New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
This game immediately strikes me as a trap.
Green Bay will be coming off a bye week, with this being the first of three consecutive home games (technically 4, including the Lions game before the bye). The Giants are a team that has underwhelmed in recent seasons, and their defense has struggled mightily in that time.
There is plenty to worry about, however.
These Giants have done a ton to improve that defense, spending lavishly to pick up guys like Olivier Vernon (64 pressures — 9 sacks, 26 hits, 29 stops — during final 8 games of 2015, per PFF), Damon Harrison (#2 in run defense grade for defensive interior linemen, per PFF), and Janoris Jenkins. If things work as they hope, these players will come together with guys such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Johnathan Hankins, and Jason Pierre-Paul to simultaneously improve both the pass rushing and coverage capabilities of this unit.
This team also has plenty of offensive firepower. We should all know just how dangerous Odell Beckham Jr. is, but there is plenty of buzz about their rookie Sterling Shepard being a possible star as well. The offensive line should continue to improve, health permitting.
The running game has multiple useful options. Eli Manning can make some boneheaded throws, but he’s as unflappable as they come and has shown us all too often that he can beat even the best defenses, especially with playmaking receivers by his side.
And of course, their new head coach is Ben McAdoo, a longtime Packers coach who runs the same offensive system as Green Bay (multiple players they drafted — Jerell Adams & Paul Perkins — were guys I liked for the Packers back in the draft due to system fit and skill set, and they picked them) and should still have a decent idea of how this team will attack his defense.
On the positive side, just because they spent a ton of money doesn’t mean it’ll work; we’ve seen innumerable free agency failures before, and it wouldn’t be surprising if at least one of their big-money signings isn’t up to par.
Even if they are, they can be exploitable regardless; Harrison is a space-eater, but rarely saw time on passing downs for the Jets, and Jenkins has shown a propensity to be aggressive and can get beat pretty often with the kind of slick double-moves players like Nelson run with aplomb.
Even more ripe for attack is the middle of their defense. New York spent a ton on defense, yet they still decided to do little to improve their linebacking corps; with underwhelming talents in the middle of the field, Rodgers can eat them alive on quick throws underneath to his slots guys like Randall Cobb and Jared Abbrederis, or hit his TEs over the middle and up the seam.
This game will scare me until it actually happens, but I do think the team will exploit the Giants defense’s weaknesses often and put up enough points to outlast any theatrics put on by Beckham and Shepard.
Green Bay 36
New York 24
Green Bay Record: 3-1
Next: Packers vs. Cowboys