NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Here we go.
Giants fans, get ready for a tussle at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Who would’ve predicted this at the beginning of the season?
New York (10-7) has a shot at top-seeded Green Bay (15-1) in large part because they might be able to match Aaron Rodgers and the high-scoring Packers point for point.
Credit for that goes to Eli Manning and his receiving corps which has emerged as one of the NFL’s elite.
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The Packers have an outstanding one, too, with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finley. They combined for 227 catches for 3,424 yards and, 38 touchdowns.
The Giants’ group of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and tight end Jake Ballard had 235 catches for 3,855 yards and 24 touchdowns.
“We are a dangerous corps,” said Nicks, who had 76 catches for 1,192 yards and 7 scores. “I feel like we’re all No. 1 receivers. With our offense, if you try to take one guy away, it opens it up for the other two guys. You try to take two guys away, it opens it up for the third receiver and the tight end as well.”
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What makes the Giants’ statistics interesting is that they produced in a season in which New York’s running game was ranked last in the league, averaging less than 90 yards.
In their 24-2 victory over Atlanta in the NFC wild-card game last weekend, the Giants running game finally broke out and ran for 172 yards.
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“We’ve strived for this from Day 1,” said coach Tom Coughlin. “It’s been very good the last few weeks, and it’s been very good because of the way our defense has played and improved, and special teams. It’s given us a chance … We didn’t start out doing very well with the run, but we stuck with it.”
“If we can establish the run game, that makes everything a lot easier,” Manning said. “You get in better down-and-distance, you start to dominate the line of scrimmage, it slows down the pass rush. It does all of those things. The last time we played them, they liked to play a lot of two-high safeties. It’s tough to throw against that look. If you can bring their safeties down, then we can get some better looks to throw it.”
Manning didn’t do too bad against the Packers in the 38-35 loss on Dec. 4 with a running game. He hit 23 of 40 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw an interception that Clay Matthews returned for a score.
Cruz and Nicks both had big games, despite Manningham being sidelined with a knee injury. The 25-year-old Cruz, who seemingly has sparked an interest in salsa dancing with his touchdown celebrations, had seven catches for 119 yards. Nicks also had seven receptions for 88 and two touchdowns.
Manningham was in the lineup last weekend and he added another threat, catching a 27-yard touchdown pass to seal the win over Atlanta.
“I hope they forgot about me,” Manningham said. “I like not being under the microscope.”
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn’t want to compare the receivers in the game. He likes his guys.
“I think they’re looking forward to the challenge of not only beating the Packers, but also proving that they’re in the same class as the Packers receivers that everybody acknowledges as a special group,” Gilbride said. “I think the thing that we’re probably the most proud of is just the growth that’s taken place, particularly with Victor obviously, but also with Jake Ballard, whom I know you’re not including.
“But to me, he’s an integral part of our passing game as well.’
Ironically, the last time the Giants played the Packers, backup tight end Travis Beckum opened the scoring with a 67-yard catch and run for a touchdown during which he cut back against the grain three times in the final 30 yards.
Gilbride knows the Packers, who were missing their two inside linebackers in the last game, will tweak some things on defense. His goal will be to anticipate the changes and make adjustments on the fly when they do something else.
For Cruz, Nicks, Manningham, Ballard and Manning, they need to make plays on Sunday.
Until then, all they can do is get ready.
NOTES: RB Ahmad Bradshaw missed his second straight practice. While Coughlin said Bradshaw struggled this week with foot and back woes, he hopes he will be able to practice Friday. … CB Corey Webster, whose interception set up Lawrence Tynes’ game-winning field goal in the 2008 NFC title game with the Packers, and S Deon Grant were added to the injury report Thursday with hamstring and quad injuries, respectively. Coughlin said it wasn’t a big deal. … The Giants feel Kansas City beat the Packers this season because they were physical with them. Expect the same from New York. … DE Osi Umenyiora on being back: “I never left, was just injured.” … Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell thinks he has a better feel for the Packers after facing them twice in the past two years.
Will the Giants end the Packers’ reign as NFL champions? Make your prediction in the comments below…
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