The Green Bay Packers take on the New York Giants this Sunday in a game that at some point probably looked like a pretty appealing matchup. But while NBC decided that an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team versus the 3-6 Giants isn't worthy of prime-time, this game isn't completely without playoff relevance.
In many ways, the Giants have become the football equivalent of the villain from a bad 80's movie. Gets shot? Still alive. Run over by an oil tanker? Still kicking. Falls out of an airplane and lands in a nuclear missile silo? Still coming for you. These are the New York Giants. Just a month ago they were floundering as one of the worst teams in football with Eli Manning throwing pick-sixes like his brother is throwing touchdowns. But here they are, just 2.5 games out of the NFC East and once again ready to be a gigantic pain in the ass for the Packers. Can the Pack snap their two-game losing streak? Here are five things that will come into play.
The long ball
The most disturbing thing about last week's defensive breakdown by the Packers wasn't so much that they allowed a bunch of deep balls. It was that they allowed two of them to RILEY COOPER. This was a guy who, had it not been for an injury to Jeremy Maclin, would likely be waiting tables at the Cracker Barrel. That's not a good sign, especially when you're facing two of the league's elite receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Eli Manning has been just a wreck this year, but if it's one thing he can do as well as anyone, it's throw the long ball and Nicks - and particularly Cruz - are more than capable of getting behind the defense. If the Packers safeties play like they did last week, there's going to be plenty of salsa dancing going on.
Brandon Bostick doing things
In the wake of what wasn't exactly the most memorable game versus the Eagles, it's easy to forget that this touchdown by Brandon Bostick was kind of awesome. Yeah it was only one play, but it highlighted a lot of what makes Bostick so intriguing. His blocking still might be raw, but the speed and athleticism he displayed in getting out (and up) to catch that ball was impressive. The "Get off me, son" hit he put on Roc Carmichael was a nice cherry at the end, as well. While Scott Tolzien showed plenty of confidence in throwing downfield versus Philly, it stands to reason that a guy with such limited experience will likely use his safety valve tight end a bit more this week. For Bostick, it should be another chance to show whether he's simply just your occasional pass catcher or the team's potential tight end of the future.
How the defense responds
He's not exactly Jim Caldwell doing his best Weekend at Bernie's impression, but Mike McCarthy has never been the fieriest of coaches. That said, if there's one game that got him to throw a chair or two across the locker room, last Sunday's loss versus the Eagles was it. The defense got embarrassed for the second straight week and if McCarthy's post-game press conference is any indication, the team got an earful this week. How will that translate against the Giants? Who really knows, to be honest. It's not like the Packers defense has been without emotion or effort but given how things have gone lately, we could see an extra level of tenacity and focus from Capers' players. For a unit sorely lacking takeaways - and probably at this point confidence as well - a game versus the turnover-prone Giants could be their best opportunity yet to get their mojo back
Let's review the current state of affairs for the Packers. Third-string quarterback starting, lots of injuries, defense in turmoil and a two-game losing streak at home for the first time in five years. Here's the thing though - the Packers are still very much alive in the playoff hunt. It's hard to call this a must-win game, but with tougher opponents down the road and Aaron Rodgers still without a definitive timetable to return, moving to 6-4 would help the Packers' postseason odds quite a bit. Because of that, I expect McCarthy to pull a few tricks out of his fanny pack this game. Whether it's a reverse here and there, a halfback pass (Can Lacy throw? Probably not), fake punt or just his good ol' onside kick from out of nowhere, McCarthy will have to do whatever it takes to keep this team afloat while Rodgers is out.
Lots of people were happy when the Packers signed our old friend, Matt Flynn, this past week but I'm more excited about Tolzien. Watching him at Wisconsin, those are words that rank right up there with, "I'm really into this new Avril Lavigne album" in terms of things I never thought I'd say. But it's clear that Tolzien is a far different quarterback now than the conservative game manager he was with the Badgers. Put simply, the guy can play. Not only is his arm strength vastly improved, but it was clear within a few minutes of entering the game last week that the stage isn't too big for him. Athletes often talk about their preparation giving them confidence, and from some of the stories out there, Tolzien works as hard to prepare as anyone. With a full week working with the first team, he should only be better.
More from Acme Packing Company:
- Packers Injury Report: Casey Hayward Ruled Out, Perry and Barclay Are Not
- Week 11 NFL Picks: APC Writers Expect Packers to Fall to .500 Against Giants
- Identifying the Fundamental Problem with the Packers' Defense