Even if the Packers aren’t asking them, they’re fair questions worth pondering.
Which Giants team will be hosting the Packers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium? One that’s desperate to save its season and capable of summoning its best game when needed most, just as the Packers did against the Giants in Week 16 last year? Or will Green Bay encounter a team too downtrodden after three straight losses to find that kind of resolve?
“I don’t think you can really spend time worrying about the opponent as far as where they are emotionally,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “You study the film.”
That only raises more questions, though. One game tape shows a Giants team that rallied impressively to beat the Patriots on the road to conclude a three-game winning streak and reach the midway point of the season at 6-2. Other film reveals a team that has lost two home games this season to the sub-.500 Seahawks and Eagles, the latter coming amidst the current three-game losing streak.
“They’re kind of hot and cold,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “You never know what you’re going to get, and those are the scary teams to play, honestly. Those teams are really scary to play because you prepare for one thing and you may get something totally different.
“You have to prepare for the best, bottom line. You have to prepare for that team you saw them being before this three-game slide.”
That’s the pragmatic approach, because regardless of the Giants’ level of frustration at losing three straight to fall to 6-5 and put their playoff hopes in jeopardy, they’d be crazy to mail it in now.
Whatever motivation the Giants may find by facing the defending Super Bowl champion and unbeaten Packers, they should find plenty just by looking at the NFC East standings.
New York sits only one game behind 7-4 Dallas, and the Giants still have two games remaining against the division-rival Cowboys over the final four weeks.
So forget the 577 yards and 49 points surrendered in the blowout loss at New Orleans last Monday. The Giants still have every ounce of their fate in their own hands.
“We know we’re going to get their best shot this week,” defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “They already said this is their playoff game. Their playoffs start now, so it’s either win or go home for them. We’re expecting their best ball.”
The Giants will be more capable of that if they get both running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring) back from injuries. Both are questionable on New York’s injury report.
Bradshaw led the Giants in rushing through six games with 440 yards and five touchdowns but has missed the last four contests. Boley still ranks fourth on their defense in tackles despite missing the last two games.
Meanwhile the Packers will line up the way they finished the Thanksgiving game in Detroit – with D.J. Smith and Robert Francois at inside linebacker in place of Desmond Bishop (calf) and A.J. Hawk (calf), and with Evan Dietrich-Smith at right guard in place of Josh Sitton (knee). Hawk will be missing the first game of his six-year NFL career.
With Sitton’s timetable unknown and left tackle Chad Clifton dealing with a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury by hurting his back, the Packers could play a significant portion of the home stretch with three different starters on the offensive line compared to the group that took the field in Super Bowl XLV.
The transitions to left guard T.J. Lang and left tackle Marshall Newhouse have gone rather seamlessly, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers expects the same with Dietrich-Smith.
“Center is his primary position, so he sees the game as a center does,” Rodgers said. “He’s great about the calls and I think he’s going to step in and do well.”
After an extended break before the “fourth quarter” of their season, the Packers have that expectation for their entire team.
“We’re just hungry,” Pickett said. “We just want to win. We expect great things out of each other and the team. The hunger to win is pushing us. That’s what we want to do. We want to keep winning. It’s fun.”
For more Packers-Giants stories from the past week, click here.