In 2011, the Giants lost at home to the Packers in the regular season, then won at Lambeau for another NFC Championship.
It will be a similar story line entering Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game. The Giants lost to the Packers in the regular season — 23-16 at Lambeau in Week 5 — and will try to turn the tables in Green Bay in a playoff rematch on Sunday.
“It’s all different teams, different players, different coaches,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who led the team to an 11-5 record and its first playoff berth since 2011. “It’s just a matter of studying their defense, have a great game plan, have a great week of preparation and go out there and just play each play.”
Manning has as many playoff wins at Lambeau Field as his counterpart, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Manning is 2-0 while Rodgers is 2-2.
“We’re playing against the 2016 Giants and they’re playing against the 2016 Packers in 2017,” Rodgers said.
In what should be a tremendous matchup of strength vs. strength, it will be the Rodgers-led Packers offense against a superb Giants defense.
Behind a late-season scoring binge with four consecutive games of 30-plus points, the Packers finished the league ranked fourth in scoring with 27.0 points per game. The Giants, who allowed 10 points or fewer in three of their last four games, finished second in the league with 17.8 points allowed per game. Green Bay has been strong on third down and in the red zone, ranking second and 10th in those categories, respectively. The Giants, however, finished second on third down and first in the red zone.
“You go through the video and you don’t see a lot of production,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “And they’ve got playmakers in their back end. I think the one statistic that you can look at is their turnover opportunities is as high as we’ve seen this year.”
Rodgers pushed himself into the MVP conversation with a string of sensational games down the stretch. After proclaiming the Packers could “run the table” and win their final six games, Rodgers threw 15 touchdown passes and zero interceptions with a passer rating of 122.8 to help the Packers finish 6-0 and win the NFC North with a 10-6 record. Rodgers threw a league-high 40 touchdown passes for the season and didn’t throw an interception in his final 245 attempts of the season.
The Giants’ pass defense, however, has been superb. It finished second in the league in lowestopponent passer rating. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (six) and safety Landon Collins (five) finished in the top five in interceptions, with Collins and cornerback Janoris Jenkins achieving Pro Bowl status.
With those three combining for 14 interceptions, the Giants were one of only two teams to finish with more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes allowed (15).
“Spags (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) does a great job putting guys in position to be successful and we have some talented players on the defensive side,” said Giants coach Ben McAdoo, a Packers assistant from 2006 through 2013. “They enjoy seeing each other have some success. It’s not all about them. It’s about the team mentality and the team first, and good defense fits together like nuts and bolts and they’ve bought into it.”
On the other side of the ball, which Manning will show up for the postseason? Well, it will be Eli (not brother Peyton or farther Archie). But which Eli? Will it be the one who piled up 15 touchdowns against two interceptions in leading the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011? Or will it be the one who threw two touchdowns against six interceptions in one-and-done playoff seasons of 2005, 2006 and 2008?
Manning didn’t have a great season — he completed a career-high 63.0 percent of his passes but only three quarterbacks eclipsed his 16 interceptions — but he’ll be attacking a porous pass defense that has one starting cornerback on injured reserve (Sam Shields), another in the concussion protocol (Quinten Rollins) and another battling a knee injury (Damarious Randall).
Rollins was ruled out of the contest on Friday, while Randall is listed as questionable. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (hernia) will also sit out.
“I just don’t know what more you would ask for,” star receiver Odell Beckham said in anticipation of his first playoff game. “It’s fourth-and-1, it’s 1:36 left on the clock, you’re down five, you just need a first down to stay alive, but you score a touchdown. It’s something about those moments, knowing you have to get it done. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it, there’s no way around it, you just have to get it done. I do enjoy those moments. It’s like taking the last shot, you never know if you’re going to fail unless you shoot.”