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Fact or Fiction: X-Factor vs. Packers

Posted Jan 6, 2017

Giants.com writers debate who Sunday's X-factor is:
1. Paul Perkins is the X-factor vs. Green Bay.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - With very cold conditions, it is always important to have an effective running game and a balanced offense. All three of the Giants’ previous victories have come in games where they rushed the ball more than they passed it and won the time of possession battle. They are coming off a game where they ran for 161 yards against the Redskins. Putting the ball in the air a lot also risks turnovers. The main reason for the Packers’ six-game winning streak is their turnover ratio. Since Week 12, Green Bay is plus-14 with 15 takeaways and one giveaway. The more the Giants have to pass, the more they risk giving the ball to the Packers, something they cannot afford to do. If Perkins can run it, he can be the x-factor that gets the Giants the victory.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - The NFL is all about timing. Struggling all season to run the ball, the Giants found some life down the stretch, most notably from the rookie Paul Perkins, who notched his first 100-yard game against a desperate Washington team on the road in Week 17. Despite Sunday being the first matchup in NFL history between two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks in a Wild Card Game, the single-digit temperatures could bring this game to the ground.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - The best way to slow down Aaron Rodgers is to keep him off the field and the most effective method to accomplish that feat is running the ball. Perkins has received double-digit carries in each of the last four games and the Giants went 3-1 during that stretch. Of those four opponents, two rank in the top five in the NFL in time of possession. The Eagles are first, and the Cowboys second. In Week 14 against Dallas, the Giants didn’t have much success on the ground, but they ran the ball 33 times and that volume helped them win time of possession and limit the opportunities for Dak Prescott and company. The Packers rank fifth in the NFL in time of possession, so Perkins’ production on the ground could very well turn out to be the Giants’ best defense. If you go back and look at their regular season meeting in Week 5, Green Bay held the ball for 13 more minutes than New York and the Giants only had 15 carries.

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2. The Giants will win if they hold Aaron Rodgers to under 300 yards.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - In my opinion, despite rushing for 147 yards against the Giants on October 9, the Packers are not going to be able to run it against the Giants this weekend. A lot of those Packers yards came after contact due to poor Giants tackling, and Eddie Lacy’s power. The Giants are better defensively today than they were back in October, and Ty Montgomery is not the same player as Eddie Lacy. That means Rodgers is going to have to throw the ball 40-plus times. If the Giants can hold him under 300 yards, which probably means the Packers offense will gain under 350 yards total, the Giants have a great chance of winning. Of course, multiple Giants turnovers could make all those yardage totals meaningless, but that’s impossible to predict.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - If he’s below 300, that means the Packers are probably running the football, which wouldn’t be good news for the Giants. Rodgers’ two highest yardage totals of the season – 371 at Tennessee in Week 10 and 351 at Washington in Week 11 – were both losses. The Giants did a good job against Rodgers in Week 5 and held him to a 51.1 completion percentage and a passer rating of 65.0, both season lows. Janoris Jenkins also intercepted him twice, but that didn’t make up for the Giants being unable to stop the run – which was unusual for the No. 3 rushing defense.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The Packers are 6-4 this season when Aaron Rodgers is held to under 300 passing yards and they’ve won each of the last three games in which that happened, all coming during their current six-game winning streak. Total points and touchdowns are much better indicators of a quarterback’s success than total passing yards because if yards don’t translate into points, it’s not much of a difference maker. Field position and game flow usually dictate total passing yards, but Rodgers’ production when it comes to scoring opportunities will influence the outcome of the game much more than yards.


3. The Giants need to force at least two turnovers on Sunday.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - The Giants got two interceptions against Rodgers back in October, both by Janoris Jenkins. One was a fortunate grab due to a Jordy Nelson deflection, while the other was forced by pressure on Rodgers and a good play by Jenkins. The Giants don’t have to get two takeaways this week to win, but they do need to stay even in the turnover battle. The Giants might be able to pull out a win if they are minus-one, but anything worse than that and they will be hard pressed to beat the Packers in their building. It’s more essential for the Giants to protect the ball than take it away. The defense is good enough to get stops and force punts, which will be good enough if the offense does their job. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception in seven weeks, so counting on one of those is very dangerous and likely foolhardy.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - A pick, a strip-sack, a muffed punt – anything. Turnovers always decide these games, and that goes double for road teams. The Giants’ defense has been able to cover up some of the problems in turnover differential this season, but that can be exposed in the postseason if the offense doesn’t take care of the ball. It’s boring, it’s cliché, but it’s true.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The Giants forced two turnovers against the Packers in Week 5 (picked off Aaron Rodgers twice) yet still lost the game, so it’s hard to say collecting at least two turnovers in this contest will dictate a victory. With that being said, part of the reason why Green Bay has run off six straight wins is because they’ve done a great job protecting the football. If that script changes, it certainly could give the Giants an edge, but in 16 games this season, New York has had zero turnovers just three times and multiple turnovers nine times. Based on those numbers, the Giants have struggled to play clean football, so even if they have at least two takeaways, there’s no guarantee that will neutralize an opportunistic Green Bay defense, which has 15 takeaways during the team’s current six-game rise.

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4. The Giants and Packers are the two hottest teams in the NFL playoffs.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Sorry folks, hate to burst your bubble here, but this is not true. I wouldn’t count either of these teams as the hottest team going into the playoffs. The Packers have an argument with six straight wins, but other teams have finished the season strong as well. The Patriots have won seven straight going into the postseason on their way to the number one seed in the AFC. The Steelers have won seven straight games. The Chiefs have won five of their last six on their way to earning the bye week. The Falcons won their last four games, and five of their last six. The Giants lost a game just two weeks ago when they had a chance to clinch a playoff berth. I can’t consider them hotter than any of the teams listed above.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I’d throw Pittsburgh in there. The Steelers won their final seven games after a four-game skid that dropped them to 4-5 in the middle of the season. They’re playing with a lot of confidence and have their own two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback guiding the ship. I think that’s the team to watch in the AFC.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The Giants are in the conversation, but Green Bay and Pittsburgh deserve that title. The Packers are riding a six-game winning streak and have completely turned their season around since starting 4-6 following a four-game skid. The Steelers also endured a four-game losing streak midseason, only to run off seven straight wins to close out the season. Both teams won their respective divisions and appear to be playing their best football entering the postseason. The Giants have won three of their last four, but they also haven’t scored more than 19 points in each of their last five contests.