As we enter Week 14, the Green Bay Packers, the rebuilding Green Bay Packers, the rebuilding Green Bay Packers with five top 100 draft picks in the upcoming draft, are currently occupying a playoff spot. According to the New York Times playoff simulator, the Packers have a 70% chance to make the playoffs going into this weekend. No team in the league has an easier schedule for the rest of the season than Green Bay, so making it to the playoffs will be a matter of taking care of business against bad teams. That task starts this week against a bad New York Giants team.
Before touching on that Giants team, however, let’s highlight what Green Bay has been over the past five weeks. The team from mid-September through Halloween feels like an entirely different group. Since Week 9, Green Bay has the third-best passing offense in the NFL by EPA-per-dropback, behind only San Francisco and Dallas, and is fourth in success rate. The running game has continued to be mediocre, but when the passing game is clicking like this, it’s hard to slow the offense down. The receivers appear to have largely stopped running the wrong routes, the Packers pass protection has continued to be solid, and quarterback Jordan Love has made massive leaps in terms of his accuracy. Since Week 9, Love ranks sixth in PFF’s adjusted completion percentage all while maintaining an aDOT over 9.
Defensively, the Packers have had a solid stretch of play during the same timeframe. While missing star corner Jaire Alexander, the Packers have managed to be an average pass defense. They’ve done so while facing some of the game's better passing attacks as well, facing off with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and the Lions during this stretch. They certainly benefited quite a bit from facing the Steelers and Brett Rypien-led Rams as well. The run defense has not been good, it just isn’t going to be with how Green Bay designs its defense, but it has not reached apocalyptically bad, which keeps the unit’s head above water. Against the Giants, staying above water should not be terribly difficult.
Starting quarterback Daniel Jones’ season ended in Week 9 with a torn ACL. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor was just designated to return from injured reserve on Monday, but Giants head coach Brian Daboll said on Tuesday that Tommy DeVito will start on Monday night. DeVito has been about as bad as you’d expect for a third-string quarterback. He ranks 30th out of 30 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks in EPA-per-dropback since he took over the starting job at an abysmal -.231. He is also dead last in success rate at 34.2%. He’s just not an NFL quarterback.
He’s also not getting any help from his offensive line. The Giants rank dead last in Ben Baldwin’s pass protection composite score, and the gap between the Giants and 30th-ranked Seattle is the same gap as between Seattle and 19th-ranked Washington. The Giants also rank second-to-last in the run-blocking composite score. Only left tackle Andrew Thomas can even be considered a starting-caliber offensive lineman. Things were so bad they had to pull Justin Pugh out of retirement to just try and get some semi-competency, and even that hasn’t really worked.
Run and pass block composites— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) December 6, 2023
Probably not controversial to say Eagles/Ravens have the best OLs, Jets/Giants the worst pic.twitter.com/seGtlKCw4k
On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants aren’t good, but at least they are kind of different. Wink Martindale is a blitz-heavy coordinator, which matches what Green Bay saw last week against Kansas City and what they’ll see later this month against Minnesota. Only the Minnesota Vikings blitz more often than the Giants do, but despite this, the Giants actually generate pressures at a below-average rate. One player worth focusing on, though, is Dexter Lawrence. He is putting together a truly obnoxious season. Lawrence plays as the nose tackle for New York, not typically a position where you can generate a lot of your own production. The role is a selfless one. Lawrence has somehow put together obscene levels of production in spite of this. He ranks 13th amongst all defensive players in total pressures. Not 13th among defensive tackles, amongst all defensive players. He has produced more pressures than Myles Garrett, Danielle Hunter, and Will Anderson this season. With Green Bay struggling a little on the interior, if the Giants can cause any issues for Green Bay’s offense, it will almost certainly come from Lawrence. After a solid performance against a bad Kansas City run defense, the Giants could also present another opportunity for the Packers to keep things moving on the ground. Only Kansas City and Carolina are worse on an efficiency basis against opponent-rushing attacks.
The preview for this game isn’t terribly complicated. If the Packers can avoid turning the ball over multiple times, and can prevent Dexter Lawrence from completely wrecking the game, they should be able to get out of New Jersey with a win. The Giants' offense is abysmal, so the defense should be targeting a performance similar to, if not better than, what they did against the Rams. The Packers are nearly touchdown favorites on DraftKings, and if they want to show that they really are a playoff team, clearing that spread shouldn’t be too much of a problem.