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Scouting Report: Eye on the Packers


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – One week after suffering their second loss in California in three weeks, the Green Bay Packers will try to reverse their fortunes in New Jersey when they face the Giants Sunday in MetLife Stadium. The Packers scored their fewest points and lost by the largest margin of the season in their 37-8 defeat last Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers. Two weeks earlier, they fell to the Chargers in Los Angeles, 26-11.

Despite those defeats, Green Bay is 8-3 and tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North. This is the Giants' fourth and final game vs. an NFC North foe this season. Last week, they lost their seventh consecutive game, 19-14 in Chicago, and are 2-9. Green Bay leads both the regular-season (28-23-2) and postseason (5-3 series with the Giants. The teams most recently met in 2016, when the Packers won a pair of games in Lambeau Field – 23-16 in the regular season and 38-13 in an NFC Wild Card Game. The Packers last faced the Giants in MetLife on Nov. 17, 2013, when the home team earned a 27-13 triumph.

What is the Packers' greatest strength?

They are a tough, battle-tested team that consistently finds a way to win close games. One of the keys is forcing and taking advantage of turnovers. Green Bay is 7-0 when it wins the turnover battle (and 1-3 when it does not have a takeaway). The Packers' plus-eight turnover differential is tied for fourth in the league. They have just eight giveaways, tying them with Arizona for second in the NFL behind New Orleans' seven (prior to the Saints' Thanksgiving Night game). In their first 10 games, the Packers scored 62 points off their 16 takeaways. Those points help give them a lead and once they have it, the Packers seldom lose it. Few teams in the league are as good at using their ground game to bleed the clock with a lead in the fourth quarter.

What player is key to the Packers' offense?

It's difficult to choose just one, because Green Bay's quarterback (Aaron Rodgers), running back (Aaron Jones) and leading wide receiver (Davante Adams) are among the league's very best players at their positions. Oh, and tight end Jimmy Graham is a five-time Pro Bowler. But Rodgers said Jones should be considered for the NFL MVP award, so we won't argue with a player who's won it. Jones has rushed for 11 touchdowns this season – including four in a victory in Dallas - the most by a Green Bay player in a season's first 11 games since Jim Taylor had the same number in 1962. He has 17 rushing scores in his last 17 games dating back to last season. Jones is also second on the team with 35 receptions – three for touchdowns – and has three games this season with more than 150 yards from scrimmage. Keeping Jones in check will be high on the Giants' priority list.

What is the strength of the Packers' offense?

As indicated above, Green Bay can beat an opponent in so many different ways – running the ball, controlling the clock, airing it out – and the Packers routinely make a big play when they need one. Rodgers is playing like, well, Aaron Rodgers, which is as good as any quarterback in the NFL. Only two of his 380 passes have been intercepted, a league-leading 0.5%. Rodgers can make every throw and he is second in the NFL in completions and passing yards while scrambling. In a victory against Oakland, he threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers and ran for a sixth. His passer rating in the game was a perfect 158.3. And let's give a shout out to Adams, who missed four games with a turf toe but still leads the Packers with 46 catches. He has exceeded 100 yards three times in his seven games.

What player is key to the Packers' defense?

It's a tie between outside linebackers Za'Darius and Preston Smith, arguably the best pair of free agent acquisitions last offseason. Preston Smith leads the team and is fourth in the NFL with 10.5 sacks. ZaDarius is right behind him with 10.0 sacks – and he is third in the league with 66 pressures and 23 quarterback hits. Last week in Chicago, the Giants faced the outstanding pass-rushing duo of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. They arguably face a greater challenge this week with the Smiths.

What is the strength of the Packers' defense?

The relentless pass rush and the ability to force turnovers. Nine different Packers player have forced a fumble this season. Seven different players have interceptions (cornerback Kevin King has a team-high three picks). Eight different players have at least a half-sack, including linebacker Blake Martinez, who has been credited with 141 tackles (90 solo). The 3-4 defense has playmakers at all levels. And it is a classic bend-but-don't-break unit. Green Bay ranks 28th in yards allowed (380.5 a game) but is 14th in scoring defense (22.0 a game). The closer an opponent gets to the goal line, the stingier the defense gets.

What player is key to the Packers' special teams?

Kicker Mason Crosby is a 13-year veteran who is Green Bay's career leader with 1,557 points. This season, he has made 42 of his 43 extra point and field goal attempts, missing only a 45-yard try. Crosby's leg is still NFL strong; he kicked a 54-yard field goal against the Chargers.

Based on the scouting report, the Giants must do this one thing to win:

The turnover differential between the teams is substantial. While Green Bay is plus-eight, the Giants are minus-11 and have 25 giveaways, the league's second-highest total. The Packers thrive on turning takeaways into points, so the Giants must do a better job of taking care of the ball. Also, start well. The Packers' five opening possession touchdowns tie them with Cleveland for second in the NFL, two behind Baltimore. Those scores are a primary reason Green Bay has outscored its opponents in the first quarter, 70-39. Conversely, the Giants have been outscored in the opening period, 81-27.

Statistics you should know:

*The Packers and Giants have each allowed an NFL-high 13 passes of 40 or more yards.

*Green Bay's offense is one of the NFL's best in the red zone. The Packers are third in the league, scoring touchdowns on 67.6% of their trips inside the 20-yard line (25 of 37). The Giants are seventh in the league in red zone defense, allowing 17 touchdowns in 36 opponents possessions inside the 20 (47.2%).

*Since the start of the 2018 season, Rodgers has thrown 43 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

*Crosby has played in 203 consecutive games for the Packers, the second-longest streak in franchise history behind Brett Favre's 255 games.

View rare photos of the historic series between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers

Giants vs. Packers Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream

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