The New York Giants (9-7) travel to Lambeau Field to meet the Green Bay Packers (15-1) in a National Football Conference divisional playoff game on Sunday as two very good passing attacks face two weak pass defenses.
Both Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New York's Eli Manning have their eyes on the prize -- a return visit to the Super Bowl -- and this weekend's game might feature an aerial shootout by the two quarterbacks.
Manning is coming off a game against the Atlanta Falcons where he completed 23 of 32 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns last week. The Packers' defense is ranked last in the NFL in opposing passing yards average (299.8 yards). The loss of safety Nick Collins to injury may have proven to be more painful of a blow to the secondary than initially thought.
Although Victor Cruz is still Manning's favorite target, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is coming off one of his best games of the season. Nicks caught six passes for two touchdowns and 115 yards against Atlanta.
The Giants running game ranks last in average yards per game (89.2), but it came alive against the Falcons. New York rushed for 172 yards, led by Brandon Jacobs, who gained 92 yards on 14 carries.
New York may need to have its offense clicking for the entire game to keep up with Green Bay. When the two teams met at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 4, there were plenty of completions, and the Packers prevailed, 38-35. The Giants conceded more penalty yards, and Packers' linebacker Clay Matthews's second-quarter interception, which he returned for a touchdown, proved to be the key play of the game.
Green Bay's offense is a major concern for New York, which may need to hope for a mistake from Rodgers -- even though he rarely makes them.
Rodgers is the front-runner for Most Valuable Player recognition this year for good reason. In his fourth season as a full-time starter, Rodgers threw 45 touchdown passes with only six interceptions in 15 games. His 122.5 passer rating was well ahead of of that of second-place finisher Drew Brees (110.6).
With Pro Bowl fullback John Kuhn helping him by blocking blitzing linebackers, Rodgers has been brilliant at picking out receivers, particularly Greg Jennings. The Pro Bowl wide receiver gained 949 yards in 13 games this season, with nine touchdown catches. However, Jordy Nelson led the team with 1,263 yards, and 15 touchdown receptions, and he came on strong in his last two games of the season.
While the Packers' passing game has functioned smoothly, their running game has been inconsistent. Green Bay split their attack between James Starks and Ryan Grant, who each finished with more than 550 rushing yards during the regular season.
The Packers may need to put forth a better effort on the ground this weekend after the rather poor showing against the Giants back in December. Green Bay managed only 89 yards in what turned out to be a very close game.
LINE: Packers are favored by nine points.
OVER/UNDER: 53 points.
PREDICTION: This game has all the makings of a touchdown passing-fest. Manning can be devastating when he has time to throw, and Green Bay's pass rush was one of the worst in the NFL. Manning will need to manage the clock well and not turn the ball over to hold off the Packers. When the home team has the ball, expect Rodgers to throw to multiple receivers instead of sticking with just Jennings and Nelson. Green Bay has the most efficient offense in the NFL, and that's why it should edge the Giants. The Packers haven't come this far to lose at home against a somewhat suspect defense.
PREDICTED SCORE: Green Bay over New York, 42-34.