New York Giants (11-5 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
NFC Wild Card Playoff
Date/Time: Sunday, January 8, 2017 at 4:40PM EST
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay Wisconsin
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: NYG +4/GB -4
Over/Under Total: 44.5
The New York Giants come to Lambeau Field on Sunday to face the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs. It's a compelling matchup between a Giants team that righted the ship this season under first-year head coach Ben McAdoo and a Green Bay team that enters the postseason red-hot with 6 straight wins. Both teams ended the season on winning notes. With nothing to really play for, the Giants ended the playoff hopes of division rival Washington with a 19-10 road win. They hope to keep the good momentum going against the Packers, 31-24 winners over the Lions on Sunday. Who can get the win at Lambeau this week and move forward?
With all that these teams have been through in a trying season, it's questionable how much Green Bay's week five 23-16 win over the Giants means at this point. The game was also in Lambeau, but it was 50 degrees outside, a far cry from the conditions being forecasted for Sunday. The Packers saw their defense carry the day, despite some miscues, including two picks from Aaron Rodgers. Eddie Lacy is no longer in the mix for Green Bay and the Giants were in the middle of a three-game slide at the time and are in many ways a different team from the bunch we saw earlier in the season. Green Bay backers might be well-advised to look for other sources of comfort other than the result of that week five game.
The Giants are not the Giants we once knew where Eli Manning would be slinging it all over the field with the defense just trying to not fall apart. It's really the defense that has carried this team to this spot, allowing the Giants to enter this game with 9 wins in their last 11 games. And to close the season, they showed where they stand among the better teams in the conference, with wins over Dallas, Detroit, and a gutty road showing over a Redskins team that was trying to win its way into the playoffs. Coach McAdoo is hoping that road win where their key players were in the game the whole time will resonate this week and it's hard to not like the approach.
Eli Manning leads a more-subdued Giants' offense this season. While they got big seasons from Odell Beckham, Jr., who nearly won the receiving title, in addition to rookie Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz, they were only the 17th ranked aerial offense in the league. And though they were near the bottom in rushing, there seems to have been a surge in that area in the past several weeks, with Rashad Jennings and the continued growth of rookie back Paul Perkins. Still, they have played five straight games without surpassing 19 points of scoring.
Therefore, it's been the Giants' defense doing a lot of the work. They are second in the NFL with just 17.8 points allowed per game. Up-front, Jonathan Hankins, Damon Harrison, and Olivier Vernon have been robust against the run, while applying a steady pass-rush, though the loss of Jason Pierre-Paul does hurt if he in fact can't return for the postseason. They looked good without him down the stretch. Their secondary isn't particularly stout perhaps, but they excel in making plays. Landon Collins led the team in tackles, while picking off 5 passes and being one of the better defensive backs on the line of scrimmage. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can make plays and had 6 picks on the season. They look forward to the return of Janoris Jenkins, another game-changer in the secondary. And Eli Apple has made progress as a rookie. Still, with Aaron Rodgers operating on an almost-surgical level in the final 6 games of the season, this group will need to be more on-point.
While the Giants showed an ability to reverse course this season, no team was able to so drastically alter course as the Packers did this season. Mired in a big funk at 4-6 and with the season looking poised to go off the rails, both sides of the ball reclaimed their prior form and the result is now one of the hottest teams in the league. The offense is really clicking now, with the defense giving them enough room to do their thing.
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The Green Bay defense really turned things around. Having Clay Matthews in there healthy has really helped, as has the return of Nick Perry. The play of Mike Daniels, Julius Peppers, and Letroy Guion has been key in keeping the opposing run-game in check. LB Joe Thomas being listed as questionable isn't good, but this is a defense that has overcome a lot this season. The secondary might not be stoutest and only one other team has allowed more yardage through the air, but like the Giants, they make up for it to some extent with a playmaking element. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde, Morgan Burnett, and Damarious Randall (questionable) have all been adept at getting their hands on the ball. The defense had 25 takeaways this season.
With 137 combined points in their last 4 games, the Green Bay offense is clicking nicely heading into the postseason—a good time to peak. Aaron Rodgers has been on-fire lately, helped immeasurably by solid play up-front, especially at the tackle positions. In his last seven games, he has 18 touchdowns and no interceptions with a completion percentage through the roof. There aren't many hotter wide receivers right now than Jordy Nelson. Davante Adams caught two touchdowns on Sunday and has become a reliable contributor this season. Geronimo Allison has stepped up with some big games recently and they anticipate the return of Randall Cobb. They've gotten nice depth through the air lately. And while the run-game suffers without Eddie Lacy, there have been moments of promise with Ty Montgomery and with FB Aaron Ripkowski having some nice runs on Sunday.
Green Bay is red-hot and looks like a contender. But there's something about the Giants that is easy to overlook and that could be a mistake. This is a time of the season where being home at Lambeau carries even more meaning than it would earlier in the year. With that said, I just see it being hard to get any real separation against the Giants right now. I'm taking the points and the New York Giants in this one.
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