Newyorkjets.com will profile each playoff game in this NFL postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: the NFC Championship Game:
(5) NEW YORK GIANTS (12-6) at (2) GREEN BAY (14-3), 6:30 p.m. EST, FOX
This is a confluence of hot quarterbacks, road warriors and home cooking, and the resumption of an old-time NFL title rivalry.
Brett Favre, the old gunslinger, is gearing up for the opportunity to play in his third Super Bowl and his first since Green Bay lost to Denver and John Elway 11 years ago. But Eli Manning has been on a roll of his own, having elevated a so-so regular season into the A-plus territory of 100-plus passer ratings in his last three games, including two playoff wins.
With both those wins, the Giants extended their road winning streak to nine games, possibly the longest single-season road streak in league history.
"Why do we play so well on the road? Nobody really knows," WR Amani Toomer said. "We just kind of do, you know?"
Road success is a big reason the Giants can become the first six-loss Super Bowl team since the 1988 San Francisco 49ers, who were 12-6, defeated Cincinnati in SBXXIII.
But now Big Blue must go into Lambeau Field, brave temperatures that are expected to drop toward zero Sunday night, and beat back the Packers, 8-1 at home this season, including last week's snowy 42-20 romp past Seattle.
"Just being in that atmosphere at Lambeau in January, snowing like a winter wonderland, and to play and to finish the way we finished as a team was really what we wanted and really something special for us," said feature back Ryan Grant, traded from the Giants to Green Bay in September. "It's definitely big for us confidence-wise rolling into this week."
The Pack's confidence was on display in the way they overcame those two touchdowns they presented the Seahawks, both off Grant fumbles, in the game's first four minutes. The 14 points equaled the largest first-quarter deficit overcome in NFL playoff history.
Green Bay finished the regular season with top-10 rankings in total offense and passing offense (second), scoring offense (fourth) and scoring defense (tied for sixth). New York had top-10 rankings in rushing offense (4th), total defense (7th) and rushing defense (8th)
The Packers were plus-4 in the regular season and minus-1 vs. Seattle. The Giants were minus-9 in the RS but have bounced back with their first two no-giveaway games of the season and a plus-4 in the postseason.
Favre finished sixth in the NFL with a 95.7 passer rating before clipping the Seahawks (18-for-23, 173 yards, three TDs, no INTs, 137.6 rating). Manning, meanwhile, had a 70.9 rating through the first 15 games before ringing up a combined 122.2 in the loss to the Patriots and the two playoff wins.
The main RBs are Grant, who atoned for his two early fumbles with 201 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, and Brandon Jacobs, who eased over the four-figure barrier in the RS finale vs. New England to finish at 1,009 yards (5.0 avg., four TDs) and has scored three of the G-Men's six postseason TDs.
WRs Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Koren Robinson and rookie James Jones have led the Pack's prodigious YAC attack, unofficially good for 6.0 yards after each reception. The Giants counter with Plaxico Burress (70-1,025-14.6-12) and the venerable Toomer.
New York DEs Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan lead a vicious pass rush that topped the NFL with 53 sacks, but Favre has been taken down less than once a game.
As John Facenda once intoned, "Lombardi ... a certain magic still lingers in the very name. It speaks of duels in the snow and cold November mud." Or in this case, frozen January tundra. Vince Lombardi is looking down on this matchup and smiling, since he was born in Brooklyn, cut his coaching teeth in New Jersey and New York City, served as a Giants assistant for five seasons, then transformed the Packers into five-time NFL titlists and winners of the first two Super Bowls.
Indeed, these teams have met five times in the playoffs, but not since Lombardi's heyday. The Giants prevailed for their second NFL title in 1938 but the Packers won the next four title games, in '39, '44, '61 and '62, by a combined 94-14.
Green Bay is 25-14 all-time in the postseason with four Super Bowl appearances (three wins). The Giants are 18-23 with three SB appearances (two wins).
The teams met in Week 2 in the Meadowlands, with the Pack prevailing, 35-13, thanks to a 21-point fourth-quarter triggered by a pair of Favre TD strikes. The Giants have lost four of the last five and overall are 22-29-2 in the series since winning the first meeting, 6-0, at Green Bay in 1928.
Green & White fans have had fond recent memories when it comes to Green Bay. Since 1995 the Jets have beaten Green Bay three straight (last time: 38-10 at Lambeau in 2006). Their stadium mates have been tougher nuts to crack: The Giants have won four straight, including the 35-24 comeback win in Week 5 this season.
Ex-Jets on the Giants include starting RT Kareem McKenzie and backup rookie RB Danny Ware, who played on special teams against the Patriots but was inactive for the two playoff wins. As for coaches, Peter Giunta (1995-96) handles the Giants' cornerbacks, David Merritt (2001-03) their safeties, and Markus Paul (2005-06) assists with the team's strength and conditioning.
Atari Bigby is the safety that got away from the Green & White. He was a final cut of the Jets out of the 2005 training camp, then was signed to Green Bay's practice squad two months later. Now he's the Pack's hard-hitting strong safety starter with five INTs and three forced fumbles in the regular season plus a team-leading seven tackles and another FF in the win over Seattle.
McCarthy's Green Bay staff does include secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer, who you might guess is related to Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets' OC. Kurt is Marty's brother and Brian's uncle.
Sunday night: Eric Allen's post-championship Radar entry