For good reason, the 15-1 Green Bay Packers do not feel like the slam dunk favorites in the NFC. The Packers, led by soon-to-be MVP Aaron Rodgers, watched their QB put together arguably the best season of all-time. Rodgers was so good that he compiled 48 total touchdowns and threw just five interceptions in 15 games. Had head coach Mike McCarthy unlocked his inner Sean Payton, Rodgers could have easily topped 60 TDs. That’s how dangerously good Rodgers is and no one will dispute that. For as great as Rodgers is, he has used his quick throws, smart decisions, and moxy to cover up four clear Green Bay blemishes… 

 

Rodgers is Hip and He's Cool. But he's going down.

 

Blemish #1: Green Bay’s secondary

Consider this. For as great as Rodgers was, the Green Bay secondary gave way to more passing yards than Rodgers compiled (4,796 to 4,643). That’s a scary, scary thought for Packer fans. However, the Green Bay defense has been great at creating turnovers. In 15 of their 16 games, the Packer defense has grabbed either one interception or one fumble recovery. The only game they didn’t create a turnover? Their 19-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

To illustrate how poorly the Packer secondary is, consider that they gave way to 299 or more yards in eight (!!!) games this year, one of which came from Eli Manning in Week 13 (347 yards). Sure the Packers rank first in take aways and interceptions, but consider the quarterbacks they faced. The only elite passers the Packers faced came in the form of Drew Brees (439 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs), Eli (347 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT), and Matthew Stafford (520 yards, 5 TDs). They will tangle with Eli again.

Charles Woodson and Co. will have their hands full with the league’s best wide receiver core. I expect the Giants to take advantage of Green Bay’s beatable secondary.

Blemish #2: Green Bay’s Pass Rush

Everyone will point to Rodgers’ greatness for Green Bay’s Super Bowl run last season and rightfully so. However, Green Bay’s pass rush deserves just as much credit. Last season, Green Bay was able to register 30 sacks when rushing four or fewer players. This season? Only 11 sacks. It’s no secret that Clay Matthews hasn’t been Clay Matthews this year. The Packers have asked Matthews to play against the pass more regularly, so Matthews’ sack total has fallen from 13.5 to 6.0. But does this really make much sense for the Packers? Perhaps Green Bay’s pass defense would be even worse without using Matthews regularly, but the secondary’s job is much easier when Matthews is creating chaos in backfields. From the Giants’ perspective, Matthews can cover tight ends and running backs all day. The Giants have had no issue protecting Eli this season (26 sacks allowed) and Green Bay’s diminishing pass rush shouldn’t be too worrisome. If the Packers give Eli all day to throw, he’ll easily put 300 yards. Then it’s time to Salsa.

Blemish #3: Health of Key Players

During the regular season, the Giants seemed to regularly fill up the injury report. Now, their opponents are filling them up. Heading into this week, the Packers expect wide receiver, Greg Jennings, offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton to play, but all will play injured. In their loss to the Chiefs, the Packers dealt with a plethora of injuries and constructed a make-shift offensive that defensive end Tamba Hali had no issues wrecking (three sacks). Hali had a great season (12.0 sacks), but the Giants have three rushers who are better than Hali. The health (and effective play) of the offensive line is a huge question mark and the Packers know that the Giant defensive line is running white hot. If the Giants can get consistent pressure on Rodgers and put him on the ground, they’ll win this game.

Blemish #4: Non-Existant Ground Game

The Giants rushing attack is getting a bad rap. Sure, they finished dead last in the league in regular season rushing. However, Big Blue’s ground game has run for 102, 115, and 172 total yards in their last three games. I hate Brandon Jacobs, but he is finally running the ball with reckless abondon. Ahmad Bradshaw finally looks healthy and he supplies the lightning to Jacobs’ thunder. The playoffs are all about momentum and the Giants have it rolling with their ground game. On the other hand, from a personnel and production standpoint, Green Bay’s ground game is less impressive.

Over their last three games, Green Bay ran for 102, 81, and 81 total yards. It’s easy to get away from the ground game when a team has a QB as impressive as Rodgers, but balanced attacks are needed against a tenacious pass rush. The Packers must establish the run early or the Giant defensive linemen will pin their ears back and go after Rodgers. The Packers probably won’t have last year’s post-season stud running back, James Starks. Starks has been dealing with a variety of injuries and hasn’t play since Christmas. His backfield mates don’t exactly scare anyone. Ryan Grant has looked really, really old and slow. Fullback John Kuhn is a load, but he’s not effectively outside of short-yardage situations.

Last week, the Giants held one of the league’s better rushing attacks to only 64 yards. Michael Turner was held to 2.7 yards per carry. Expect the Giant linebackers and front four to stuff the Packers on the ground.

Conclusion

Entering the playoffs, the Packers just don’t have that dominant feel that the 2007 Patriots did. Hell, they don’t have that imposing will that last year’s Packer team had. At the mid-way point this season, this Packer team has been annoited as ‘one of the best teams ever’ by ESPN. That’s a ton of pressure for a non-existant defense and ground game. I fully expect Rodgers to play a great game, but he has been sitting on the pine for three weeks while the Giants have been running through opponents. Like I said earlier, momentum is key in the playoffs and it’s hard to generate that during off weeks.

At the end of the day, the Packers do see a lot of last year’s team in this year’s Giants. The Giants have swagger and have it for the right reasons. The Giants strengths can–and will expose Green Bay’s obvious blemishes on Sunday afternoon.