Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Tom and Mike perform the ritual "complimenting of the Loser League team names," pile on Marty Mornhinweg, and actually find a scenario where starting Geno Smith is a good idea.

18 Jan 2008

2008 NFC Championship Preview

By Aaron Schatz

During the game, please join the discussion in the NFC Championship Game Discussion Thread.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link.

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL

Giants on Offense
  NYG OFF GB DEF
DVOA -2.5% (19) -1.3% (15)
WEI DVOA -3.2% (19) -2.4% (15)
PASS -10.4% (24) 6.0% (18)
RUSH 5.6% (7) -9.7% (6)
RED ZONE 3.0% (16) -16.4% (7)

If you haven't been reading Football Outsiders this week, you are probably a little shocked to see that the Giants' weighted DVOA stats aren't any better than their regular DVOA stats. Wait -- haven't the Giants been on a tear recently? Yes, they have, but only for three weeks. Before that, the Giants were going through their usual second-half slide. The defense was fine, but the offense went in the tank. New York's offensive DVOA from Week 1-9 was 7.3%, 11th in the league. From Week 10-17, it was -11.6%, 23rd in the league, and that INCLUDES the great game against the Patriots in Week 17.

The comparison I've made over and over is between the 2007 Giants and the 2003 Carolina Panthers. Like the Giants, the 2003 Panthers were a mediocre team during the regular season that suddenly turned into an offensive juggernaut in the playoffs. You can read more about this comparison here.

If the Giants want to upset the Packers, they need to take whatever they've been doing better over the past three weeks and keep doing it. And what they've been doing better over the past three weeks is really, really obvious:


  DVOA
Wk 1-16
DVOA
Wk 17-19
Pass offense -14.7% 73.1%
Run offense 5.6% 5.8%
Pass defense -1.1% 7.9%
Run defense -6.9% -8.4%

Could it possibly be as simple as "Eli Manning has matured?" Yes, actually, it might be that simple. The Giants have been no better on the ground, or against the run. The pass defense has been slightly worse, which makes sense given the injury situation in the secondary. The difference is the passing game, by leaps and bounds.

When we compare Weeks 17-19 to Weeks 1-16, the Giants' passing DVOA is better on first down, second down, and third down. It is better in the red zone and in all four of the other 20-yard zones of the field. It is better in all four quarters. It is better under center, and better in shotgun. It is better when throwing to wide receivers, tight ends, or running backs. It is better on passes short or deep, and on passes to the left, middle, or right. In almost every single one of these splits, the Giants are now gaining more yards per pass, and they aren't turning the ball over. (The exception is first down, where the Giants are averaging slightly fewer yards per pass, but have a higher DVOA because there aren't any interceptions.)

The Giants passing game has only declined in one way over the past three weeks: Manning is taking more sacks. Adjusted Sack Rate has gone from 5.0 percent to 6.0 percent. Can the Packers take advantage of that? Their pass rush, so strong in 2006, was actually somewhat pedestrian in 2007. Part of the issue is that the Packers do not blitz very often. According to our game charting numbers, only three defenses were less likely to send more than four pass rushers. They might want to try blitzing a little more in this game. During the regular season, there's no doubt Eli Manning struggled more when the defense big-blitzed, averaging a yard per play less than he did otherwise. Big-blitzing Manning was an important part of Minnesota's game plan when they whipped the Giants 41-17 in Week 12, and Washington also used it to beat the Giants in Week 15. (Unfortunately, we can't look at how Manning has done against the blitz for the last three weeks, since we don't have that charting data complete yet.)

Manning has been succeeding by taking what the other team gives him instead of trying to force the ball to certain receivers. He will probably need to do that against the Packers as well. The Packers play primarily man coverage. Al Harris made the Pro Bowl, although his stats in our game charting were way down this year. Charles Woodson's game charting stats were very strong. The Packers ranked 31st in DVOA against "other receivers," so things are set up for Steve Smith to have a big game if Manning is willing to find him.

In earlier previews, I had noted that A.J. Hawk comes out as the best linebacker in pass coverage this year. Make that "one of the best," since with additional data he's fallen behind Lofa Tatupu. Still, Hawk could be a deterrent against passes to Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs. However, Packers opponents did like to throw to the tight end, so we may see a lot of Kevin Boss. 23 percent of passes against Green Bay were to tight ends. Only the Colts and Jets saw more tight end passes from their opponents.

The Giants should also be the beneficiaries of some free yardage courtesy of the flag-happy Packers defense. The Packers' secondary is especially foul-prone -- they led the league in defensive pass interference and illegal contact penalties with 13 each. Green Bay handed the other offense 34 free yards each game because of penalties, more than twice the NFL average and nine more yards per game than the next-highest defense, Arizona.

New York loves to run, and they'll have some success on the ground, but the Packers had pretty good run defense this year. They had some strange Adjusted Line Yards trends, scoring very well against runs up the middle or right end, but very badly against runs left end, left tackle, or right tackle. Also, don't be surprised if the Giants can't stuff it in to the end zone with Jacobs once they get down near the goal line. The Packers ranked third in defensive DVOA against the run in the red zone.

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Packers on Offense
  GB OFF NYG DEF
DVOA 17.3% (5) -2.9% (14)
WEI DVOA 22.4% (3) -2.8% (14)
PASS 26.1% (5) 1.5% (15)
RUSH 3.3% (9) -8.4% (10)
RED ZONE 18.5% (7) 23.5% (27)

The Giants' defense is based around their pass rush, but they'll have a harder time than usual harassing Brett Favre. The Giants led all defenses in Adjusted Sack Rate, but the Packers led all offenses with the lowest Adjusted Sack Rate.

That strong defensive line also is good at stopping the run. The Giants were third in Adjusted Line Yards. However, you'll also notice they ranked 23rd in "10+ Yards," which means they gave up a good number of long, highlight-reel runs. That's where Ryan Grant comes in. The Packers offense ranked third in "10+ Yards," almost entirely due to Grant. The Packers' average yards per carry by running backs improved from 3.57 in Weeks 1-6 to 4.90 after Week 7, when Grant became a factor. Adjusted Line Yards, however, only improved from 3.58 to 4.12.

Green Bay is very good if the offense can get into a second-and-short situation, third in the league in DVOA. The Giants defense is 27th in these situations. One interesting note is that the average NFL team runs about 60 percent of the time in second-and-short, but the Packers ran only 40 percent of the time.

Somewhat connected to the success on second-and-short is Green Bay's success using play-action. The Packers averaged 9.6 yards per pass with play-action, fourth in the NFL. (The Giants defense was average against play-action.)

The Packers led the league in yards after catch, and those yards were not coming on short passes to tight ends and running backs. If we look only at wide receivers, the Packers lead the league with an average of 5.6 YAC. Tampa Bay (5.3) was the only other offense where wide receivers averaged more than 4.8 YAC. The Giants allowed an average 3.7 YAC on passes to wide receivers, but a lot of extra yards on passes to tight ends and running backs. The Giants ranked 31st in DVOA on passes to tight ends, 28th on passes to running backs. If the Packers want to take advantage of this, they'll need to use more Donald Lee. Lee was by far the better receiver of Green Bay's two tight ends (23.9% DVOA and 76% catch rate, compared to Bubba Franks with -18.1% DVOA and 56% catch rate) but he's seen less action over the last few weeks, because they've kept Franks in for his superior run-blocking. Grant did not have particularly good numbers as a receiver, and that doesn't even count his game-opening fumble against Seattle.

As for the wide receivers, whether or not they can run for all those extra yards may be determined by which Giants cornerbacks are healthy and which ones are not. It looks like Sam Madison and Aaron Ross will play, while Kevin Dockery will not. Now check out the game charting stats for all five cornerbacks (through Week 15) including average YAC allowed:


  Charted
Passes
Suc
Rate
Yd/Pass PYD
in Air
YAC
Sam Madison 90 53% 7.8 14.4 4.2
Kevin Dockery 47 55% 6.4 13.4 1.3
Aaron Ross 36 50% 7.2 11.3 1.9
R.W. McQuarters 18 56% 8.7 8.1 4.9
Corey Webster 14 64% 9.3 15.5 4.8

I have no idea whether this is an issue of talent or scheme, but it seems pretty clear that the aging Madison was giving up a lot more yards after catch than Dockery or Ross during the regular season. (You can't judge much from that sample size for McQuarters or Webster. Both have been playing well in the postseason, but then again, Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn weren't exactly the healthiest guys the last couple weeks.)

All those YAC come from an offense filled with Bill Walsh-influenced quick slants, and the Packers throw more passes in the middle of the field than any other offense. 30 percent of their passes were tagged as "short middle" in the play-by-play (15 yards through the air or less). The Giants had the worst DVOA in the league against passes tagged "short middle." Using the same formula I use for "DVOA against types of receivers," the average team had a DVOA of 8.1% against short middle passes. The Giants had a DVOA of 50.3%.

As noted at the start of this preview, the Giants defense hasn't improved in the past three weeks the way the offense has. The Giants' biggest defensive weaknesses continue to be a problem. For example, the Giants had a poor defense in the red zone this year: 23rd against the pass, 30th against the run. New England, Tampa Bay, and Dallas got past the Giants' 18-yard line eight times. Seven of those drives ended in touchdowns. The only one that didn't was the first Dallas drive of the third quarter last weekend, which ended in a field goal.

Another trend that has not changed: the Giants defense doesn't start the game well. During the regular season, the Giants ranked 29th in defensive DVOA in the first quarter. They gave up a touchdown drive in the first quarter each of the last three games, although the actual touchdowns were the first plays of the second quarter against both New England and Dallas.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special Teams
  NYG GB
DVOA -1.0% (20) 2.4% (8)
NYG kickoff -6.0 (26) -1.6 (20)
GB kickoff 3.5 (10) 7.1 (4)
NYG punts 3.7 (8) 12.6 (2)
GB punts -4.1 (22) -4.9 (22)
FG/XP -2.9 (24) 1.1 (16)

The Packers were slightly above average on special teams, the Giants slightly below. However, each team's strengths match up, as do their weaknesses. The Packers were strong on kickoffs and punt returns, weak on punts and kick returns. The Giants were strong on kickoff returns and punts, weak on punt returns and kickoffs.

WEATHER

It's gonna be cold. We've heard people this week say that Manning doesn't like to play in cold weather, but there really isn't anything in his past stats to indicate a problem, and besides -- even if there was something in his past stats, the 2008 postseason has already defied everything else we know about Eli Manning, so why not that too?

OUTLOOK

When the Giants beat the Bucs, it made sense to some people, because there were questions about whether Tampa Bay rested its starters too much down the stretch. When the Giants beat the Cowboys, it wasn't the biggest shock, because we knew the Cowboys had been fading for a month. However, if the Giants want to get their third upset, they need to beat a team that is peaking in the playoffs, just like they are. The Packers had the best game out of all eight teams in the divisional round. Except for that wacko loss to Chicago in Week 16, they've been strong throughout the second half of the year. Even if the Giants continue their strong play -- just like the 2003 Carolina Panthers did -- that makes this an even matchup, not one where the Giants should be favored. God forbid if the Giants' passing game goes back to what it was during the regular season, because if that's the case, the superior Green Bay offensive attack is going to blow the Giants out of the water.

STATS EXPLAINED

DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.

Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) Red zone DVOA is also listed. WEI DVOA is WEIGHTED DVOA, which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here). All numbers are regular season only except for WEIGHTED DVOA, unless noted.

SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense.

Each team also gets a chart showing their performance this year, game-by-game, according to total DVOA. In addition to a line showing each game, another line shows the team's trend for the season, using a third-power polynomial trendline. That's fancy talk for "the curve shifts direction once or twice." Note that even though the chart appears in the section for when each team has the ball, it represents total performance, not just offense.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 18 Jan 2008

45 comments, Last at 21 Jan 2008, 11:44am by Gerry

Comments

1
by Richard (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:39pm

As another poster noted earlier in the week, the Steve Smith-factor rally undercuts this comparison:

The comparison I’ve made over and over is between the 2007 Giants and the 2003 Carolina Panthers. Like the Giants, the 2003 Panthers were a mediocre team during the regular season that suddenly turned into an offensive juggernaut in the playoffs.

Not noted here is the veteran running back-quick running back part of the comparison that Aaron used in the article on this site and in the Simmons Podcast.

Nobody on the Giants comes close to having Smith's value.

2
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:24pm

I have a hard time seeing this game being even mildly competitive. When they played in Week 2 the Giants had no pass rush and GB ran crossing pattern after crossing pattern and exploited NYG's coverage in the short middle. t one point in the game Favre completed something like 15 or 16 passes in a row. I don't see how the Giants have a chance of disrupting GB's passing game since the ball will be thrown before thei D Line has taken more than a handful of steps.

3
by Dave (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:42pm

Have there been any other recorded instances of QBs sucking for 4 years straight then all of a sudden playing at a Pro-bowl level, in mid-season?

4
by FavreFan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:43pm

Steve Smith will be critical if the Giants are going to win. He is a California born kid that went to USC - is he going to be ready for the sub-zero game temperature?

5
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:48pm

So much of the discussion everywhere is the Giants defense, especially the line, VS Green Bay's offense. I'm not certain the game will be decided so much on that front as it will be when the Giants have the ball.

In order for New York to win this game they are going to have to score some points. They will have to beat Green Bays defense by not turning it over and scoring enough points to pressure the Packers into keeping up and playing mistake free on the offensive side.

The Giants have indeed been playing a nice offense lately but the Packers are picking it up again on defense as of late. Jenkins is healthy finally, KGB is better and Williams has decided to play again since the games are meaningful and he will get notice as a FA having monster playoff games.

I expect Green Bay to be allowed to play physical defense as the ref's (in almost every contact sport) usually allow more physical play in the Playoffs. This is of course a huge advantage to the Packers.

My prediction is the Packers defensive line will be the difference in this game and will force Eli into some bad passes which will result in turnovers. If the Packers don't generate pressure and allow Eli to continue to play at a high level then the Giants will be right there at the end and have a chance.

The Packers have won so many different ways this year I think they're ready for any early results. Minus that bizarro Bears game where the wins were flying around and nothing went right at all (5 bad punts for crying out loud!) this Packers team is playing the best football in the NFL.

6
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:51pm

3: Well, Jake Delhomme did it. He didn't suck so much as not play for the first couple years, though.

7
by vis (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:14pm

5. Favre.

Okay, okay, he only sucked the last 2 years.

Now if you want to know about other qbs who had bad rookie years, greatly improved in year 2, plateaued/regressed in year 3-4, and improved in year 5, pick up PFP07. I believe there's a nice article about that. Seems to me, Eli's following the prescribed QB career path-- just turned the corner a few months early.

While you're doing research, check the FO stats for 05 & 06, Favre & Manning's performances are nearly equal according to DPAR/DVOA.

8
by vis (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:15pm

last comment referred to 3, actually.

9
by Paul (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:49pm

I just can't believe the Giants have another quality effort in them. God, I hope not. I do not think the Giants will be within 10 by the 4th quarter.

10
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 9:22pm

5. Favre.

Okay, okay, he only sucked the last 2 years.

Favre didn't suck the past two years: he was average, at worst.

You need to reserve the word "suck" for true pillars of suckitude, like Rex Grossman, Joey Harrington, David Carr, etc.

It's hard enough coming up with words to describe guys like Alex Smith ("ultra-suck"?). If you move the bar for "suck" up to "average," it'll just make it way too hard.

Ditto for descriptions of Eli Manning. "Mediocre" is a perfectly fine criticism.

11
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 9:38pm

I don't about the "letting them play" aspect. The head ref for the game is the same guy who called Tauscher for several phantom holding calls including one that nullified a TD against WA. Mike P of the league office termed that call "questionable" which is NFL office speak for "geez, that was horrible."

Anyway, with Pickett back in the middle for GB I think the run defense has its anchor which helps everyone. Barnett is playing at Tasmanian Devil type fever pitch.

Offensively, can Colledge put together back to back good games? He hasn't all season.

While Pat provided the correction it never ceases to surprise me how folks HERE of all places cannot adjust for context.

Here's to a good game on Sunday.

12
by vis (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 9:53pm

10. agreed. perhaps my sarcasm in the first line wasn't clear.

my point in comparing favre/eli was in response to dave's usage of the word "sucks" to, presumably, describe eli.

mediocre is exactly the correct word, as the FO stats i refer to put them both right at the median in 05 & 06.

13
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 9:57pm

Am I weird to see a Chargers - Packers in the Super Bowl?
.
Chargers can win. If one team can run against the Pats... Chargers. That Turner kid can run.
.
The Packers... they'll be the underdogs. Seriously.
.
My FSM do I hope that the Packers win, and that comes from a Steelers fan.
.
Be cool.

14
by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 10:01pm

I'd really like to see something before this week's Packers game about what exactly happened between weeks 8 and 10 that sent them from consistent to all over the place. Did Ryan Grant really make that much of an impact? Was it even him?

15
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 11:49pm

I just can't buy into the Giants. Eli takes too much criticism for "sucking," but everytime he has one or two games, his critics get all excited, proclaiming he's finally turned the corner. Two solid, not great, games may be encouraging, but is not nearly enough to conclude that he's now Peyton 1.1.

During the regular season, the Giants went 1-5 against teams with winning records, the only win in week 3 against the Redskins. The 7 game road streak featured the Dolphins, Falcons, Niners, another dregs. Most of these wins were by 6 points or less.

In the season's second half, the Packers had a mediocre showing against the Cowboys and a huge hiccup against the Bears. All the other games were victories by double digits. The Packers first string finished the season by scoring on 3 long TD drives against the Lions before sitting and followed that in Seattle with 6 consecutive TD drives before Favre and Grant took a seat with 10 minutes to play. That's 9 TDs in 11 drives, including Grant's two fumbles. The Packer offense is in high gear.

Finally, the cold does favor the Packers. Overall, Favre has won about 63 percent of all his starts. In temps under 34, he's won nearly 90 percent. That's a significant difference. That strongly indicates that Favre and the Packers handle the cold better than the opposition.

Packers by double digits.

16
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 1:10am

#2... If you're going to bring up the first game, you have to mention the fact the Giants moved the ball up and down the field on the Packers prior to the Bradshaw fumbled kickoff. The Giants had 3 drives derailed in Green Bay territory by penalties called on Burress (false start), Shockey (spiking the ball), and Toomer (personal foul).

#15... Why do you factor in what the Packers did in the playoffs while ignoring what the Giants have done? For example, why not mention the playoff games when bringing up the Giants regular season performance against teams with a winning record?

I'll admit I'm less confident about the Giants' chances in this game than the past 2 simply because of the Packers' ability to spread the field with 3-4 WRs. Regardless of who's in the secondary, they'll get hurt if there's no pass rush. Perhaps in this weather, that becomes less of a factor. However, if the weather is an issue, that could affect Eli Manning negatively. Looking at the Giants passing DVOA, that's the direct result of horrible games (excluding Minnesota) Manning had in inclement weather. Oddly enough, they won all 4 of the bad weather road games and lost 1 at home. Outside of terrible performances by Eli or the defense, I expect a close game in which the Giants will have their opportunities to win. That was the case in most of their games against top competition... do they take advantage of their opportunities or not?

17
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 3:00am

I hate how people keep talking about how good the Gints road record is. ALmost every team they beat on the road has stunk. It's not tough to win on the road vs the dolphins, bills, and facons.

18
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 3:04am

Not that's it's necessarily ultra relevant, but I find it fascinating that this page documents 16 different aggregate and contextual DVOA matchups, and the Giants are not favored in a single one (by NFL ranking, not necessarily raw scores).

GB punts is the only even matchup by rank. Pretty amazing for any playoff matchup.

19
by Weekly Journalist (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 3:12am

"I hate how people keep talking about how good the Gints road record is. ALmost every team they beat on the road has stunk. It’s not tough to win on the road vs the dolphins, bills, and facons."

How about the Eagles? How about the Bills? OK, not too special, but how about the Redskins? How about the Bucs? Howabout Dalas?

20
by ammek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 6:53am

"In the season’s second half, the Packers had a mediocre showing against the Cowboys and a huge hiccup against the Bears. All the other games were victories by double digits... The Packer offense is in high gear."

May I introduce you to the words "opponent adjustment"?

Remember that DVOA does not (yet) factor in home-road data. On average, you can add 8.5% to DVOA for a road game, and subtract the same for a road game. That increases the Packers' variance in the first half of the season, reduces it a little in the second.

Grant is relatively boom-and-bust, but I doubt he's responsible for the increase in variance after week ten. A more likely culprit is the Packers' defense, which started outperforming itself against Minnesota, and getting sloppy (and hurt) in the second half against Carolina. I guess teams had enough film, especially of the Pack's safeties, by then to alter their gameplans, plus GB lost DT Johnny Jolly and (temporarily) KGB, Woodson, Colin Cole, and others, which forced them to change their own strategy, notably in Dallas where they ran a highly unsuccessful zone.

Lastly, I wonder if any team has scored a better playoff DVOA than Green Bay last week while losing the turnover battle.

21
by ammek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 6:54am

As I'm sure you're aware, that should read:

"On average, you can add 8.5% to DVOA for a road game, and subtract the same for a home game."

22
by refchat (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 9:48am

Great statistic on lots of defensive penalties being called against the Packers! I took a look at the yards per penalties in the Giants and Packers games in the regular season and noticed that the Giants did best in games with a low number of average yards per penalty (7-1) as opposed to a high average (3-5). So if there are lots of large-yardage pass interference calls, it would not be the typical Giants type of win. A bunch of illegal contact calls would fit in the Giants typical type of win, though.

I put more of my analysis on the referees for the game on the refchat blog. Thanks for analyzing the penalties as part of the game preview!

23
by Pete (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 12:09pm

I have not done formal comparisons, but Mike Carey seems to be one of the most capable referees. I know I always seem to notice when he is referee and come away thinking he does a good job.

While it seems like we will see a Super Bowl where the Patriots beat the Packers, on any given Sunday...

24
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 12:54pm

I really, really, really, hate the fact that refereeing varies so much from crew to crew, but it isn't an easy problem to solve, even with the oft-mentioned solution of full time referees.

This may be a truism, but if either team effectively pressures the qb, they will have a significant advantage. Unfortunately for the Giants, getting effective pressure on Favre is extremely difficult, even with good pass rushers, and when you aren't solid in the secondary, you need a tremendous performance by the pass rushers against the Packers. Good won't suffice.

The Giants can certainly win, but they will need to almost totally dominate the line of scrimmage to do so. That isn't likely to happen.

25
by Tom D (formerly just Tom) (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 3:15pm

I think the way to play defense against the Packers, is to take away the deep ball, force Favre to keep throwing short until he gets frustrated and starts forcing passes. Farve isn't happy moving down the field 6 yards at time, he wants big plays, so you have to take those away, as a kind of psychological attack. I could be wrong, but it seems like that's what the Bears did for 3 halves against this year.

Also, it makes sense that McQuarters' YAC is so high, he is a terrible tackler.

26
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 5:53pm

Tom I think you are 100% wrong about Favre. They have thrived this year with the short passing game and in the 1 game where they focused on the long ball
(vs Dal) they looked terrible. If I was playing GB I would use a press, inside technique to take away the east slants and make them beat me long in cold weather.

The 2 Bear games were both sorty flukish. The 1st game featured 3 1st half fumbles that kept it from being a rout and the 2nd game was seemingly played in the worst conditions of Favre's career.

27
by Toast Patterson (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 5:54pm

I love how people like Packer Pete at # 15 criticize the opponents the Giants have beaten and then go on to say something like

"In the season’s second half, the Packers had a mediocre showing against the Cowboys and a huge hiccup against the Bears. All the other games were victories by double digits."

Of all of those great victories, none of the teams the Pack beat had a winning record. In fact in the entire regular season the Pack only beat three teams with a winning record -- the Giants, Bolts and Skins. Also, he criticizes the Giants road wins then cites a Pack win over the Lions to show how great they are. Um, one of the Giants road wins was over Detroit.

I'm not saying the Giants were world beaters in the regular season, they weren't. I'm just saying that it's pretty inconsistent to selectively point out the weak teams the Giants beat while ignoring that 10 of your team's 13 wins were against cruddy teams.

Whatever, tomorrow Eli won't try to do too much and will protect the ball tomorrow while Michael, Osi & Co. pressure the old pill popping hillbilly into throwing a couple picks and the Giants win in a squeaker. At least then we won't have to listen to 2 more weeks of Favre worshiping from de press.

28
by ammek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 6:21pm

Yes, the Packers' schedule was cushy; I think they showed against Seattle that they aren't simply a product of that schedule, but at the same time it does represent a mini question-mark against an otherwise impressive 13-3 season.

I'm not sure how flukey the Bears' games were - Favre has played consistently badly against Lovie Smith's defenses, and the special teams were always liable to break down at some point. However, 'not flukey' doesn't mean 'will repeat itself vs New York'.

That second Bears game is the only real source of doubt about this team among Packers' fans. It is one thing to lose a game occasionally, quite another to play as badly as Green Bay did in all facets of the game in a match against a mediocre rival with playoff implications. DVOA of minus 120 per cent makes it three times worse than the worst game the Giants played (which was also against Chicago...).

29
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 9:07pm

"tomorrow Eli won’t try to do too much and will protect the ball tomorrow while Michael, Osi & Co. pressure the old pill popping hillbilly into throwing a couple picks "

Yeah, GB really struggled with NYG's pressure the 1st time they played (and this was in good conditions on a faster field). Favre only completed 15 passes in a row and the offense only scored 35 points. Too bad GB can't handle this pass rush and defense

30
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 12:40am

Don't forget that in Week 2, Strahan was still getting back into shape after missing preseason. I wouldn't count on it being an exact parallel of the first game. (Of course, the Giants also had Kiwanuka to rush back then. Then again, they also had him playing LB.)

31
by Tom (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 3:08am

re. 29 You mean the game where Osi was hurt and Strahan was not in game shape?

32
by Gene (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 3:09am

Some of you guys are smoking crack.

The week 2 game, was a 14-13 game heading into the 4th qtr.

Eli was playing with a separated shoulder from week one and the Giants D was still learning a new system. Keep ignoring momentum and coaching...The Giants win by at least 7 on Sunday.

33
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 3:30am

"The week 2 game, was a 14-13 game heading into the 4th qtr."

That is pretty misleading. GB ended the 3rd quarter on like the Giant 4 yard line and scored a TD on the 1st play of the 4th Quarter.

Additionally, in case you do not know games are 4 wuarters long. Keeping it close for a while before being blown out I guess is good if you are in to moral victories.

In that game NYG could have had Deacon Jones, Lawrence Taylor, and Reggie White in their primes rushing and it wouldn't have made a difference. When a QB is throwing the ball within literally a second it is impossible to get their in time.

34
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 9:41am

Was it absolutely necessary for this thread to dissolve into fans of both sides going "neener, neener, your team stinks!"?

Cripes......

35
by Not saying (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 12:28pm

Re: 1
the Steve Smith-factor rally undercuts this comparison. . . . Nobody on the Giants comes close to having Smith’s value.
In 2003, Smith had a DPAR of 14.9. Their #2 receiver in value was Proehl with 6.1. This year the Giants had Toomer beating Smith (16.4) and Burress close behind and higher than Proehl (13.6).

You might be getting confused with 2005, but in 2003 Smith didn't have that big of an impact. (As an example, he isn't even mentioned in the keys to the Super Bowl at ESPN.)

Re: 27 Toast Patterson

I think the important part that you neglect is the double digit nature of the victories. This is relevant because it shows that they have a bunch of Stomps, while the Giants have Skates. (See here for background if needed.) Example, GB beat DET 34-13 in the last week, while NY won 16-10.

36
by Mr.Man (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 5:07pm

The previous game makes for a very poor comparison. Fine weather, each team still developing (the Packers lacked a running game, the Giants in only their second game in their new defensive system), each team with significant injuries or missing players (no Jacobs for Giants, no Jennings for Packers). With all of these differences, it's just not worth bickering about, I think.

However, the one development from that game that I would be hoping continues, if I were a Giants fan, would be that the Giants' D-line's domination of the Packers offensive line in that game (Green Bay had something like 15 runs for less than a yard, and several huge losses) continues. The Packers had to give up on the run, and their accurate short passing game allowed them to do so and still win. The personnel on both sides is still basically the same. Personally, I think it'll be more of a draw this time around, on the messy, semi-thawed tundra, with the Packers' running game working, and with Spitz and Colledge somewhat improved. But it bears watching.

Also, I'm convinced that the extreme cold will limit GB's passing game. That's something that's gotten surprisingly little play here on FO, and something that can only help the Giants.

37
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 7:17pm

The field conditions negates speed. So it works both ways. GB receivers impacted as will the NY DEs.

NY is almost certainly going to play press coverage. Are the GB receivers tough enough?

And how will the game be officiated? Will the dbs for both teams be given some latitude?

All this plays to NY's favor.

38
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:44am

Now we know.

I hope the FO threads this week are not too ugly.

39
by Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:51am

I hope you guys do an Any Given Sunday on this game, because it doesn't look like much of what was predicted happened at all. I'd like to know how, outside of the Driver play, the Giants put the clamps on the YAC by Packers receivers. Obviously Burress demolished Al Harris, but Jacobs did a grand total of nothing.

40
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:45am

...are the Giants the worst SB team ever?

The 2000 Giants team was already in heavy consideration for that, and I think this team might have better talent and coaching, but they haven't played as well this year as the Giants did in 2000.

Or how about at least the worst SB team in the free agency era?

41
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:51am

Nice troll post, Scott. Well played.

42
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:06am

Hey Scott, the late Wellington Mara embraces your criticism and fully believes in our status as the worst and second-worst teams to ever play in the Super Bowl.

43
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:28am

I'll be rooting 100% for the Giants in two weeks, but let's be serious here. They were 10-6, they have 8.6 pythag. wins (I have a regression model giving them only 8.4) and they played in the weaker conference.

I've watched 14 of this team's 19 games this year and I never felt like I was watching a team that would win a playoff game, let alone be in the big game. They have looked just awful at times. It's been a nice road run all year, but this team is nothing special. Unless they compete well or even pull off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, their place in history will be along side teams like the 79 Rams and 03 Panthers.

Or if they get blown out in the SB, they're basically just the 85 Patriots all over again. Won 3 on the road to get there and get creamed by the best in the league.

And I only mentioned the 2000 Giants because that SB between them and the Ravens was clearly the worst of all time. What a poor year of football that was. So many awful teams, no wonder Baltimore and Tennessee had such excellent defensive stats.

44
by John Leroux (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:21am

Come on! The Gaints improvement can be explained in 4 words. Jeremy Shockey Is Hurt. He's a self centered player that put selfish demands on Eli and created a really bad dynamic on and off the field (complaining when he didn't get the ball etc.) Now that he's out, the Giants can run the office that they were designed to run, as opposed to trying to run it, but having to cater to a selfish player. The Giants would be well advised to trade Shockey for a bunch of picks and move on to a much brighter future without him....

45
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:44am

Better attempt there, Scott. :-)

"I’ve watched 14 of this team’s 19 games this year and I never felt like I was watching a team that would win a playoff game, let alone be in the big game."

I think you are in good company in this regard. Many people looked at the Giants performance, particular in the later-middle-half of the season, and saw crap.

However, if you haven't seen more than that by now, then you are the one who is out of step. Since halfway through the Bills game, the Giants have been playing at an extremely high level.

For a few years now, the Giants have been a team that CAN play with and beat anyone, but consistently beats themselves with dumb penalties, boneheaded throws, and other mistakes. Very frustrating for fans because you could see that we should be better, but we always knew that we deserved the mediocre records we had because we simply didn't do what good teams did.

We seemingly have turned that around. I don't know if a light has gone on or if this is just a fluke, but what I do know is that the talent is there to be doing what they are doing.

"They have looked just awful at times. It’s been a nice road run all year, but this team is nothing special."

Probably. Nothing special to most of NFL fandom. But to Giants fans this team has already become something special, and even a SB blowout loss won't change that. We were a team that many expected to compete for the first overall draft pick and instead we are in the Super Bowl.

"Unless they compete well or even pull off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, their place in history will be along side teams like the 79 Rams and 03 Panthers."

Who are remembered better than the 03 Bucs and the 79 Saints. There are worse fates.