The Giants and Packers engage in a pivotal matchup for both squads, as Big Blue is looking to extend their three-game winning streak, while Green Bay looks to stay afloat in the NFC North race, sans their franchise quarterback.
Eli Manning continues to put up pedestrian numbers, but at least he’s playing— which can’t be said about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, due to an injured collarbone.
How each team deals with their quarterback issues will go a long way into determining the outcome.
Three things to look for …
1. Pick problems
Manning has thrown an NFL-high 16 interceptions, which has led to speculation Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has consciously pulled the reins back on their once-vaunted deep passing game. While Coughlin insists that’s not the case, something isn’t clicking. The Packers have the 24th-ranked secondary, so the chances should be there for the taking, especially since the Green Bay pass defense allowed three touchdown passes of more than 30 yards in their loss to the Eagles last week. If Manning is to break the doldrums, he’ll have weapons at his disposal. Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks each have 11 of the Giants’ 33 receptions for 20 or more yards, followed by Victor Cruz’s six. Cruz also has three of the four receptions of 50-plus yards this season, so they have the capabilities to go long. The question remains if Manning— and the coaching staff— will allow it to happen instead of playing it safe.
2. Pwning noobz
Manning’s counterpart this week is third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien. The former 49ers and Packers scout-teamer inherited the job midgame last week following backup quarterback Seneca Wallace’s groin injury. Wallace was placed on season-ending injured reserve, which means this is Tolzien’s show until Rodgers heals. Tolzien didn’t look as if the moment was too big for him last week, so the Giants shouldn’t take him lightly. The former Wisconsin star went 24-of-29 for 280 yards, with one touchdown and two picks against the Eagles, but will face a Giants defense that’s had a bit of a resurgence lately. Big Blue has allowed just one touchdown in the past 14 quarters and hasn’t allowed a second-half touchdown in four frames. If their ascension continues, it could be a long afternoon for the newbie starter.
3. Pound the rock
The Giants defense will first need to shut down the Packers’ rejuvenated rushing attack in order to make the offense one-dimensional and put the game plan squarely in the hands of an inexperienced quarterback. As poised as Tolzien has looked, he’s also benefited from great play from rookie running back Eddie Lacy. The former Alabama star has tallied 669 yards and four touchdowns, including an average of 103 yards per game during his past six games. Giants defensive end Justin Tuck called the second-round draft pick Lacy “a steal.”
“He’s a pretty good running back,” Jason Pierre-Paul said. “You have to get him going east and west [because] when he runs downhill, he’s a very good running back. He hits the holes pretty good, too. [But] we’re doing a great job at [stopping] the running game, a great job overall, so we’re just going to continue doing what we do best.”
Coughlin noted his defense will need to prepare for the Packers’ “heavy package” of extra offensive linemen and tight ends. And should they stifle that part of the game plan, it’ll help his pass rush key on Tolzien.
“The balance is the key in what they’ve done,” Coughlin said. “Lacy’s an exceptional power runner and they do a nice job with their big offensive line. If you look across the board, you’re going to find [multiple] 320-pounders because they play four tight ends that are all pretty good athletes. … Lacy is a powerful runner and you’re going to have to get a number of people to the ball in order to contain or control what he can do. And then we can focus on stopping their great passing game.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.