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Preview: Packers Offense Against The Giants Defense

When looking at game previews for the Green Bay Packers, I usually look at games from the current season. But the Packers also played the Giants back on December 26, 2010 and it featured nearly the same players for both teams. It has as much relevance as a prior year game can have, plus it was a home game for the Packers. Here are some selected stats for the Packers offense from both games:

Total Yards Yards/Carry Yards/Att. Total TD INT
12/04/11 449 3.2 8.0 4 1
12/26/10 515 3.4 10.9 6 0

There are some strong similarities in both games. First, the Packers couldn't run (or didn't try) to run the ball, but they did score two rushing touchdowns in 2010. However Aaron Rodgers was probably their best rusher in both games. The Giants didn't do much in either one to slow the passing attack down.

Inside the playbook: Rodgers vs. Giants' 2-Man | National Football Post. Matt Bowen writes about one of the defensive formations the Giants are likely to employ against the Packers. It's a good one, but that's no guarantee it will work. Where will the Giants decide to play their safeties? If they play their safeties wide, then they would leave the middle of the field vulnerable (think of Jordy Nelson's long touchdown run back on 12/26/2010). If they cheat in towards the middle, then they risk leaving their cornerbacks in single coverage on the outside (think of the Packers game winning field goal drive back on 12/4/11 that featured sideline passes to Jermichael Finley and Nelson).

Here are some overall defensive rankings from Football Outsiders:

FO Rank
Packers Pass Offense 1
Giants Pass Defense 21
Packers Run Offense 6
Giants Run Defense 19

When they rank the pass offense number one, it's number one by nearly a dozen percentage points over the Patriots. Despite some big name players on the Giants defense, the production hasn't matched the reputation. While the Packers haven't had much luck running the ball in their previous two meetings, that doesn't mean it can't happen because these statistics rank the Packers higher.

Again from Football Outsiders, here are the rankings for the offensive and defensive lines:

FO Rank
Packers Pass Protection 23
Giants Pass Rush 10
Packers Run Blocking 16
Giants Run Blocking 20

It's been an up-and-down season for the Packers offensive line, but with the return of Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga, it marks the first time that all the starters will be playing together since September. Despite the layoff, Clifton and Bulaga haven't been limited in practice on either Wednesday or Thursday. The Giants pass rush features some quality pass rushers, but their 48 sacks on the season are somewhat muted by the fact that they've only had a sack on 7.4% of pass attempts.

The return of Clifton won't help the Packers improve their run blocking, that's never been his game, but they should be able to open some lanes against the Giants defensive line.

Looking at the stats, the Packers clearly have a potent offense that any team would have trouble stopping. And the Giants defense doesn't appear to be better in any category, except pass rush vs. pass protection. But Jason Pierre-Paul destroyed then starting LT Marshall Newhouse in their previous meeting, and it still didn't win them the game. Pierre-Paul will once again disrupt the Packers on Sunday, but his impact will be somewhat muted by the return of Clifton. The Packers scored 45 points in their previous meeting at Lambeau in December 2010, and I don't see any reason why they can't be that good again on Sunday.