EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Giants are catching another big break by facing the Packers backup quarterback. This is becoming the norm for the Giants.
There was Josh Freeman with the Vikings last month when New York won its first game. Matt Barkley took over the Eagles with Nick Foles and Michael Vick hurt in consecutive weeks. That was win No. 2.
The next on the list will be Scott Tolzien. He will make his first NFL start when the Green Bay Packers (5-4) try to snap a two-game losing streak in a game against the Giants (3-6), who will be looking for their fourth straight win.
A practice squad player a couple of weeks ago, Tolzien is starting with Aaron Rodgers nursing a broken collarbone and Seneca Wallace on injured reserve with a groin injury.
The run is ironic because Giants’ opponents know who they will be facing. Eli Manning has been their quarterback since the middle of his rookie season in 2004, and he will start his 144th consecutive game this weekend, the NFL’s longest active streak for a quarterback.
The last player to start for the Giants before Manning was Kurt Warner.
“I try to work hard in the weight room and in my preparation to avoid injuries as much as possible, but yeah, there’s obviously a luck aspect to it as well,” Manning said. “I try to be a fast healer on some things and just not taking some of those awkward hits that can obviously just happen at any time.”
Manning has played hurt. The two-time Super Bowl MVP played with a shoulder injury in 2007 and a foot problem (plantar fasciitis) in 2009. He also laughed about jinxing himself talking about his streak.
“Over the nine years, I’ve had a few close calls, but most were the ones that were pretty public,” Manning said.
Tolzien made his NFL debut in a 27-13 loss to the Eagles, completing 24 of 39 for 280 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“I’m trying to get everybody on the same page,” Tolzien said . “The guys are counting on me. You just want to provide a seamless transition so that guys aren’t waiting on me. That’s my first job. Make sure we don’t lose our rhythm.”
The Packers, who have now played only two games without Rodgers since 2008, will probably try to take the pressure off Tolzien by running Eddie Lacy. The rookie leads the NFL with 618 yards rushing since Oct. 1.
New York comes into the game playing its best defense of the season. It has given up only one touchdown in the past three games, and that was set up by a fumble on the opening kickoff last week against Oakland.
Now it gets an inexperienced quarterback.
“The best thing we can do is stop Lacy,” cornerback Terrell Thomas said. “Right now, even when Aaron was playing, they’ve been running behind him. He’s a big back and we’ve got to do a better job in stopping the run. We let (Rashad) Jennings get too many yards on us last week, so that’s the No. 1 focus, stopping him and putting all the pressure on the quarterback.”
Five things to watch Sunday:
BIG PLAYS: The Packers can’t allow the Giants to make the big plays this year. In the one-sided loss last season, New York scored 31 first-half points, benefiting from two turnovers deep in Green Bay territory, non-scoring passes of 59 and 25 yards, a 16-yard touchdown pass and a 13-yard TD run.
NOTHING SPECIAL: The Giants’ special teams have been awful. In the past three games, the Vikings returned a punt for a touchdown, the Eagles recovered a bad punt snap in the end zone, and the Raiders scored less than a minute into the game following that fumble on the opening kickoff. The positive for the unit was that Damontre Moore blocked a punt that fellow rookie Cooper Taylor returned for a touchdown against Oakland.
ELI WOES: Neither Manning nor the Giants’ offense is having the best of seasons. Manning has thrown 16 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. The last was by Oakland’s Tracy Porter just before halftime that put the Raiders ahead. Most of the interceptions came early in the season, with only one in the three-game winning streak.
FOURTH DOWNERS: Fourth quarters have been a problem all year for the Packers, and they were especially painful the last two weeks. The defense could not get off the field as the Bears and Eagles had long, clock-eating drives. The defense also has had a lack of takeaways. Green Bay is minus-4 in turnover differential.
WIDEOUTS: While Victor Cruz gets most of the attention, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle should be watched. Nicks has 23 catches for 423 yards and five TDs in four career games vs. Green Bay. Randle has five TD catches in his last five games. Packers WR Jordy Nelson is having one of the best seasons of his career. He leads the team with 49 catches, and his 29 TDs since 2011 are No. 3 in the NFL.