Thanksgiving is to pro football as the Fourth of July is to baseball. They are the points in their respective seasons when we take a look at the playoff chase and pennant race.
So let’s do that for the Packers and Giants, since they’re immediately headed for a showdown game in New York on Sunday night, and since the two teams are currently No. 3 and No. 4 in the NFC playoff race.
Each team might need to win, depending on what the Bears and Cowboys do, to maintain their lead in their respective divisions. The tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs might also be at stake, but there’s too much of the season remaining and too many variables to be concerned about seeding right now.
The Giants have a rugged finishing schedule. The 7-3 Packers are one of the most demanding dates on that closing slate, which also includes games at Washington, Atlanta and Baltimore, and home dates against New Orleans and Philadelphia. Against that kind of schedule, there are no guarantees for the defending Super Bowl champions. A loss on Sunday night could send Tom Coughlin’s team into a tailspin.
A win by the Packers on Sunday night would really set the table for the team from Green Bay to focus on it’s drive for the division title. Four of the Packers’ five remaining games will be against NFC North foes. The only non-division game remaining on the Packers’ schedule is a Dec. 23 date with a visiting Titans team that will have long since been reduced to also-ran status.
You might say Sunday’s game is a feel-good contest. The team that wins is going to feel real good about itself. The team that loses could enter December with its backed pressed against the wall.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Giants.
1. Protect Aaron Rodgers—Justin Tuck clinched this “thing” as No. 1 when he announced on Wednesday that sacking and pressuring Rodgers is the focal point of the Giants’ defensive game plan. It worked for them last January.
2. Make the Giants play the run—Rodgers can’t be protected without doing this.
3. Use the game plan from last week—The Packers shut down the NFL’s No. 1 passing attack without the services of Clay Matthews, the Packers’ best pass rusher.
4. Make the kicks—Trying to win games late in the season and on the road against championship-caliber teams usually requires crunch-time field goals. It did when the Packers beat the Giants in New York last year.
5. Rush from the inside—Eli Manning has always had a penchant for throwing off his back foot when he gets pressure in his face.
6. Circle the wagons—The Giants are on a two-game losing streak and coming off a bye. They will be rested, ready and focused for this one.
7. Return one—The Giants have been vulnerable in punt coverage.
8. Block Pierre-Paul—He’s their Lawrence Taylor. Jason Pierre-Paul must be neutralized to have any chance of winning.
9. Stop the run—Ahmad Bradshaw is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and do not go to sleep on Andre Brown and his 5.4 a carry and seven touchdowns.
10. Intercept Manning—He’s thrown 11 of them. Additional coverage - Nov. 22