New York Giants (11-5 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, January 8 at 4:40PM EST
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NYG +4.5/GB -4.5
Over/Under Total: 44.5
The regular season is dust and we move right into Wildcard weekend. The NFL marketing department has it easy as the word wildcard so perfectly sums up what we so often see during the first round of the playoffs. There are teams that squeaked in and others that are red-hot but they all stand on equal footing at this point and one bad game, a bad quarter or maybe even one bad play is all that stands in between survival and seeing your season come to an abrupt end. The New York Giants head to Green Bay this weekend to take on the Packers at venerable Lambeau Field. The Pack was seemingly invincible at home during the playoffs for decades but that all changed in 2003 when a Michael Vick led Falcons team smashed the Lambeau mystique and it has never been the same since. The Giants have been part of that uneven playoff record by taking down the Packers in the 2007 and 2011 seasons. I know we shouldn’t put a lot of stock in things that took place six and ten years ago but Eli Manning has to feel pretty good going for his third straight playoff win in Green Bay and the Packer fans probably aren’t sleeping sound in anticipation of this one.
Green Bay is probably the hottest team in the NFL right now and they are listed as 4.5 point favorites at the majority of online betting sites. Both teams have been good during recent playoff runs with New York an impressive 9-0 against the spread in their last nine postseason games and Green Bay comes in 4-1 ATS in their last five playoff games. The Packers are also 4-1 ATS in their last five at home overall. The Giants are 4-1 ATS in their last five appearances on Wildcard Weekend but are have just one ATS win in their last eleven when facing a team that has a winning home record like Green Bay has this season. These teams are separated by just a half point according to the Sagarin Computer Ratings which adjusts to Green Bay having about a 3.5 point advantage according to the metrics. The Sagarin offense-defense method predicts a 23.9-19.5 average Green Bay win.
These teams have met this season with Green Bay netting a 23-16 win at home back in week five. Aaron Rodgers threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns and the Packers held off the Giants after going up by a 17-6 halftime score. New York was able to pick off Rodgers twice in the game but Eli was held under 200 passing yards and the Giants offense was ineffective overall. New York’s apparent trump card is that they are good against the better teams in the league. They ran up a 7-4 against the Top-16 teams in the NFL while Green Bay managed just a 3-3 mark against the same caliber of opponent. The Giants solved the puzzle to beat Dallas twice so maybe there is some hope for another run to the SuperBowl.
Injuries will play a big part in this game as both teams are dealing with key losses. New York will most likely be without Jason Pierre-Paul on the defensive line and could be short in the secondary with Janoris Jenkins and Coty Sensabaugh listed as questionable. The recent hot play of Rodgers and the passing game makes those CB injuries loom large but Green Bay is also limited at cornerback. Damarious Randall and Makinton Dorleant are both questionable with Quinton Rollins likely out. That is potentially another three bodies down for a secondary that is already without Sam Shields and Demetri Goodson. New York brings the 17th rated passing game into this weekend but attacking the injured Packer pass defense should see them have a good day through the air. Randall Cobb and James Starks are questionable on the offensive side for Green Bay although those injuries have been quite easily covered up by the Packers in recent weeks.
The brass tacks matchup here is the New York pass defense against the sprinting Green Bay pass offense. During their six game win streak, the Packers are averaging 30.8 points per game and the volume pass approach has been the preferred method to move the ball throughout. The Giants lead the league in rush yards allowed at just 3.5 per carry but fall to 23rd in pass defense. New York is allowing a second best, 17.8 points per game overall but not many of those games have come against a passing defense as good as the one they are about to see. The Giants could be in serious trouble if they fall behind too far as they are bottom third in the league at just 19.4 points per game.
Green Bay has also gotten better play from their once ailing defense. During their four game slide, the Packers were allowing an alarming 38 points per game but have managed to limit that number to 18.6 since. The Giant running game is underperforming at just 88 yards per game so I wouldn’t expect a lot of ground success against Green Bay’s 8th ranked rush defense. Neither Rashad Jennings nor Paul Perkins is north of four yards per carry so this one is all up to Eli. Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard have combined to catch 18 of Manning’s 26 touchdown passes so there is the possibility that New York can move and score through the air but will it be enough to match what Rodgers is going to do with Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. That duo has combined for 26 touchdown grabs. Geronimo Allison has come on in Cobb’s spot and leads the team at 16.8 yards per reception. The Packers have the edge in the playmaker department overall, even if Beckham is probably the most dangerous individual big play threat.
I think Green Bay is just too hot to bet against. Their defense scares me a bit but I will pretty easily ignore that given how well Rodgers has played in the back half of the season. Since throwing those two picks against New York, A-Rod has thrown just four since and he appears well over the strained calf and hammy that had him hobbling a couple of weeks ago. Could this be a three point Packer win? Sure, playoff games tend to pretty close contests and New York is not a fluke at 11-5. The Giants might even find a way to pull another magic trick in Lambeau but I think the most likely scenario is a 7-to-10 point Green Bay win. Even if this turns into a shootout, you have to give Green Bay the edge in ability to score points. They might not lock it up until the fourth but put your money on Green Bay to get a win in the 28-20 range.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay
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