Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants: Essential matchups

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Eddie Lacy versus Giants Front Seven

The Alabama Slammer seems to be rounding into form fresh off his 17-carry, 103-yard effort that saw him run through, around and over defenders on plays that had him running straight in between the tackles and into the teeth of the defensive line.

Mike McCarthy changed the way he divvied up the rushing attempts by allowing Lacy to tote the rock on 89.5-percent of the team’s designed running plays and the fourth-year veteran was up to the task demonstrating remarkable stamina particularly in the fourth quarter with Green Bay bleeding the clock.

This week’s adversary is currently ranked ninth versus the run by limiting opponents to 3.2 yards per carry. The addition of last year’s top run-stuffing defensive lineman Damon “Snacks” Harrison, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), has made a world of difference in tightening up the gaps.

The Giants’ new and improved defensive line held Ezekial Elliott, Mark Ingram and Matt Jones to 51, 30 and 65 yards rushing respectively in the first three weeks, but showed some warts in trying to build a gauntlet against Minnesota’s running-back tandem of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins, in particular, was overpowered (at times) by the Vikings’ interior offensive line (see Asiata’s one-yard touchdown plunge) along with the entire New York front seven that struggled with the patience and home-run speed of McKinnon, who gained 95 total yards and ran in a four-yard fourth-quarter score to put the game out of reach.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was a no-show for much of the game and some Giants’ supporters seem to think that Spagnuolo’s wearing his defensive ends down. Both JPP and Olivier Vernon, in fact, were on the field for 70 and 74 snaps a piece. Both players rank among the top five defensive ends in snaps played through the entire season in progress.

Similarly the linebacker corps couldn’t support the first level of defense with Jonathan Casillas missing multiple tackles.

A quick pace on the part of the Packers’ offense can tire out the G-Men, prevent substitutions and allow Lacy to pound his massive frame into the opposing line until it breaks.

Mixing up inside running plays by Lacy with perimeter pitches and end-arounds by Randall Cobb, James Starks and even Ty Montgomery should be enough to keep New York’s reeling unit on its toes as long as Rodgers takes his cue from Sam Bradford and spreads the ball around evenly in the passing game as well.

The fact that nine different Vikings caught the ball Monday night may provide a road map for the Green and Gold to similarly spread the ball around since the Giants currently don’t have a sufficient amount of capable back-seven defenders to cover every area of the field.