The Giants, in the midst of a grueling second-half schedule, will face perhaps their biggest challenge of the season Sunday when they host the NFL's last remaining undefeated team, the 11-0 Green Bay Packers, in MetLife Stadium. Three consecutive losses, the last on Monday night in New Orleans, have left the Giants with a 6-5 record, one game behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. Including the postseason, the defending Super Bowl champion Packers have won 17 consecutive games, a streak that began with a victory over the Giants in Green Bay last Dec. 26. They have never trailed in the fourth quarter during the streak. Green Bay has won nine road games in a row, including last year's playoffs. The Packers lead the regular season series against the Giants, 26-21-2, and the postseason series, 4-2.
The Packers lead the NFL with an average of 34.7 points per game and have scored at least 24 points in every game and no less than 25 on the road. Fifteen different players have scored touchdowns for Green Bay this year. They also average a league-high 6.6 yards per play and 9.6 yards per pass attempt. Green Bay is fourth in the NFL with an average of 401.3 yards a game. The Packers are third in passing yards (301.1) and 28th in rushing (97.2).
Green Bay facts: 32 of the 53 players on the roster were drafted by the Packers. Forty-six players are 28 or younger. Twenty-nine of the 53 were drafted in the sixth or seventh rounds or signed as free agents.
Aaron Rodgers is enjoying one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. He has posted a passer rating of at least 100 in every game this season, surpassing the previous record of 10 consecutive games, shared by Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young (1994-95) and Tom Brady (2010-11). Rodgers' season rating of 127.7 is 22.6 points higher than No. 2 Tom Brady. He leads the league with a completion percentage of 71.8 and touchdown passes with 33 and has thrown only four interceptions, two of which were tipped. Rodgers has good velocity on short and medium throws and he can chuck it deep. He rarely puts the ball in harm's way; his career interception percentage of 1.8 is the lowest in history. Rodgers has 175 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season, but has been sacked 27 times. His backup is Matt Flynn.
Rodgers takes advantage of a talented and deep stable of receivers. Greg Jennings leads the group with 58 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. He is an athletic, physical receiver with the savvy and skill to beat all coverages. Donald Driver, a 13-year veteran, is the other starter, though he is limited to about 30 snaps a game. Driver lines up all over the formation, is smart and talented and has strong hands to take the ball away from defenders. Jordy Nelson is Green Bay's second-most targeted receiver after Jennings and the team leader with nine touchdowns and a 17.8-yard average per catch. Nelson is the only player since the 1970 merger with three 80-yard touchdown catches in an eight-game span. He is a big, strong, sure-handed receiver playing at a Pro Bowl level. Nelson has picked up a first down on 28 of his 44 catches. James Jones has five touchdowns on only 24 catches, including a 70-yarder. He will also line up anywhere, has the speed to go deep and is very aware against zone defenses. Rookie Randall Cobb has scored touchdowns as a receiver, punt returner and kickoff returner. He can play all the wideout positions, has a good burst out of the break and the ability to elude a defensive back with a double move.
The Packers have five tight ends on the roster, with Jermichael Finley as the clear No. 1. He is third on the team with 36 receptions. Finley has a quick inside release and a short area burst and is a big target running down the seam. He also has big hands, which help him win jump balls. Andrew Quarless plays about 20 snaps a game. He is a good athlete who can stretch the field and a good blocker in pass protection. Tom Crabtree is a tough, competitive player who is used more as a blocker. Rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor have had limited playing time.
Former Giant Ryan Grant is listed as the first-team running back on the depth chart, but he has 45 fewer carries than James Starks. Grant has started nine of 11 games and is a good first and second-down back with one-cut ability and the strength to run through arm tackles. He is a good cut blocker in pass protection. Starks leads the team with 560 yards and a 4.5-yard average. He is a power back with quickness and a knack for gaining something when nothing seems to be there. Starks is a physical blocker who can catch a swing pass and produce in space. Rookie Brandon Saine is a rookie backup with good receiving skills.
Fullback John Kuhn scored three touchdowns against the Giants last season and is the only Packer with both rushing and receiving touchdowns in 2011. A productive runner, receiver and blocker, Kuhn gets the ball in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Green Bay will be without two of its starting offensive linemen Sunday: Left tackle Chad Clifton, who will miss his seventh straight game with hamstring and back injuries, and right guard Josh Sitton, who hurt his knee on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. Sitton has arguably been the Packers' best lineman this season. Marshall Newhouse, who started two games at right tackle, has stepped in for Clifton on the left side. He is a 2010 fifth-round draft choice who has improved in all areas this season. Evan Dietrich-Smith is expected to make his first career start for Sitton. In limited action, he has been a solid player in both the run and pass games. The center is seven-year starter Scott Wells, who plays with good leverage and understands angles. A feisty player, he is one of the NFL's best undersized centers. Left guard T.J. Lang is a first-year starter with athleticism and a physical mindset. Bryan Bulaga took over at right tackle early in his rookie season in 2010 and has held onto the job with consistently good play.
Despite their perfect record, the Packers are ranked 30th in defense, allowing 393.4 yards a game. They are 31st against the pass (287.8) and 13th vs. the run (105.5). Green Bay is tied for 13th in scoring defense, allowing 20.6 points per game.
The Packers have allowed 47 completions of 20 or more yards. But they also have an NFL-high 22 interceptions – six more than anyone else – and their plus-15 turnover differential is second in the league to San Francisco's plus-16. The Packers' cornerbacks take a very aggressive approach and like to bait quarterbacks so they can jump the underneath routes. Sometimes they give up long completions. But they also create a lot of turnovers. Opposing teams are forced to throw against Green Bay, because the Packers are usually ahead in their games.
Green Bay has a well-choreographed, frequently-used blitz package and 14.5 of their 25 sacks have been by linebackers. The Packers frequently rotate defensive linemen to keep them fresh, though they will sometimes have only two of them on the field.
Left end Ryan Pickett is a smart and instinctive 11-year veteran who leads the defensive linemen with 43 tackles (18 solo). He reads schemes, quickly locates the ball and is strong on his feet. Nose tackle B.J. Raji, a 337-pounder, is a solid three-down lineman who will chase the ball and collapse the pocket. Jarius Wynn has started four games at right end, and leads the line with 3.0 sacks. He is capable of making a mess of the opposition's rushing attack. C.J. Wilson is a valuable sub at both end and nose tackle. Mike Neal is inexperienced, but has pass rush skills.
The Packers' outstanding group of linebackers has been thinned by the absences of inside backers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop will miss the game with calf injuries. Hawk, a Pro Bowler last season, will sit out for the first time in his six-year career. Bishop leads the team with 119 tackles (94 solo) and is tied with Clay Matthews for the team lead with 5.0 sacks. He plays in the base and all the sub defenses, so he will be missed. Hawk will be replaced by second-year pro Robert Francois and Bishop's place will be taken by rookie D.J. Smith. Both young linebackers played extensively in Detroit last week. Smith is a high-motor player with good downhill speed on blitzes. Francois had been inactive for six weeks, but was productive when given a uniform. Matthews, the left outside backer, was a first-team all-pro in 2010. He is a relentless attacker with exceptional play speed and range. In some sub defenses, Matthews will become a down linemen, where he is persistent pass rusher and a nasty finisher. Erik Walden is expected to start at the other outside backer position despite his arrest last week for a suspicion of domestic violence. He does his best work near the line of scrimmage and is a good wrap-up tackler. Frank Zombo has been limited to two games this season because of a variety of injuries. When healthy, he is a steady backup with starter experience.
The Packers don't really play with left and right cornerbacks, because Tramon Williams, who leads the Packers with 17 passes defensed, matches up with the opposing team's best wide receiver. He has exceptional recovery quickness and the skills to be a No. 1 corner. Charles Woodson is still at the top of his game in his 14th NFL season. He is second in the league with six interceptions. The seven-time Pro Bowler is a smart, savvy instinctive playmaker. The ball has always seemed to find Woodson, who has 53 career interceptions. Woodson knows how to play the angles in pass coverage so he can jump and take away the ball. In the nickel, Woodson slides inside and Sam Shields plays corner. Shields has tight cover ability and good ball skills. Jarrett Bush, an effective blitzer off the edge, is the dime back.
Morgan Burnett stepped in at free safety when three-time Pro Bowler Nick Collins was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. He leads the secondary with 73 tackles (54 solo). Burnett is a disciplined run defender who gets a good break on the ball in the passing game. The strong safety is former Giants draft choice Charlie Peprah, who has four interceptions this season, including one he returned 76 yards. He is aggressive in run support and has very good closing speed.
The Giants have played against an outstanding return specialist in every game and this week is no exception. Cobb, the Packers' second-round draft choice this year, introduced himself with a 108-yard kickoff return in the opener against New Orleans. He also has an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown to become the first rookie in history to put together that double. Cobb is fifth in the NFL with a 27.8-yard kickoff return average and fourth with a 12.8-yard average on punt returns. Mason Crosby has made 18 of 19 field goal attempts, including all 14 from 30 or more yards; he inexplicably missed a 29-yard try. Punter Tim Masthay has a 45.2-yard gross average and a 35.9-yard net average. Ryan Taylor leads Green Bay with 10 special teams tackles.
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