The Green Bay Packers are riding a five-game win streak into New York where they will take on the Giants Sunday night. But you know what? Though the Packers sit at 7-3, it feels to me like this team could very easily be sitting at 3-7.
Maybe I’m spoiled, having seen this team run through its schedule last year like a hot knife through butter. Maybe I’m spoiled having watched Aaron Rodgers toss perfectly placed back shoulder throws; watching receivers make catches in traffic that were beyond belief.
Last year was clearly unbelievable.
Then this year comes along. The Packers lose their opener with a lackluster performance after so much buildup and anticipation; they dispatch the Bears and then fall apart at Indianapolis, giving up an 18-point lead to fall below .500. Somebody then turns on a switch in Texas and it seems the Pack is Back.
But are they really? Ok, so they’ve beaten the Jags, the Cardinals and the Lions most recently, but could we really consider them the cream of the crop, the elite of the league?
Now comes the most interesting portion of the team’s schedule, with the bulk of their games over the next six weeks against NFC North Division foes. It’s time to put up or shut up.
But back to the Giants. Here is a game that may come down to whichever team has final possession of the football. My guess is it will be close, it will be hard fought, it will be heart-wrenching.
So, with that in mind we take a look at a few things that could turn the game for various reasons. I’ve broken it down here:
Three reasons the Packers will win …
• Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb. This combination has been heating up of late and should no doubt continue to blossom. With the loss of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, Rodgers turned to Cobb and the connection has brought some memorable moments for the Packers over the past five weeks.
• Casey Hayward and Davon House. The two young cornerbacks are not only living up to their expectations, they are exceeding them. They are aggressive, they intimidate and they make plays.
They are just the types of players who the team needs on the defensive side of the ball at this point in the season. They have been a godsend given the loss of Woodson and Matthews and have proven they are more than just adequate fill-ins. They are potential stars.
• Tim Masthay. The consistent punter has thrown a touchdown pass, missed on one and continuously uses his foot to tilt the field in favor of the Packers. His value to the team has flown well under the radar, but it’s clear that his is one of the most impactful players on this year’s team
Three reasons why the Packers will lose …
• Receiver drops. Like the Playoff game where the Packers receivers seemed to have greased their hands with Crisco, this unit, as good as they are, still have plenty of drops this season. Put together another handful of those against the Giants and it could add up to a loss. The Packers need to take care of the ball in this one in order to have a chance.
• Offensive line. Protection of quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be key in this game. We all know the Giants’ defensive line is made up of studs. Keeping them off Rodgers’ back is important, as is opening holes for the Packers run game. The makeshift offensive line will have its plate full come Sunday. How the line performs will be an indication of how the Packers will fare in this one.
• Mason Crosby. We all know what this is about. The veteran kicker must make his kicks.
Yes, the 50-plus-yarders might be excused, but Crosby has got to start nailing the 40-yarders on a consistent basis.
If he misses another couple in this one and it could be the difference. He simply can’t miss or he may find himself watching not from the Packers sidelines, but from his family room. Make ‘em, Mason.