NFL Preview - Green Bay (5-4) at NY Giants (3-6)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Green Bay Packers aren't used to losing two in a row. Dropping three straight is even less likely unless Aaron Rodgers isn't playing quarterback.
The Rodgers-less Packers hope to stop their current two-game slide when they visit the resurgent New York Giants Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
Green Bay lost two straight twice back in 2010 and hasn't suffered three consecutive defeats since a five-game slide from Nov. 24 - Dec. 22, 2008. The losing ways continued in last Sunday's 27-13 decision to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field, as the defense gave up 415 yards of offense, including 204 rushing.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had another strong start and completed 12-of-18 passes for 228 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Packers couldn't stop running back LeSean McCoy and he ran for 155 yards on 25 carries, playing a big role in Philadelphia's late drive in the fourth quarter.
"We're obviously not playing our best football," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said when asked what's going on late in games. "We've looked at it. We've looked at every play call and things like that, but at the end of the day, the focus and discipline required to perform is where we need to make an improvement. It's nothing earth-shattering as far as what needs to be done. It's the fundamentals, it's the little things, and as a football team, we've been talking about it too long."
The two-game losing streak comes on the heels of four straight wins for the Packers and now they'll try to extend their road winning streak to three games against the Giants. The Packers (5-4) are still alive in the NFC North Division and sit tied with Chicago (5-4) at a game behind Detroit (6-3).
The biggest storyline coming out of Packers camp this week is the quarterback situation. Rodgers is still sidelined with a broken clavicle, so it was up to Seneca Wallace to move the chains versus the Eagles. Wallace, though, exited the game on the first series with a groin injury and Scott Tolzien took over, passing for 280 yards and completing 24-of-39 attempts with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Tolzien set franchise records for completions and passing yards by a quarterback in his first game with the Packers.
"I thought Scott Tolzien played as well as to be expected, he made just the one throw down in the end zone where he probably wants that throw back and I'll tell you right now Scott Tolzien will start against the New York Giants," McCarthy said this week.
The Packers clouded the situation a bit more by bringing back Matt Flynn. Wallace was placed on injured reserve and Flynn is now back for a second tour of duty in the Land of Cheese. Flynn, in his sixth year in the league, was drafted by the Packers in 2008 and spent his first four seasons with them (2008-2011). He threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in his second start for the Packers in 2011.
Flynn has played for the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills since leaving Green Bay.
The Giants (3-6) suddenly have life in a less-than-stellar NFC East and have ripped off three straight wins since an 0-6 start. They are right behind Dallas (5-5) and Philadelphia (5-5) in the division and posted a 24-20 victory Sunday at home versus the Oakland Raiders.
New York erased a 17-14 halftime deficit and ran Andre Brown into the ground 30 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. It was Brown's first game of the season and he was activated off injured reserve before the game. Brown was the Giants' sixth starting running back of the season.
"Andre played great," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said Sunday. "He ran hard and also hit some big runs, got some 10-yard, 11-yard runs, which was nice. And obviously that last possession we knew we were going to need two first downs to run out that clock and that's exactly what he was able to do. Get huge first downs, not give the ball back to Oakland and run out the clock so that was a great job by that offensive line and Andre, he did help us out."
Brown said he felt sore afterward, but added it wouldn't play a role in this week's game with Green Bay. The Packers have had issues stopping the run lately and Brown could be in for another heavy workload. McCarthy talked briefly about the defenses struggles against the run.
"I don't think it's as simple as that," McCarthy said. "We've had some change in personnel, and the tackling the last two weeks is clearly not where it needs to be."
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews returned from a thumb injury versus the Eagles and played with a club on his hand. That could play a role again this week against a Giants team that will try to establish the run once again to take pressure off of Manning. Manning had a season low 12 completions and threw for 140 yards with a TD and an interception. He only has just two TD passes and a pick during the recent win streak.
Manning talked about what he saw from Green Bay on tape.
"They're a good defense. They show a lot of different looks. They've got a lot of guys with sacks. They bring pressure from every player. Everybody has a chance to get to the quarterback," Manning said. "Obviously, (Clay) Matthews is back playing now. He missed the last few games, so he's a guy you have to watch and be careful about. They've got good corners, so they have a talented defense. They show a lot of different looks and we've got to prepare for a lot of things."
Manning has made 144 starts in a row, the longest active streak by a QB.
The Giants' remaining schedule is a daunting one with Green Bay, Dallas, Washington twice, San Diego, Seattle and Detroit on the docket. All of those teams have a shot at making a postseason run.
New York defeated Green Bay the last time the two teams met in a 38-10 romp at MetLife Stadium. Manning has thrown for 926 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions in the past three games in this series, including the playoffs. Green Bay holds a 31-25-2 edge in the all-time series, which includes a 4-3 postseason record.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Both the Giants and Packers are allowing more than 100 yards rushing a game, so look for Brown and Packers running back Eddie Lacy to have strong days.
Brown, of course, was back in action for the first time last week and adds another dimension to New York's improving offense. It's been a while since the Giants have had some consistency running the ball and hope Brown is the answer.
Lacy was "held" to 73 yards on 24 carries because the Eagles knew if they we're going to lose, Tolzien would have to beat them. So Philly loaded the box and took Lacy out of the game. Lacy leads the NFL with 618 rushing yards since Oct. 1 and the rookie out of Alabama has at least 70 yards rushing in the last six games.
"The balance is the key in what they've done," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's an exceptional power runner. They do a nice job with their big offensive line. If you look across the board, you're going to find 320- pounders. Lacy is a powerful runner and you're going to have to get a number of people to the ball in order to contain or control what he can do. You watch him break tackles on tape."
Coughlin is hoping his star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will be able to play Sunday after injuring his shoulder versus the Raiders. Pierre-Paul is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and has never missed a game in his career. He is unsure of his status for Sunday and Coughlin said he is "still sore."
"I'm just going day-by-day," Pierre-Paul said. "Once it stops hurting me, I'll play. As of right now, I'm taking it day-by-day."
Pierre-Paul had one of four sacks last week and has just two this season. Giants cornerbacks Terrell Thomas (knee) and Corey Webster (groin/ankle) are also dealing with injuries.
The likelihood of Tolzien leading the Packers out of the Meadowlands with a win is slim because MetLife Stadium is a tough place to play, especially for a quarterback wet behind the ears. Look for Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to turn it up a notch Sunday with blitz packages and several looks.
In what could turn out to be a close game, it will boil down to turnovers, stops and converting on third down. Manning has been protecting the football during this win streak and will have another efficient performance to keep New York's playoff chances on life support.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 26, Packers 23
11/14 15:23:54 ET