EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Giants will have an opportunity to secure an NFC playoff berth Sunday when they meet the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. At 9-5, the Giants will lock up a berth with a victory over the 8-6 Packers, who need wins in their final two games to join the postseason party. This is the teams' first meeting since the epic 2007 NFC Championship Game, won by the Giants in overtime, 23-20, in minus-23 wind chill in Lambeau. The weather is not forecast to be that cold on Sunday. The teams last faced each other in the regular season on Sept. 16, 2007, a 35-13 Packers victory in Giants Stadium. The Giants trail in the regular season series, 25-21-2, and in the postseason series, 4-2.
The Packers' offense is ranked 11th in the NFL with an average of 352.2 yards a game. Green Bay is 24th in rushing (101.9 yards a game) and eighth in passing (250.3). The Packers are tied for 10th in scoring (23.8 points per game). Green Bay is 5-1 at home this year and has a plus-five turnover differential.
The Packers have placed six starters on injured reserve (three on offense, three on defense). The key offensive players on I.R. are running back Ryan Grant (ankle, placed on I.R. on Sept. 14), tight end Jermichael Finley (knee, Oct. 18) and tackle Mark Tauscher (shoulder, Nov. 12).
Aaron Rodgers is expected to return to play quarterback for the Packers after missing the loss at New England last week with a concussion. Rodgers' 98.5 passer rating places him fourth in the NFL and he has thrown 23 touchdown passes against only 10 interceptions. A 2009 Pro Bowler, Rodgers is an outstanding ball handler with superior arm strength who is not afraid to throw into tight coverage. He has good touch and accuracy and he has the speed to escape the pocket when necessary. Rodgers leads the Packers with four rushing touchdowns and is second with 309 yards on the ground. Backup Matt Flynn threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns in his first NFL start in the loss at New England. Flynn has a strong arm, he's patient and he throws accurately on the move.
Brandon Jackson replaced Grant as the starting running back after Week 1 and leads the team with 645 rushing yards. He has quick feet and patience and the strength to break tackles. John Kuhn fills several roles as a running back, fullback, short-yardage specialist, receiver and blocker – and he does all the jobs well. He is a tough back who runs with power and is a reliable receiver. Two rookies, James Starks and Dimitri Nance, also carry the ball. Nance was signed off Atlanta's practice squad after Grant was injured. He missed the San Francisco game with a concussion. Starks began the year on the physically unable to perform list with a shoulder injury, but has run for 81 yards. Korey Hall is a traditional blocking fullback.
All five wide receivers on the Packers' roster play. Greg Jennings is the team leader with 65 catches for 1,026 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a difference-maker with consistent production against all coverages. Jennings is one of the NFL's best route runners. Donald Driver's streak of 1,000-yard seasons will end at six, but the 12-year veteran is still a vertical threat. Driver lines up most often in the slot, where he has a good takeoff and his agility and strength let him work inside. James Jones doesn't start, but actually plays more than Driver. Jones has 45 catches and is Green Bay's leading receiver on third down. He has the awareness to settle into voids, the speed to run deep, and good leaping ability. Jordy Nelson is a sure-handed wideout who has 21 first downs on his 39 catches. At 6-3 and 220 pounds, he is the biggest Packers receiver, a reason he does much of the dirty work inside. Brett Swain plays in the five wide-receiver packages. He is a good underneath receiver with excellent hands.
The tight ends have not been targeted as frequently in the passing game since Finley went down. Rookie Andrew Quarless has taken the majority of the snaps at the position the last few weeks. He is a competitive point of attack blocker with good strength. Quarless has 19 receptions, the speed to go downfield and all the tools to be an outstanding tight end. Tom Crabtree has played in every game and is a smart blocker who takes the proper angles and is an intermediate receiver with good hands. Former starter Donald Lee is a savvy veteran who contributes as both a blocker and receiver.
The offensive line lost one of its most complete players when Tauscher went on I.R. First-round draft choice Bryan Bulaga took over at right tackle and has improved steadily throughout the season. Right guard Josh Sitton is Green Bay's most powerful lineman. He has a big, heavy body and surprising quickness. Six-year starter Scott Wells is a tough and competitive undersized center. Left guard Daryn Colledge is athletic and aggressive. Chad Clifton was a Pro Bowler in 2007 and remains a smart and steady left tackle.
Despite being banged up all year, Green Bay's 3-4 defense has allowed only 220 points, which is tied with Pittsburgh for the fewest in the NFL. The Packers are ranked seventh in yardage allowed (309.4) and are 27th against the run (117.0) and third vs. the pass (192.4). Twelve different Packers have interceptions this season.
They also have several players who normally make significant contributions on defense on injured reserve. The group includes linebackers Nick Barnett (wrist, Oct. 15) and Brad Jones (shoulder, Oct. 27) and safety Morgan Burnett (knee, Oct. 7). Nose tackle B.J, Raji and inside linebacker A.J. Hawk are the only members of the starting front seven to play every game. Cullen Jenkins, who is having a career year with 7.0 sacks, will miss his third consecutive game with a calf injury.
Raji is the leading tackler on the defensive line and has contributed 5.5 sacks. He plays with uncommon speed for a big man and his leverage and strength make him a tough-to-move anchor in the center of the line. Left end Ryan Pickett is a strong end of the line defender who is smart and instinctive. Howard Green has stepped in for Jenkins at right end. He is a natural edge defender with a big body and good initial quickness. Jarius Wynn is a good pass-rushing backup. Rookie C.J. Wilson plays in the sub packages and pursues ballcarriers up and down the line of scrimmage.
Left outside linebacker Clay Matthews has been one of the NFL's best defensive players this season. His 12.5 sacks, 16 tackles for losses and 29 quarterback hits all rank among the top five in the league. He also has an interception that he returned 62 yards for a touchdown. A hamstring injury forced Matthews to miss the Oct. 17 loss to the Miami, the only game in which the Packers did not have a sack. Matthews is a terrific athlete who utilizes a wide variety of pass rush tricks. He is also strong against the run and must be accounted for at all times. Hawk, a five-year starter, leads Green Bay with 114 tackles (82 solo). He has good instincts vs. the run and pass and always seems to be in the middle of the action. Next to him on the inside is Desmond Bishop, who took over after Barnett was sidelined following the fourth game. He has good speed and range and sheds blockers well. Bishop is second on the team with 105 tackles (72 solo). Undrafted rookie Frank Zombo was inactive last week with a knee injury after starting the previous six games at right outside linebacker. He has been an attacking, physical player. Erik Walden made his first career start at New England and will step in again if Zombo can't play. Walden is a high-effort player with speed and range.
Green Bay has two outstanding cornerbacks in Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. Woodson is a 13-year veteran and six-time Pro Bowler who is very productive in the pass game and is an impact run defender. He is third in tackles with 94 (72 solo) and leads the team with four forced fumbles. Woodson can play in the slot or on the outside and match up with anybody. Williams leads Green Bay with five interceptions and 19 passes defensed. He anticipates routes and has tremendous closing speed. Williams is also competitive vs. the run. Rookie free agent Sam Shields is the third corner. He is an athletic player with good speed and sticky man-to-man coverage skills.
Two-time Pro Bowl free safety Nick Collins has outstanding speed, range and ball skills. Former Giants draft choice Charlie Peprah is in his first season as the starter at strong safety. He has good anticipation and man-to-man coverage ability. Atari Bigby has missed most of the season with ankle and hamstring injuries but he's an instinctive and productive player when healthy. Jarrett Bush plays in some of the sub defenses.
Mason Crosby has made 20 of 26 field goal attempts this season, including 56 and 52-yarders. But his three touchbacks are the lowest total of his career. Punter Tim Masthay has a 44.1-yard gross average and a 37.7-yard net average and has had good short field production. Williams has averaged 7.9 yards on 34 punt returns and Shields is averaging 23.1 yards on 17 kickoff returns.