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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Game Preview: Packers vs Giants

by Thomas Pyc
PackerChatters Staff

This Sunday at Lambeau Field the Green Bay Packers (1-2) will play host to the New York Giants (2-1). The Giants are coming into the game with a two game winning streak (Redskins, Browns) while the Packers enter the game on a losing streak (Bears, Colts) equal in length and including their first home game. Mike Sherman is the NFL’s only active coach to not have a three-game losing streak tarnish his record and is most certainly eager to make sure it stays that way.

The Giants offense is ranked 10th in the league after the first three weeks of the season. The offense is led by quarterback Kurt Warner (94.0 QB rating) who appears to be playing with rejuvenation since joining the Giants. Head coach Tom Coughlin also has Tiki Barber (league leading 22 fumbles in ’03) holding the football with better technique and he has yet to fumble this season (knock on wood Giants’ fans). Tight end Jeremy Shockey (12 catches) has shown defenses in the past what he is capable of, but so far this season he has not been fully utilized in the offensive game plan and could start making some off field noise if it stays that way. The receivers are lead by the always dangerous Amani Toomer (15 catches) and Tim Carter (10 catches) who is proving himself a viable threat to the opposition. The biggest question mark thus far for the Giants’ offense is their offensive line where every position appears to have its limitations athletically.

The Packers’ defense (21st in the NFL) gave up 45 points last game with the help of the injury bug and trying to cover speedy receivers with safeties. Peyton Manning ate this unit up last week playing some classic ‘dome’ ball, which makes good use of speedy Astroturf. Kurt Warner played in a similar situation in his years with the Rams but is now playing in Tom Coughlin’s Power I scheme which should not create the same matchup problems that the Packers’ D faced last week. The last time the Packers faced an offensive line as questionable as the Giants’ line it was against Carolina in week one and Bob Slowik’s blitz-happy scheme experienced a great amount of success. Nick Barnett (team leading 25 tackles) and safety Darren Sharper will need to be playmakers in order to get the Packers’ defense back on track. Hopefully Sharper and Barnett’s play coupled with Slowik’s creative scheme will help improve the production of the Packers’ defensive line which has yet to record a sack through the first three games.

The Giants defense (22nd in the NFL) is lead by a phenomenal pass rusher in Michael Strahan. Strahan is 32 but is not showing any signs of slowing down and through three games he has three sacks. Newcomers Barrett Green (from Detroit) and Carlos Emmons (from Philly) bring a better level tenacity to this defense than seen in previous years. The biggest question mark for this unit is in the secondary where both safeties (Williams and Stoutmire) that started the year are out due to injury. Rookie Gibril Wilson (5th round) and journeyman Brent Alexander will replace them.

Brett Favre leads an offense (7th in the NFL) that put on a solid performance last week with 31 points but turned the ball over on, what could have been, the tying touchdown drive. Ahman Green did not eclipse the 100 yard mark last game but that was not due to the run game being ineffective, it was more or less due to the passing game working so well. Javon Walker had an outstanding game (minus the fumble) against Indianapolis and should perform well against the Giants beat up secondary. Look for the Packers to run a balanced offense agaist New York, unlike a week ago.

Key Matchups

1) Mark Tauscher vs. Michael Strahan

There is no question that Mark Tauscher will have his hands full on Sunday against Strahan but if Tauscher can win his share of battles without too much help from his teammates the Packers’ offense should continue to rack up points.

2) The Giants’ Offensive Line vs. The Packers’ Defensive scheme

The Packers cannot afford to give Kurt Warner the time to diagnose the defense like Peyton Manning did last week. If the Packers blitz they need to hit home.

3) Ahman Green vs. Barrett Green

Ahman knows Barrett’s style of play from his days in Detroit. Last year on Turkey Day Barrett viciously threw a forearm punch during a tackle of Ahman. Ahman needs to set the tone early with his punishing style and not allow himself to get wrapped up with Barrett’s controversial tactics.

The Bottom Line

The Giants are on a roll and should not be intimidated by Lambeau Field considering the recent success of its visitors. If the Packers want to win this game they will need to play solid football for four quarters and make sure they get to Kurt Warner on the blitz.

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