Before we preview Sunday’s Packers-Giants matchup, let’s take a moment to ponder a most amazing and possible scenario: a four-way tie atop the NFC East by the end of next week.
Here’s how it would happen:
If these four results all fall this way, the Giants, Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles will all have 5-6 records with five weeks left to play.
Wow. That’s something else, isn’t it?
Anyway, here’s our analysis of Giants-Packers:
Reasons why the Giants can win Sunday
The Packers are starting third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien. While Tolzien played fairly well in his NFL regular-season debut a week ago, he is untested, and untested quarterbacks tend to make mistakes.
The Giants’ defense should hold up well against a very good Packers rushing attack. While the Packers may want to lean on their ground game to take pressure off of Tolzien, the Giants are tough on opposing rushing offenses. The Giants are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry.
The Giants’ pass rush has perked up. The Giants have recorded four sacks in each of the last two games. By contrast, they had just six total sacks in the first seven contests of 2013. Pass-rush pressure can rattle even experienced quarterbacks, so if the Giants can get Tolzien's jersey dirty they could be tough to beat.
The Packers’ defense has taken a step backwards in the last two games. Green Bay has allowed more than 400 yards and three offensive touchdowns in each of the last two contests. New York has scored a combined 110 points in the previous three meetings with the Packers.
The Giants have won the last two meetings with Green Bay — and those were stronger Packers clubs. Those teams had a healthy Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
Reasons why the Giants could run into trouble against the Packers
The Packers aren’t hopeless with Tolzien at quarterback. The third-year pro from Wisconsin showed some NFL-caliber ability in last week’s loss to Philadelphia. If the Giants’ defense regresses after three exceptional games in a row, Tolzien can make enough plays to lead the Packers to the upset. The Packers have a strong group of receivers even with Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley out and wideouts Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin all playmaking threats.
The Giants are still too error-prone. New York managed to beat the Raiders last Sunday despite committing three turnovers that turned into 17 Oakland points.
Though the Packers have lost two straight games, they are a skilled, deep, well-coached squad. If they return to their earlier-season form, they will give the Giants all they can handle.
The Giants’ offense isn’t playing especially well. New York has only exceeded 300 yards once in their three-game winning streak, and they have scored just four offensive touchdowns in those three victories.
With a third-string quarterback in the lineup, the Packers pull out all of the stops on Sunday. The Giants’ special teams need to be wary. An onside kick, a fake punt or a fake field goal wouldn’t be a surprise.
This looks too easy. The Giants are in their best form of the season, while the Packers are at their worst. If the Giants continue to improve and the Packers continue to slide, Big Blue could win its fourth straight.
However, this looks like a potentially tough matchup for the Giants. The Packers have plenty of skill-position talent around Tolzien, and their defense could bounce back against a shaky Giants offense.
But the Packers have more upside than the Giants. In what figures a close game,
Green Bay is more capable of making the one or two plays that could tilt the game in its favor. The Packers are also probably less apt to make the big mistake.
Predicted score: Packers 20, Giants 17