On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers welcome a familiar playoff foe, the New York Giants, to Lambeau Field. Ed Valentine of Big Blue View was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Giants and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: The Giants offense possesses several marquee names, including Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning. However, the unit struggled this season, finishing 26th in points scored and 22nd in offensive DVOA by Football Outsiders. Now 16 games in, what do you make of this offense?
It's a conundrum. Obviously, it's not what anyone thought it would be. The offensive line is suspect. The run blocking is awful, the pass blocking isn't much better. Eli Manning doesn't get killed only b/c one of the most underrated things about him is his ability to get the ball out quickly. The Giants don't have a tight end who threatens defenses. Victor Cruz, as much as I hate to say it, doesn't have much in the tank. Ben McAdoo has also been VERY stubborn about using "11" personnel and not doing a lot to create different looks.
That said, the Giants have Manning and Beckham. That means they are always one snap away from something spectacular. If the Giants can avoid unforced errors like turnovers and penalties at bad times, they can be OK offensively.
APC: Paul Perkins has become more heavily featured since the Packers and Giants last played. What skills does he provide for New York?
Perkins is a guy who provides the Giants with the vision and change-of-direction ability to create yards on his own. something Rashad Jennings really can't do. It's essential for this team, because the blocking in front of him just ins't reliable. We are doing our own piece on the Giants' running game that hasn't been published yet. I would encourage your readers who want to know about Perkins to stop back at Big Blue View for that. Also, they can read this excellent piece from Football Outsiders.
APC: The Giants defense has become one of the best units in the league this season, holding opponents to the fewest points in the NFC (17.8 per game) and ranking second overall by DVOA. Has the improvement over previous years come as the result or personnel, or has the team done some different things schematically?
Honestly, it's mostly about the players. Steve Spagnuolo is an excellent defensive coordinator. Give the man talent and he can figure out what to do with it. He isn't a miracle worker, though, and he had nothing to work with a year ago.
The Giants added Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins in free agency. All have been worth the money. BTW, I am really looking forward to seeing Vernon vs. David Bahktiari on Sunday. Landon Collins has become a star. Eli Apple is good. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is playing better than he ever has as a Giant. The Giants defend the run, their secondary is as deep and talented as any in the league, and while they don't have one dominant pass rusher Spagnuolo will send guys out of the secondary in creative blitzes and create pressure with scheme.
APC: If you were game planning against the Giants, how would you attack them on offense? On defense?
If you're defending the Giants, the first thing you do is play two high safeties. You DARE the Giants to run by doing that, and you provide a safety net to bottle up Odell Beckham. Teams have played two high safeties all year to keep those shorts slants and crossing routes the Giants love from becoming big plays. Play a single-high safety and I can almost guarantee Beckham will turn one of those 6-yard slants into a 70-yard touchdown. The other thing is to make Eli move. When he can set his feet and throw on time he is as good as anyone. When he has to move and create that's danger time for the Giants.
As far as attacking the Giants' defense goes, I think it's about hitting the big play. As goo d as the secondary is, you can occasionally hit that. If you can get the right matchup, which usually involves targeting rookie Andrew Adams or veteran Leon Hall (who split time at free safety) you want to hit that. You also want to use tight end Jared Cook, since the Giants have a touch time covering tight ends. If you're going to run, I'd suggest going to the edges and staying away from "Snacks" Harrison.
APC: Finally, it's prediction time. Which team wins on Sunday and why?
Oh, boy! This is really hard. I'm not going to be a homer and blindly pick the Giants because I'm the Giants guy and that's what I'm supposed to do. I've been tossing this around in my head all week and I just don't know what to think.
Defense and special teams travel, and the Giants have those in spades. I also know this is eerily similar to the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl runs the Giants made, partially b/c there is a game in the cold at Lambeau, partially b/c people are trying to figure out what to make of the Giants and partially b/c of the whole "Playoff Eli" concept.
As familiar as it all feels, I have a hard time just counting on the Giants winning again at Lambeau and making another improbable run. Especially since now more and more analysts seem to be expecting it.
In the end, I guess I'm going to pick the Packers. But I won't be the least bit surprised if the Giants come out with a victory Sunday night.
Final score: Packers 24, Giants 20
We'd like to thank Ed and Big Blue View for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there, as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Giants. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Giants vs. Packers.