Third Time’s The Charm For A Packers’ Playoff Victory Over Giants?

New York Ended Green Bay's 2007 And 2011 Seasons

Clay Matthews
Mike Roemer/AP Photo

The New York Giants have crushed the Green Bay Packers’ NFL playoff dreams twice in recent years.

There was the 2007 season defeat when the Giants beat the Packers 23-20 in the NFC Championship game. It was also, memorably, Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer. The Giants again broke the Packers’ hearts in the 2011 season’s NFC Divisional Playoff game 37-20. Both times, New York quarterback Eli Manning was at the helm and the game was held at Lambeau Field.

This Sunday, Green Bay will once again face Manning and company at Lambeau in the playoff’s Wild Card round.

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So what’s different about this weekend’s game?

“The big difference would be the head coach of New York Giants,” said Michael Cohen, a Packers beat reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In 2007 and 2011, the Giants’ head coach was Tom Coughlin, who won a pair of Super Bowls with the Giants. He was replaced with Ben McAdoo, an assistant coach with the Packers from 2006-13. He even served as the quarterbacks coach for Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers for a year.

“So basically what that amounts to is a lot of familiarity between these two teams, because (Packers coach) Mike McCarthy knows a lot about Ben McAdoo, and Ben McAdoo knows everything about Mike McCarthy because they worked together for so long,” Cohen said. “So that’s the interesting subplot for this game and one that carries over from their first matchup earlier this season.”

The Packers and the Giants played each other in Week 5 of this season, with Green Bay winning 23-16 at Lambeau. But Cohen warned fans not to look too much into the previous matchup to gauge how the teams will perform Sunday.

“This isn’t a situation where it’s a pure rematch,” said Cohen. “The Giants were without a number of key players due to injuries. The Packers had a lot more of their key guys at that point and have since lost them. So the teams are totally different than what they looked like on the field back in early October.”

Instead, Cohen recommends looking at how each team has played over the last six weeks.

“The Packers have been tremendous on offense, and they’ve been good enough on defense. The Giants have been tremendous on defense and good enough on offense,” said Cohen.

And the last six weeks for the Packers have been incredible.

“I think they’re on fire right now, that’s the easiest way to put it,” Cohen said. “You go back to the middle of the season and they looked completely lost. Over the final six games, you could argue that there’s not really anyone that wants to play them right now with how well they’re performing, how well they’re executing and how dangerous Aaron Rodgers is in the quarterback position.”

Cohen noted Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception or fumbled during the team’s current winning streak.

On the defensive side, things could get a bit hairy for the team.

The Packers will have to figure out how to cover Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with a plague of injured cornerbacks. Sam Shields has been out for the season. At last week’s win against the Detroit Lions, three cornerbacks were injured – Quinten Rollins, Mackinton Dorleant, and Damarious Randall. Of those players, Cohen said Randall is the only one who may suit up Sunday.

“You’re talking about trying to stop one of the best receivers in the league, Odell Beckham Jr., with probably the guy that started as your fourth-string cornerback and then a couple other mixed parts in there that they’re going to have to cobble together,” Cohen said. “Can they stop Beckham from a pure coverage standpoint? But then, who are they going to have to try and stop him? That’s really the big storyline this week.”

Cohen also predicts wide receiver Randall Cobb, who’s been sidelined with an ankle issue, will return to the field for the Sunday playoff game.

Earlier this week, McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Gary D’Amato he’s “energized to maybe make this our best year.”

Cohen said it’s hard to say if that sentiment is echoed through the rest of the coaching staff. This is a team that won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season.

“That’s obviously going to be remembered as their best season because they reached the pinnacle of the sport,” Cohen said. “When you look at all the factors that go into this season: whether it’s the injuries to key players, like running back Eddie Lacy or cornerback Sam Shields; you look at when they were at 4-6; you look at all the injuries at the cornerback position, then all the sudden you rip off all these wins.

“If they were to go on and really take this all the way to the Super Bowl and win that many games in a row, you could argue that this could be a better achievement than their last Super Bowl,” Cohen said.

And it’s no question Packers fans have been spoiled by the team’s recent successes. They’ve headed to the playoffs eight years in a row. Many NFL teams rarely make it that far.

“I think it goes to a bigger picture,” Cohen said. “I was riding back from the airport a couple weeks ago and I took an Uber home. The Uber driver was a big Packers fan, so when he asked me what I do for a living, we started talking about the team.

“He was probably in his 50s or so. He said, ‘Man, all these fans now, the only fans your age (you know, I’m only 26), you guys only know Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. You don’t remember the 1970s and 1980s when the Packers were absolutely horrendous and were bad year after year.”

Plus, what will happen to the team once Rodgers retires or moves to a different team?

“There’s no guarantee that you’re going to have a third consecutive transcendent quarterback,” Cohen said. “As you see around the league with teams everywhere, there are franchises that can’t find a quarterback for a span of 15 years. They just can’t find the right guy. Whenever Aaron Rodgers is done, there’s no guarantee that the next quarterback is going to be able to sustain the level of success that Favre and Rodgers did. So, enjoy it while you can.”

The Packers face the Giants in their first playoff game this season at 3:40 p.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field. The game can be watched on FOX.