It's a big sports weekend as two of the local teams face their toughest matchups of the season. The Giants play in Green Bay in Round Two of the NFL playoffs, while the Knicks visit Oklahoma City. Does either team have a chance on the road against the best team in their respective sports?
Giants at Packers (-7.5): Sunday 4:30 p.m.
A month ago this wouldn't even be a debate. The Giants were in the midst of another collapse and the Packers were on their way to an undefeated season. But the Giants are a different team than they were four weeks ago. Their defense has gone from one of the league's worst to the league's best. Through the first 15 weeks, New York allowed 25 points per game. They've cut that down to 10 per game in the last three weeks while facing all quality opponents. The biggest reason for New York's success has been the stellar play of the defensive line. The Giants are averaging almost two more sacks per game in their current hot streak. That will be the key, if they want to beat Green Bay.
The Packers have the best player in the NFL in quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Get into a shootout with them and you will lose. The Giants know this firsthand, falling to Packers 38-35 in Week 13.
The way to beat the Packers is by putting pressure on Rodgers. Green Bay's only loss came against the Chiefs, who sacked Rodgers four times and held the Packers to just 14 points. The Packers may be the best team in the playoffs, but they're not unbeatable. And of any team left, the Giants may be best suited to pulling of an upset. If the Giants defensive line plays like it has recently, they'll win this game. Who am I to say Sunday will be any different? Do yourself a favor. Take the 7.5 points. Giants 27, Packers 24.
Knicks at Thunder: Saturday 8:00 p.m.
The Knicks limp into Oklahoma City with a 6-5 record on the young season. New York had beaten up on the weak part of their schedule, before falling in Memphis last night in an 11-point loss that was not nearly as close as the score might indicate. The Knicks have been winning despite an anemic offense. It will be tough for them to win another defensive struggle against the Thunder this weekend.
Oklahoma City's lowest scoring output this season is 95 points. The Knicks have failed to reach that number in more than half their games this year. Expect OKC to have an easy time getting buckets against a Knick team that has struggled mightily against quality point guards. Boston's Rajon Rondo poured in 31 against the Knicks, while John Wall scored 22. Russell Westbrook will look to have a big game as well.
To make matters worse, Carmelo Anthony missed the second half of last night's contest with a sprained wrist and a sprained ankle. If the Knicks' offense is already one of the worst in the league with Melo, I'm afraid to find out how bad it will be without their leading scorer. Anthony is listed as day-to-day, but either way I don't like the Knicks' chances against the team with the best record in the NBA. Skip the NBA Saturday and stick with the NFL Playoffs. Thunder 102, Knicks 85.
Anthony Riccobono graduated from Syracuse University, lives in Staten Island, is a former local sports talk-show host at ESPN and WAER in Syracuse, die-hard Yankees, Giants, and Knicks fan. Follow him on twitter: @tony_riccobono