NFC Wild Card
(5) New York Giants at (4) Green Bay Packers
Giants: For the first time since 2012, the New York Giants are back in the playoffs and the last time they were here, they won the Super Bowl and beat New England for the second time in a four-year span. Ever since then, it’s been a struggle and they’ve been “consistently inconsistent”. This year, though, not so much. They started 2-0 with a much-improved defense and then lost their next three. After the losing streak, they won six in a row including a win over the Cowboys that snapped their 11-game winning streak. Normally, one side of the football is stronger than the other and this year, the offense, which is normally a unit that can get the ball down the field easily struggled. In their 11 victories, the Giants failed to reach the 30-point plateau and that’s a surprise considering you have a top three receiver and other guys that can make plays down the field. The Giants this year also struggled to run the football which would force Eli to throw the ball more than he needed too, but he had no choice. What’s fueled the Giants to a successful season has been their defense. They pressure you up the middle, they stop the run and the secondary has held its own as well when it comes to giving up big plays. They’ve been in this situation before where they’ve had to go to Lambeau Field and win a playoff game and they’ve done it twice. They’ll look to do it again on Sunday.
Packers: It was a very interesting regular season for the green and yellow. Coming into it, they were expected to be much improved especially with Jordy Nelson back and it always helps when a quarterback has his go-to guy back and we saw just how much of an impact Jordy has on that Packer offense. A losing streak would hit the Packers. A four-game losing streak at that, but I still remained confident that they would turn it around especially with Aaron Rodgers under center because you have a chance to make anything happen with him on the field and he’ll always give you a chance to win games. I simply remember saying too many people that all they needed was one game to get back into the swing of things and they got that in Philly for a Monday nighter. I also remember myself saying the Packers would run the table and win out and here they are. There were three things I noticed with them during the regular season when they were on their winning streak. One, Aaron Rodgers is still one of the very best, if not the best in the business at his position and you see the difference having his receivers healthy all at one time. Two, the running game is back and whoever thought a wide receiver turned running back would have this much of an impact on the offense? I really like what Ty Montgomery brings to the table because of his speed and how the Packers use him. He can use his receiving background to create mismatches with a linebacker or safety in the flat of the field and lastly, their defense has played better as of late, but I still am concerned about them. They faced the Giants once already and they’ll get them again, this time in the Wild Card round.
Giants Player To Watch: Odell Beckham Jr- This is no disrespect to Eli Manning, but there are few players in the NFL that can turn an entire game around quite like OBJ. He has the ability to turn what looks to be a short yardage pass into a touchdown for the Giants. If he can get it going early and often, his performance will spark everyone around him.
Packers Player(s) To Watch: The trio of Nelson, Cobb, and Adams– Even with the Packers finding their running game, their running attack is still suspect and the Giants have been one of the best at shutting down the run all year long. It’s extremely key that this trio of receivers catches whatever is thrown at them. When they don’t, they struggle and Aaron Rodgers begins to press and makes bad throws.
Prediction: I’ll be bold and say this now. The winner of this game I believe will represent the NFC in Houston for Super Bowl 51. Both teams can get hot and get on runs, especially when it matters the most. When they last met, the Packers played with two deep safeties and I expect to see a lot of the same type of coverages on Sunday. The Giants must worry about the scrambling of Aaron Rodgers, who is a great quarterback when he escapes the pocket and uses his feet. The Packers offense starts with Aaron and it ends with Aaron, but the offense can’t be the only unit that shows up and the Packers defense is way too up and down. I’m picking the Giants to win this one on the road at frigid Lambeau. Giants 24 Packers 21.