Last week, while waiting to see who the Green Bay Packers opponent in the NFL Divisional Playoff round playoff game would be, Packers’ offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was riding high. Integral to the success of one the highest powered offence in the game, Philbin was interviewing for head coaching jobs with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. This week, tragedy struck the Joe Philbin and his family when and his 21-year-old son, Michael, drowned, falling through a thin patch of ice.
Now enduring one of the most awful and cruel things that can possibly happed to a parent, Joe Philbin was not in meetings on Wednesday, and is not expected to be back with the team at all this week. When you hear the term, “Life Sucks,” try to imagine for just a moment what Joe Philbin and his family must be feeling these days.
In the general scheme of things, what I’m going to say next doesn’t matter very much, but with regard to this game, Joe Phibin’s loss could be the New York Giants gain. While Philbin does not call the plays during games, he does assume the leading role in game-planning during the week. He is also heavily involved in coaching the offensive line and it remains to be seen if this will have any effect on the game preparation or on field play.
That’s just one of the problems the Packers will have come 4:30 on Sunday. The other thing is that by game time, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will not have taken a game snap in 20-days. At this point in the season one might think that type of rest would help as Rodgers’ body has just endured a grueling NFL season and anyone’s body that has just done that could certainly use the rest. The position of quarterback however, more than any other position on the field is one of pace and feel. The speed and intensity of an NFL playoff game is not something you can simulate in practice. Like no other, the position of quarterback is as taxing on the brain as it is the body. Rodgers will have been without Joe Philbin this week and without game action for three weeks. If the Aaron Rodgers that we all saw on the field this season shows up this Sunday at Lambeau Field, it will truly be a remarkable event; a testament to both his superior talent and work ethic.
This New York Giants season is eerily similar to their last Super Bowl run. At one point left for dead they have resurrected their season on the arm of Eli Manning and have finally gotten arguably the best defensive line in the NFL healthy. Their 38-35 loss to the Packers in Week 13 was reminiscent of the regular season loss to the then undefeated New England Patriots in 2007, giving them confidence for a second meeting in Super Bowl XLI. This Sunday, the Giants will have their second meeting with this year’s best team, the Green Bay Packers.
New York comes into this game as a 7.5 point underdog, which sounds about right. Money has been moving in late on the Giants here and I can see that line moving down to 7 or even 6.5, so if you were planning on taking the Giants, do it sooner than later. If the line moves, it going to move down not up.
The weather is expected to be low 20′s at kickoff with just a 10% chance of a snow shower. There are enough core players left including leaders on both offense and defense, Eli Manning and Justin Tuck that remember what it was like to beat the Packers in an important playoff game on a cold January day at Lambeau. Eli and the Giants can and should score on the Packers. Green Bay’s defensive liabilities are masked by the fact that they are opportunistic ball hawks and the offense is simply able to cover their mistakes.
The Giants ability to win will simply come down to the ability to contain Rodgers and company. The way to do this is to play man on the wideouts with the safeties over the top. The Kansas City Chiefs proved this. Many teams have tried this, including the Giants in their first meeting, but most teams just don’t have the personnel in the secondary to pull it off. The Chiefs have three outstanding cover guys and were able to do it. The Giants front four is the key here. Now healthy, if they are able to get pressure on Rodgers without sending backers, that could take pressure off the secondary as Rodgers will have to get the ball out early taking away deep routes and double moves.
Although it’s not what he’s known for, Rodgers is a fantastic athlete and deadly at picking up first downs with his legs in big spots when he needs to. Those are back breakers to a team as there is nothing more demoralizing than flushing a QB from the pocket on third and long only to find that the secondary is faced the other way blanketing potential receivers while the QB picks up a chunk of real estate running for a first down. The Giants defensive line must stay in their lanes preventing that from occurring as being able to get off the field on third and long is essential to a Giants victory.
Make no mistake about it, this will be no cakewalk for the Packers. Big underdog’s or not, the Giants have the ability to be doing the Discount Double Check at midfield after this one is over.
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- The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at TheXLog.com. You may email Mike @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.