Will Charles Woodson and the Green Bay Packers defense show up Sunday? Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Packers and Giants: Whose defense will make a difference Sunday?


What’s been talked about most this week and will be discussed right up until game time of the Packers and Giants showdown this weekend will be just how the Packers are going to deal with that vaunted defense blowing into Lambeau Field.

Well, we know it’s not the Packers’ defense everyone is talking about, don’t we? No, we’re talking about the Giants defense – that same outfit that held the Atlanta Falcons scoreless in the first round of the playoffs.

The Packers defense, on the other hand, has been an enigma, a unit that fills its roster with All-Pros, but throughout the season looked like … well frankly, I’m not sure how to describe them.

They’ve been gashed week -in and week-out on big play after big play as even marginal quarterbacks such as Kyle Orton (twice), Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, and Josh McCown moved their teams up and down the field, throwing pretty much at will.

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There’s no question that the Packers defense has been a sieve. They finished dead last – yes, dead last – in total yardage allowed in the NFL. Yes, the entire league – they finished in last place among all 32 teams in the NFL.

Unbelievable.

Could this be the same defensive unit that helped the Packers cruise through last year’s playoffs and beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl?

Did the loss of Nick Collins really make that big of a defense? Maybe. But the Packers have had an entire season to right the ship. They haven’t.

Nothing bears that out more than the final game of the season when the Packers gave up 41 points to the Lions. Yes, they won the game because of the superhuman efforts of Matt Flynn, but that doesn’t excuse the defense for allowing the Lions that many points.

Oh, you could point to the fact that the Packers were playing their substitutes in that game and were just trying to get out with a win. But it was just Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson who were in sweats on the sidelines that day.

But yet this team was 15-1 and came within Kyle Orton of finishing unbeaten through 16 games.

Compare that to the New York Giants, who won the NFC East with a 9-7 record – with their vaunted defense.

But is the Giants defense really all that great?

Consider that this was the same team that gave up 49 points to the Saints, 36 to the Seahawks, 28 to the Redskins, 27 to the Cardinals, 24 to the Bills, 27 to the 49ers, and 38 to the Packers.

And despite the fact that everyone’s talking about how great the Giants’ defense is because of their one playoff performance, consider that they gave up 41 more points this past season than the Packers. Yes, you read that right. The Giants gave up 400 points this year to the Packers 359.

And to me, that’s the difference between these two units. The Packers allowed teams to gash them between the 20s, but they did what they had to do when they had to do it. They came up with the big plays on defense when they had to.

They stopped the Saints on fourth down at the one yard line in the opening game, they stopped Cam Newton on fourth down inside the 10 yard line with the game on the line – and those are just two examples of how the defense continuously came up with the big interception, the fumble and the fourth down stop that directly led to wins.

What the Packers were able to do this season, despite all their faults, was to keep teams out of the end zone. They stopped teams from scoring big points while Aaron Rodgers took care of business on the offensive side of the ball.

And that’s exactly why the Packers will find a way to beat the New York Giants this weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I am impressed with the Giants defensive line. I am impressed with their Super Bowl-winning quarterback, I am impressed with their bruising running game that grinds up big chunks of real estate and keeps the clock running.

I was impressed with how they took the Packers to the edge before leaving too much time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers and the offense.

But I’m even more impressed with the Packers opportunistic defense and Aaron Rodgers finally playing behind the starting offensive line for the first time since week two.

That, in addition to the return of Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb, will be the difference in this one.

Expect Eli Manning and the Giants to pick up some first downs; expect them to score some points, but don’t expect them to make more plays than the Packers.

For as bad as the Packers’ defense was this past season, it was still good enough to help the team win 15 games.

Now all they have to do is win three more.

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers Arizona Cardinals Atlanta Falcons Buffalo Bills Cam Newton Charles Woodson Christian Ponder Clay Matthews Eli Manning Green Bay Packers Josh Freeman Josh McCown Kyle Orton Lambeau Field New Orleans Saints New York Giants NFC Divisional Playoff NFC East NFL Nick Collins Pittsburgh Steelers San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl Washington Redskins