First off, I want to say congrats on your team's late season surge. I was happy to see you win the NFC East over Dallas and Philly. Your win over Atlanta last week was also very impressive. We ended that "Matty Ice" crap with that beat-down last year (especially Williams' pick-6 before half), and you guys further buried it last week. Well done.
I'm not going to lie: the Giants are a formidable opponent for the Green Bay Packers. You have the best d-line in the playoffs, multiple solid WRs, a great RB combo, and a QB that is playing good ball. You also have a good mix of veteran leadership and youthful enthusiasm. I've enjoyed watching them play.
That said, this Packers team may be the most disrespected defending champ that I have ever seen. We're coming off a 15-1 regular season, which is the best record a defending championship team has ever posted. Rodgers is playing the QB position as well as anyone has ever played it. We have a outstanding group of WRs. And while our defense gives up yards, it still has a number of playmakers (e.g., CMIII, Woodson, etc.), is opportunistic (i.e., forces turnovers), and is usually stingy in the red zone. On top of all of that, we have home field advantage. With all of that in mind, I like our chances.
Keys to the game:
1) Turnovers. The Packers' defensive success depends on whether we get turnovers. We don't mind giving up the yards, as long as we get turnovers in the process. It is not a coincidence that the Packers' only loss this year came in a game in which they defense did not cause a single turnover. We must force turnovers to win the game. On the other hand, it's going to be tough for the Giants to win a game if they lose the turnover battle. The Packers just don't turn it over much.
2) Packers' offensive line vs. Giants' defensive line. Both of these units are getting healthy at the right time, so this should be interesting. Green Bay's o-line is generally underrated. When they are healthy, they are a solid group. Clifton and Bulaga are dependable tackles, and Sitton is one of the best guards in football. Well has been a rock at center. One issue I have had is that when a guy is having an off day, the Packers seem reluctant to give him help. We'll see if that trend continues, should someone have a bad day. Meanwhile, the Giants' defensive line is STACKED. But the key isn't just pressuring Rodgers; they will have to put him on the ground in order to have any success. Consider Rodgers' play over the Packers current run of 21-1. Plenty of teams have put pressure on him (e.g., Falcons in the playoffs last year), the problem is that he is one of the best at escaping pressure, and he is honestly the most accurate QB that I have ever seen on move. If the Packers can protect Rodgers and he has time, watch out...the Giants secondary will have a long day.
3) Special teams play. Crosby and Tynes are both solid kickers, but I'll give the edge to Crosby. Masthay (Packers' punter) has been a great player for the Packers. He was critical to our run last year, and he has been solid this entire year. He has played at an pro bowl level. With Cobb, the Packers march into the playoffs with the best special teams weapon that they've fielded since Desmond Howard. The kid is a rookie, so he will make the occasional rookie mistake (e.g., not make the fair catch call when it is the smart thing to do), but overall, Cobb has been an outstanding addition to the Packers (even as the #4/5 WR). He has the ability to take one to the house at any given point. As far as coverage, we were NOT good last year, but for the most part, I think the Packers ST units have been solid this year. I'll be honest: I don't know much about the Giants' ST units. I welcome your take.
4) Finley (Packers' TE). He has an arrogance to him that rubs some people the wrong way, and recently he has had a case of the dropsies. However, when this guy balls, he is an absolute nightmare. You can't single cover him with a LB, CB, or S, because he represents such a difficult matchup. Thus, you typically see his man receive help from the safety, which opens things up for the others. For this reason, his effect isn't always evident by this stats. If he suffers from the case of the dropsies on Sunday, though, it can be a major problem for the Packers. His drops have killed many drives this season.
5) Giants' ability to run. I know that the Giants rank towards the bottom of the league in rushing, but I'm not buying it. You're brining a healthy Jacobs & Bradshaw to the party, so I fully expect you all to try to establish the run. The Packers must be able to stop it with their front 7 and leave the safeties available to defend the pass. The Packers should benefit from the return of Bishop and Hawk (more so Bishop, because Smith & Francois are playmaking backups in Hawk's absence). I'm also looking for Raji, Pickett, and Green to accept the challenge that the Giants' rushing attack presents. If the Packers' front-7 can't handle it, and they are forced to drop a safety at times, I expect Eli to take advantage.
6) Red Zone success. The Packers can put up a lot of points, and in order to keep up, the Giants will have to put 7s on the board instead of 3s. And while the Packers' defense has given up a lot of yards, they have been fairly successful in the redzone. Their redzone play & turnovers are the reason they rank in the middle of the league in points allowed, while they rank dead last in yards. It is a bend but don't break attitude.
Overall, my prediction is that Rodgers go into beast mode, and Manning struggles to keep up. It is fairly close going into the 4th, but then Rodgers & Co. put it away. Woodson & Clay make some key big plays on defense.
Good luck, guys. Nice forum.