By Larry Fine
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) – The New York Giants have spoiled a pair of previous postseasons for the Packers, but Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is confident this Sunday’s playoff clash will be different.
Quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants beat Green Bay in the playoffs in both 2007 and 2011 en route to upset Super Bowl victories.
More recently, McCarthy’s NFC North champions defeated the wild card Giants 23-16 in Week Five this season, and are 4.5-point favorites for Sunday’s game.
“I am just focused on the team that we played earlier in the year and focused on the team that we are going to beat on Sunday,” McCarthy said in a conference call to reporters at the Giants practice facility on Wednesday.
That was how the transcriber and many reporters heard McCarthy’s comment, although later the Giants public relations department amended it to a benign, “focused on the team that we are going to be on Sunday.”
Regardless, both the Giants and Packers are riding hot form heading into their Lambeau Field showdown in expected frigid conditions in Wisconsin.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (10-6) ran the table after slipping to 4-6, winning their last six behind a sensational finish by the quarterback, who tossed 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions over the closing streak.
He finished with a league-leading 45 touchdowns and six interceptions.
“Aaron is playing out of his mind right now,” said Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who came to New York after working with Rodgers as a coach in Green Bay.
“He’s on fire, taking care of the ball, and is moving very well in and out of the pocket making all the throws. I don’t have any kryptonite.”
The Giants, after a 2-3 start, saw their revamped defense gel as they went 9-2 the rest of the way to finish 11-5.
“I think we’re two different football teams. We’ve learned to win since then,” McAdoo said about his club on Wednesday. “We’ve grown together.”
New York spent $200 million in off-season contracts to add defensive end Olivier Vernon, tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins and retrain free agent pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.
Manning has had a modest season, but in the past has shown an ability to raise his game in the playoffs.
“Yeah, I think that is definitely a characteristic that Eli has demonstrated throughout his career,” conceded McCarthy.
(Editing by Andrew Both)