The Green Bay Packers’ offense averages 27.0 points per game, fourth in the league. The Packers have scored 30 or more points in each of their last four games. The Giants average 19.4 points, have not scored 30 in a single game this season, and have failed to reach 20 points in their last five games.
Can the Giants summon enough offense to defeat the Packers on Sunday in their NFC wild-card game? Let’s look at the keys to the matchup between the Giants’ offense and the Packers’ defense?
By the numbers
Points per game: 19.4 (26th)
Yards per game: 330.7 (25th)
Passing yards per game: 242.4 (17th)
Rushing yards per game: 88.2 (29th)
Points per game: 24.2 (21st)
Yards per game: 363.9 (22nd)
Passing yards per game: 269.2 (31st)
Rushing yards per game: 94.7 (8th)
“The Duke is like a bar of gold this time of year”
That is actually something coach Ben McAdoo said before the Week 17 game against the Washington Redskins. He repeated the line this week.
The message is simple. The football is important. You have to try to take it away from the other guy. Most importantly, though, you can’t give it away. Turnovers are a death sentence in the playoffs, especially against a quality offensive team like the Packers.
For the season, Green Bay finished sixth in the league with a +8 takeaway/giveaway ratio. The Giants were 21st at -2. New York had 27 giveaways, eighth-most in the NFL.
The Giants have played only two turnover-free games all season, Week 15 against the Detroit Lions and Week 17 against the Washington Redskins. They won’t beat the Packers if they lose the turnover battle. Offensively, they simply don’t have enough margin for error.
Land your punches
As good as the Giants’ defense is, you have to think Green Bay’s high-scoring offense won’t be completely shut down. The Giants will have to take advantage of their scoring opportunities against the Packers. They will have to land their punches.
The Packers are depleted in the secondary and are consequently 31st in the league against the pass. The chart below shows where Green Bay has been particularly vulnerable.
The most passing yards allowed by NFL teams by area of the field. pic.twitter.com/JJDQeZJJut— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 4, 2017
The Giants need to take some shots against the Green Bay secondary. And, they need to hit them. The Giants have been their own worst enemy on offense far too often this season with errant throws, drops, penalties and turnovers short-circuiting scoring opportunities.
If that continues on Sunday, the Giants will likely short-circuit their ability to advance.
Run the football
With the secondary being the obvious weak link of the Green Bay defense it might seem incongruous to talk about the importance of running the football on Sunday. It isn’t, though. The Giants function better on offense when they have some balance, when they don’t put the entire load on the shoulders of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. In three of their last four games the Giants have had more running plays than passing ones. The exception was the disastrous 63-pass effort by Manning in the Week 16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Giants have run for more than 100 yards in six of their last eight games after accomplishing that only twice in their first eight games.
Rushing the ball provides the Giants balance. It could open up passing lanes if it forces the Green Bay defense out of the two two high safety look teams prefer against the Giants. It could also shorten the game and give Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense fewer opportunities.
Give Eli a chance
Is there such a thing a “Playoff Eli?” Well, there can be. If the Giants provide their quarterback with the opportunity.
If they remember to run the ball often enough to take some of the pressure off of him. If wide receivers make plays when they have the chance. Most importantly, if they protect Manning and give him an opportunity to set his feet and deliver accurate, on-time passes.
Manning can do a number of wonderful things. The one thing he can’t do is move the way Aaron Rodgers does, improvising and making plays thanks to his nimble feet.
If the Giants give him a chance, “Playoff Eli” could emerge. He won’t, though, unless the guys around him give him some help.