So Kevin threw Evan and I under the bus this week in our picks section….so before I go through explaining the keys to the Packers winning, I feel I should explain why I predicted they would lose. Actually the keys to winning and my prediction are rather intertwined. In short I’m skeptical about the offensive line’s ability to stop the Giants’ pass rush, especially giving its current state. Marshall Newhouse on Jason Pierre-Paul is a bad matchup all things considered, but when it might be one of the better matchups the Packers see along that line…well that’s just not good. Throw in the fact that the Packers pass rush is questionable again this week without the presence of Clay Matthews (yes they did good last week but where that rush comes from is still a bit of a question mark), and I have a gut feeling the Giants pull away in the end.
This is not a definite loss though and it should be a good game to watch. The secret is going to be finding ways to control that Giant pass rush. If the Packers can do that, which is possible through blocking scheme and play calling, then they should be able to win. Here are five keys to victory for the Packers….
1. Manufacture a running game. Last year a rather apt term for the Packers’ pass rushing ability was manufacturing the pass rush. This meant that the Packers weren’t able to get there with four well enough so they often sent 5 or 6 pass rushers and from different spots. So there would be corner blitzes, ILB cross blitzes, fire dogs, so on and so forth. Sometimes it worked and sometimes they got burned for the big play. It was necessary though.
That same mentality is going to be needed with the run game. The Packers probably do not have the personnel in the RB corp or along the line to simply run between the tackles effectively week in and week out. Countless Packers fans wish they could, but that ship has probably sailed for the time being. Instead the Packers are going to need to finesse a run a bit. This means screens, draws, and delayed handoffs in order to try use the aggressive tendencies of the Giants against them. If used effectively then this can help slow down a pass rush. If used poorly then it can be more harmful than simply trying two or three yards and a cloud of dust that the between the tackles approach often takes.
2. More no huddle!. A good way for this particular team to wear down a defense is to use the no huddle to their advantage. This limits substitutions for the defense and help keep mismatches available for Aaron Rodgers. The Giants’ best defensive weapon is their rotation and so using the no huddle can help nullify this. At the same time this can help the Packers use the wide variety of weapons at their disposal. Often a grouping of personnel for the Packers can flex between run heavy formations and spread formations easily, while staying in the no huddle. And is there any better QB at running a no huddle than Aaron Rodgers?
3. Quick passes. Interesting stat….30 of the 32 sacks that Rodgers has suffered this year have come when he held the ball over 2.5 seconds. Moral of the story, the line may not be doing quite as bad as we think. Rodgers needs to fight off the desire to hold the ball too long and spread the ball quickly on Sunday. There is no better way to limit the Giants’ pass rush. Guys like James Jones, Randall Cobb, and Jordy Nelson can make plays with their feet….let them.
4. Win the turnover battle. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Eli Manning has a nasty habit of turning over the ball…and often these Manning turnovers come in bunches. Once you get up on him and get in his head a bit he’ll start throwing the ball to you more and more. He’s a rich man’s Tony Romo like that. The Packers still have a secondary able to make a play on the ball….even without Charles Woodson. This could be a good time for Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian to shine.
5. Stay focused. The moment that playoff game slipped away from the Packers was the Hail Mary pass just before the half. It was a cold moment where you could feel the Packers seeing their season slip away before their eyes. Playing the Giants can have moments like that….but you can’t let those moment take control of the game. The Packers need to stay disciplined, keep penalties down, and most importantly fight until the bitter end of the game.
Despite the mismatches, this is not an impossible game for the Packers. The points are clear, and have been clear since January. The Packers need to control the pass rush, stay focused, and control the tempo of the game. Easier said than done, but if the Packers can pull this out then they will be in prime position for a playoff push.