New York Giants (12-6) +7, 42.5 O/U at Green Bay Packers (14-3) -7, 42.5 O/U, Lambeau Field, 5:30 PM Eastern, Sunday
by Badger of Predictem.com
The New York Giants look to continue their miraculous run on the road this season when they travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game this Sunday.
The Giants won their ninth straight game on the road this past weekend when they upset the Dallas Cowboys in their divisional playoff game, 21-17. The Giants will have to win one more on the road this week, but with the defense playing at their best and momentum firmly on their side the G-men just may be up to the task.
The Packers looked like they were going to give the game away to Seattle in their divisional playoff game last weekend, but behind quarterback Brett Favre they rallied to their biggest playoff victory ever with a final score of 42-20. Now with the home field advantage, both the fans and the weather, Favre and the Packers are just one game away from a return to the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade.
Las Vegas oddsmakers opened the game with the Packers as a 7-point favorite, with a 42.5 total.
Favre played nearly flawless in the Packers win last week, throwing for only 173 yards, but he did hit for three touchdowns without any forced throws or interceptions. Running back Ryan Grant was a big factor, both good and bad, as his two early fumbles spotted the Seahawks their 14 points before he responded with a Packer playoff record 201 yards rushing and three scores of his own.
With Favre, Grant and the bevy of solid receivers hitting on all cylinders its hard to see the Packers offense being stopped by the Giants in the NFC title game, even though the G-men defensive unit is playing at its peak right now. Expect the Packers to attack a banged up Giants secondary with their 4- and 5-receiver sets in the game this weekend, then smash them with Grant to wear them down in the second half.
For the third game in a row Giants quarterback Eli Manning played with poise and determination, throwing for 163 yards and two scores versus Dallas. Brandon Jacobs (54 yards, TD) and Ahmad Bradshaw (34 yards) provided just enough of a running game to give the Giants just enough balance on offense to get past the Cowboys and set up a date in the next round.
In order for the G-men to get past the Packers they will need more of the same production on offense. Manning will have to continue his solid play, and receivers Plaxico Burress and Steve Smith will have to win a few of the one-on-one battles on the outside to keep the Packers defense from stacking the line of scrimmage.
The Packers defense played a solid game versus the Seahawks too, limiting them to just 200 total yards and causing one turnover and two sacks. Green Bays defense matches up well versus the Giants offense this week too, as the front seven along with strong safety Atari Bigby will be given the task of stopping the Giants running game, while corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris will play bump-n- run with the receivers on the edge.
By far the biggest spark to the Giants run in the playoffs has been the play of their defense. The defensive line pressured Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo all game long (only two sacks, but multiple pressures and knockdowns), and the secondary played beyond their years in the passing game. The statistics from the Cowboy game (allowed 154 yards rushing, 182 yards passing) dont tell a complete story, as the G-men never let up and kept the team in the game until the offense was able to respond.
If there is one area for the Giants to worry about in the upcoming Packer game, its the banged-up secondary. With corners Sam Madison and Aaron Ross both listed early this week as doubtful, the Giants might have a hard time matching up versus the Packers 5-receiver sets.
Just like in the other conference championship game, these two teams also played in week two of the regular season. The Packers won the game, 35-13 in the Meadowlands, but that was a different Giants team early in the season. The Packers covered in the game as a 1-point underdog, and the game easily went over the 40-point total.
Green Bay continues to be a strong bet this season (13-3-1 ATS), as they covered the number in the Seattle game (-9) and have covered in four of their last five and in eight of the nine home games this season. The Packers also continue to go over the total with regularity, now ending over the total in 13 of their 17 games this season.
The Giants have also been a covering machine of late, winning for bettors in the Dallas game as 7-point dogs and in six of their last seven games this season. The G-men have covered in eight of their 10 road games (including both playoff wins), and the defense has allowed the under to also cash in in eight of their 10 road games as well (including playoffs).
There hasnt been much movement in the lines so far, as most sportsbooks continue to list the Packers as 7-point faves and the total at 42. You can find a few offshore sportsbooks with the total at 41.5, as oddsmakers are looking at the Sunday weather forecast of temperatures in the low teens as a possible Ice Bowl II.
Badgers Pick: After watching these two teams in their respective divisional round games, its clear to me that the Packers are a better team right now. The Packers are playing at home, are virtually 100 percent healthy, and Favre is having a storybook season. While the Giants are banged up in the one spot where they really need to be 100 percent, the secondary. My gut also says that a third week in a row on the road is going to catch up to the Giants sooner than later. Sorry New York, the magically run ends at Lambeau. The Pack will pull away late and cover the touchdown spread, so take the Packers minus the points in this one.