If you like storylines, this is a game for you. Does Eli Manning have a "tired" arm? How big is the "revenge" factor? Can the Giants rebound off the bye? Will the Packers overcome their injuries? Let's dig in.
The change in this line is small, but it's significant. The look ahead line was Giants -2.5 and that's where it re-opened this week, but we've seen a slight move in favor of New York. Right now it's -2.75 so you can still get under the key number of 3 if you like the home team, or you can grab +3 if you prefer the Packers. I'm going with the latter because I think this line is all wrong. I realize Green Bay is banged up and the Giants are coming off a bye, but this line should be closer to "pick em" (odds from SBRforum). I'll take Aaron Rodgers as an underdog almost every time.
What's Up With This Point Spread?
Someone smarter than me is going to need to explain this number to me. As mentioned in another write-up, it's clear that home teams benefit greatly coming off a bye, but enough to make the Giants near field goal favorites against the Green Bay Packers?
I don't think so.
After a strong start to the year, Eli Manning has regressed. At one point he was 1-2 with his brother atop the QB efficiency ratings, but now he's fallen all the way down to 12th. That's quite a dropoff in a short amount of time. In his last performance, he had the worst week of any QB in the league. In the 2nd half alone, he had just as many turnovers as first downs (three).
So what can we expect coming out of the bye? I'm not going to dwell on whether is "tired" or not because I'll leave that to the talking hair-dos on ESPN. What I'm more interested in is if he can match the guy on the other side of the field - Aaron Rodgers. Eli is throwing just over an interception per game, while Rodgers is among the league leaders at 0.6.
The good news for Eli is the fact that Woodson is already out, and it's possible Matthews misses another game with a hamstring injury. B.J. Raji is also hobbled, but it's not believed to be as serious as first thought. These are serious injuries that do impact the game plan, but Hayward, House, McMillian, Jennings, Moses, and Zombo have stepped up and played well in Dom Capers scheme. Often times we look at a flashy name and just assume a team will be severely hampered, but if their replacements can come in and be serviceable, the impact isn't as severe.
To date, the only area that the Packers D really has trouble in consistently is in the red zone. Normally this would be a red flag for me, but the Giants rank just as bad with their red zone offense - and trending downward. A lot of credit has to be given to Dom Capers for turning around what most thought was a flat-out liability. Green Bay's win streak is in large part, thanks to their turnaround on D.
I have little doubt that the Giants D is going to come out fired up, confident, and ready for this challenge - especially coming off a bye.
The problem is - can they do anything about it?
Their best chance will once again be in the trenches. The Packers O-line hasn't done a good job protecting Rodgers this year and I don't care how many Super Bowls or MVPs you have, without a clean pocket the QB is going to struggle. The caveat is the Giants D-line has only been average sacking the QB this season.
Offensively, the Packers have put up very impressive numbers this season despite playing the 7th toughest defensive schedule. Rodgers is 4th at QB and they rank in the top 10 in passing, drive success, third down, and red zone. This gives them an edge right across the board against an underachieving (and inconsistent) Giants D. Even without Jennings, I like what they have in Nelson, Jones, Cobb, and Finley.
This should be a hard fought affair and the national media is going to eat up all the storylines dating back to last year. I expect the Giants to be better than they were leading up to the bye and Rodgers will be under fire at times, but when push comes to shove I have much more faith in the Packers offense in this spot. Unless Eli suddenly morphs into his early season form, there is a big edge at QB. Why this game was not released as a "pick em" I don't understand, but I'm happy to take the extra points and ride the better team.
NFL Pick: GB +3.