.
Love’s raw PFF passing grade and rank among quarterbacks are both better when he’s blitzed than when he’s not.
Against the blitz, Love has a 79.4 grade, ranking fifth, with a 6:0 TD:INT ratio and a 5.7% big-time throw rate (10th) despite suffering from a 9.8% drop rate (seventh-worst). Love is also excellent at avoiding pressure against the blitz, posting just a 10.3% pressure-to-sack rate (sixth-best). He does so partially by getting the ball out quickly, as his average time to throw against the blitz is just 2.43 seconds (ninth-fastest).
By contrast, when he’s not blitzed, Love’s 73.6 PFF grade ranks 18th. His 4.8% big-time throw rate drops to 15th, and he has a 16:10 TD:INT ratio. It does seem that he got unlucky with many of his picks, as his 1.9% turnover-worthy play rate on those passes is the seventh-best. Still, Love has the second-highest average depth of target (ADOT) among passers when not blitzed at 10.5. That’s another good reason to avoid blitzing and play softer coverage. His 61.5% completion percentage when not blitzed is the fifth-lowest among qualified passers, he has a much higher pressure-to-sack ratio (19.8%, 25th), and it takes him far longer to get the ball out (2.92 seconds, 25th).
Overall, Love seems to know exactly where to go with the ball when he’s blitzed, but he struggles more when forcing it deep against non-pressure looks.
Tackle A.J. Dillon
Aaron Jones has been in and out of the Packers’ lineup all season, and it appears more likely than not that he’ll miss the Giants-Packers game. That once again leaves Dillon as the starting running back.
Dillon has not been an efficient runner this season. He averages just 3.5 yards per carry, including 3.2 over the last three games. Though he had a decent game against Kansas City, posting 18 rushes for 73 yards (4.1 YPC), he had a long of 10 yards. Dillon has one 40-yard rush this season but has never exceeded 17 yards on another run.
That means the Giants’ 28th-ranked run defense may have an easier task — if they can just wrap Dillon up. Despite his reputation, the Packers’ back is not all that bruising, ranking 30th out of 44 qualified backs (min. 70 rush attempts) with 2.76 yards after contact per attempt. Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden will lead the charge to contain Dillon on the ground.
It’s in the passing game where the Giants need to be more wary of Dillon’s tackle-breaking, though. Over the past three games, Dillon has had eight receptions for 84 yards, 81 of those yards coming after contact. He’s caused four missed tackles in the passing game and generated four first downs. That means the Giants will need to make sure to wrap up.
Line Dexter Lawrence up vs. right guard
Lawrence is normally a zero or one technique, playing primarily over the center. However, the Packers’ worst pass-blocker is right guard Jon Runyan. Since Leonard Williams was traded, the Giants’ depth along the defensive line is very thin. Therefore, the Giants should find a way to utilize their best pass rusher against the Packers’ weakest link.
Over the past three weeks, Runyan has allowed five pressures, including three quarterback hits, on 99 pass-blocking reps. He has an overall 45.8 PFF pass-blocking grade and a 17.9 grade in true pass sets. That’s a juicy matchup for the Giants’ dominant nose tackle, and he’s played 23.5% of his snaps two- or three-technique even though it’s not his main position.
Go for PBUs, not INTs, vs. Romeo Doubs
If Watson is out of the lineup, Doubs will slot in as one of the Packers’ top receivers. He has shaky hands, posting an 8.2% drop rate. However, one of his strengths is contested catches, as he ranks in the 74th percentile with a 50% contested catch rate.
When the Giants defend Doubs, they need to go for pass breakups rather than interceptions. There is a tendency among defensive backs as a whole for their eyes to get big when they see a ball they think they can pick. However, if the defenders go for interceptions, Doubs may be able to outmuscle them with his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame; if they go for the pass breakup or to just get their hands in the way of the play, Doubs is more likely not to hang on.
Considering that Doubs has seven touchdown receptions, this is something important to keep in mind.