Newyorkjets.com will profile each NFL playoff game this postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: Sunday's NFC Divisional Round Game:
(4) NEW YORK GIANTS (10-7) at (1) GREEN BAY (15-1), 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX
After the NFL's Wild Card Weekend, there is a tendency for people to forget just how good the teams are that earned first-round byes.
The Packers are not only the league's defending champions but they also just happened to win 15 games this season against a single defeat. They also have a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers who has the inside track on the MVP award and the dude is coming off a season in which he completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,643 yards with 45 TDs and 6 INTs.
But the Giants have gotten hot at the right time, sweeping the Ryans — Rex, Rob and Matt — to return to the NFC's divisional round for the first time since the 2008 season. And the G-Men are doing a little chirping as wildly talented DE Jason Pierre-Paul guaranteed victory over the Packers after his team's 24-2 thrashing of the Falcons at MetLife Stadium.
It surely has been a most difficult week of preparation for the Packers. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin lost his 21-year-old son, Michael, in a drowning death and the players were informed of the tragedy Monday during a team meeting. Said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy:
"The reality of this just gave everybody a punch in the heart to let you know the reality, how fortunate to be where we are."
Joe Philbin will bury his son today and some of the Packers will be in attendance.
"I don't know the right words to say to him to try and comfort him," Rodgers said of Philbin. "I have zero experience and have never really dealt with anything like this before. I have never been to a funeral in my life, knock on wood. So this is a tough time."
No defense was better last weekend than a once-maligned Giants unit that smothered the Falcons, holding them to 247 yards and 4-of-14 on third down. And just as encouraging for New York's NFC representatives was the way they moved the ball on the ground, amassing 172 rush yards and 5.5 yards per carry.
The Packers led the NFL in scoring, averaging an even 35 points per outing. Their defense was less than average, though, yielding NFL worsts of 411.6 total yards and 299.8 through the air per game.
But the Packers had a splendid turnover margin of plus-24, hauling in a league-high 31 interceptions. The Giants are plus-7 through 17 games, but one of Eli Manning's 16 interceptions was return 38 yards for a score by Clay Matthews in a Week 13 meeting between the clubs.
The Packers won a thriller over the Giants at the Met on Dec. 4, scoring a 38-35 decision as Mason Crosby nailed a 31-yarder to decide it on the final play of regulation.
Wideout Plaxico Burress, whose eight TDs tied for the Jets' team lead in 2011, could not be contained the last time the Giants and the Packers met in the playoffs. Burress set a Giants postseason record with 11 catches for 154 yards as Big Blue advanced to the Super Bowl with a 23-20 overtime victory at frigid Lambeau Field.
The Packers, who claimed the first two Super Bowls, have won four Vince Lombardi Trophies and 13 championships in all. They hold a 29-16 all-time record in postseason play and four of their titles — 1939, '44, '61 and '62 — came at the Giants' expense. These teams have played in the postseason six times and the Packers lead the overall series, 4-2.
After last weekend's triumph, the Giants have a 21-24 all-time mark in NFL playoff play with three Super Bowls and seven championships.
Recent Jets Ring of Honor inductee Al Toon is a member of the Packers' board of directors and he picked up a ring after Green Bay's latest title. Big Packers NT Howard Green played 14 games under Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine in 2009-10. Chad Morton, who returned two kickoffs for TDs to beat the Bills in the 2002 season opener, is in his second season as the Pack's special teams assistant.
Giants T Kareem McKenzie, a third-round selection out of Penn State in 2001, and RB D.J. Ware, who went undrafted out of Georgia, can trace their professional beginnings back to the Jets. On the Giants staff are former Jets coaches Jim Herrmann (linebackers), Peter Giunta (secondary/corners), Dave Merritt (secondary/safeties) and Markus Paul (assistant strength & conditioning) and former Jets player Larry Izzo (assistant special teams).