|January 20, 2008: a play that will live in infamy.|
Those of you who are long-time TriggPack fans may recall my past posts about Los Gigantes. But the rivalry goes back much further than the '07 Jersey Pipefitters convention I witnessed in Cancun during which Corey Webster stuck a dagger in the heart of every Packer fan, and stuck a fork in Brett Favre's career as a Packer, with his overtime interception. No, this rivalry dates back to the earliest days of the NFL and an Italian-American coach named Lombardi who wasn't white bread enough to be New York's head man.
Lombardi's promotion to Green Bay may as well have come with a mission statement to stick it to his former team, and stick it he did. The Packers beat the Giants in the NFL Championship game two consecutive years in '61 and '62. The Packers beat the Giants in two previous NFL Championships as well, in '39 and '44. Really, the Giants have historically been one of the Packers' biggest non-divisional rivals, up there with the 49ers and Cowboys. But until that fateful night 4 years ago (and a loss to the Giants in the '38 NFL Championship) it was a rivalry mostly dominated by the Packers.
That 2007 game, however, has Giants fans optimistic and Packers fans concerned. Coincidentally, I find myself in New York City this week, surrounded by Giants fans. All they can talk about is how reminiscent this game is of the 2007 season with the Packers playing at home as the higher seed and the Giants coming off a mediocre season but "peaking at the right time." Although the coaches are the same, most of the players are different -- both teams only have about 15-16 players still on the roster since 2007. But it is a tantalizing storyline, complete with all the predictable stereotypes of New Yorkers with back hair and Brooklyn accents and Wisconsinites with their excessive cheese and brat consumption (today's New York Times features an article titled "Bratwurst, N.Y.C." about the venerable Packer bar in Greenwich Village called Kettle of Fish) -- a stereotype blunted by the fact Packers fans embrace it... that, and because it's pretty much true.
Although the odds-makers still favor the Packers, this will be a tough match-up. Here are the keys to a Packer victory:
- Contain JPP, JT, and OU -- the Giants' front four defensive linemen are probably the best in the business. Jason Pierre Paul will be a handful for Chad Clifton who is still shaking the rust off a season he mostly spent on the bench. Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and a healthy rotation will keep this line fresh and put pressure on Rodgers all day. Getting Clifton and Bulaga back into the starting line-up is reassuring, but wish both had been playing more regularly of late. Getting Grant and Starks going on the ground would help enormously.
- Stop the Giants running game -- even though Eli Manning carved up our secondary last game, I believe the Giants will try to pound us with the rush with a healthy Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, particularly if the forecast of snow proves true. Ryan Pickett will need to have a good game stuffing these guys and forcing the Giants into long down-and-distance.
- Win the turn-over battle -- as with just about any game, he who wins the turn-over battle usually wins the war. An interception return by Clay Matthews last game against the Giants proved to be the difference. If we don't protect the ball and don't get a take-away or two, it will be a problem -- particularly since our defense is otherwise porous.