It took 256 regular season games, but we’ve finally whittled down the 32-team NFL field to just 12 teams that have rightfully earned their place in the 2016-17 NFL playoffs. Now, all that stands between these teams and eternal glory as Super Bowl LI champions is four games (three for four teams with a first-round bye) and it all starts with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday afternoon. Throughout the NFL playoffs, we’ll be breaking down each game right here, with a special emphasis on the most important things, like who might win, why, and most importantly, by how many points. All lines and spreads are courtesy of Westgate Sportsbook.
The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers are two of the most revered franchises in the NFL, and in recent years they’ve developed a healthy in-conference rivalry as well, which you’d expect from two perennial contenders.
Even though the Packers lead the all-time playoff series by the slimmest of margins — four games to three — it’s the Giants who have dominated the series of late. Big Blue have won the last two playoff matchups between the two famed franchises and they’ve done it within the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field as well.
Actually, beating the Packers at Lambeau is kind of a prerequisite for a Giants Super Bowl run. In 2008 and 2012, the G-Men dispatched the team Vince Lombardi presided over to claim the eponymously named Vince Lombardi Trophy both times.
So, can they do it again?
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers – Sun. Jan. 8, 4:40 p.m. ET
Spread: Packers -4.5
Spread: The Packers and Aaron Rodgers have garnered all of the accolades for being “hot” of late, but the Giants enter the playoffs having won nine of their last 11 games, including another win over the NFC’s top dogs, the Dallas Cowboys, in Week 14.
But, back to the Pack for a second. Aaron Rodgers didn’t ask folks to “R-E-L-A-X” this time, but in late November, on the heels of a four-game losing streak, he spelled out exactly what the Packers would need to do to return to the postseason: “Run the table.”
That’s exactly what the Packers did on the back of a resurgent Rodgers and a resurrected running game, led by a wide receiver — Ty Montgomery — who was converted to the position more so out of necessity than anything else.
But the move has paid off in spades as Montgomery has proved more than capable to carry the Packers’ running game and alleviating all of the pressure from No. 12’s shoulders.
On Sunday, however, they’ll have to continue their offensive excellence against a Giants unit that has been one of the most improved in the NFL from last year, even without pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul for much of the second half of the year.
The first time these teams met back in Week 5 both defenses actually did their part to keep their teams in the game. The Giants defense limited the Packers to just two touchdowns, forcing Mason Crosby to kick three field goals, while the Packers defense more than returned the favor, intercepting Eli Manning twice while allowing just one touchdown, which the Giants scored with just 2:54 left in the game.
So, while Rodgers and Co. are garnering the headlines, I’m guessing that the defenses play a larger role than many expect once again at frigid Lambeau on Sunday afternoon. When it’s all said and done though, I’m betting on the Giants’ superior defense to find a way to get a stop and on “playoff Eli” to get Big Blue the big TD when it counts against a porous Green Bay secondary. Giants +4.5
Total: As I said, like the first matchup, I think both defenses end up playing a big role here and manage to stymie the opposition’s offense much of the day. Under 44.5
Final: Giants 20, Packers 17