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Packers vs. Giants: Five Questions to Ponder Ahead of Week 11

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Packers vs. Giants: Five Questions to Ponder Ahead of Week 11

The Green Bay Packers are entering a two-game stretch that will likely decide whether Aaron Rodgers will return to a team still fighting for the postseason or one mostly dead in the water.

First up, the 3-6 but very much alive New York Giants.

Without Rodgers, the Packers have turned what could have been a 7-2 start into a 5-4 lull. The Packers' four losses are the most this early into a season since 2009, when an eventual 11-5 club dropped two early home games, one in the Metrodome and another to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That team gelled and rattled off wins in seven of the final eight games. These Packers might have to win at least six of their final eight, and they'll need to do so without Rodgers until at least Thanksgiving.

Here's five questions the Packers need to answer against the Giants in Week 11:

1. Can Scott Tolzien Build on a Surprising Debut?

Off the bench cold, Tolzien was equally fearless as he was effective in his NFL debut. The Packers consistently moved the football with Tolzien under center, but a variety of mistakes—including two interceptions and some struggles inside the red zone—prevented Green Bay from scoring more than 13 points. Tolzien will now get the start Sunday, becoming the third Packers starter in as many weeks. A week of live reps with the No. 1 offense and a gameplan built around his strengths will help, but the Giants also have a full game's worth of tape to break down. Expect New York to blitz—Tolzien had a passer rating of 38.9 on nine blitzed dropbacks against the Eagles—and load up to stop Eddie Lacy and the run game. The new Packers quarterback will need to stay on the attack, especially against a beat up Giants secondary, while also cutting down on the mistakes. He's capable.

2. Will the Packers Make a Key Fourth Quarter Stop?

The struggles getting off the field in the fourth quarter the last two weeks have been jarring. In back-to-back games, the Packers defense was pushed around and bullied during the game's biggest moment. Breakdowns in the run game and tackling at every level have been the biggest problems late in games. Unless we are to believe Tolzien and the offense will score a bucketload of points, expect Sunday's game to feature another opportunity for the Packers defense to make an important stop in the fourth quarter. Mike McCarthy spoke at length this week about cleaning up the performance late in games, and historically, he's been very good about focusing attention on an area and getting it fixed. To win in New York Sunday, the Packers will likely need to prove that the previous two weeks are in the past.

3. The Packers Defense Has to Get a Few Turnovers, Right?

Maybe the most surprising stat of Green Bay's season—even more so than the dominance of the run game—has been the utter lack of turnovers, and especially interceptions. The Packers have just three picks (32nd in NFL) and eight total takeaways in nine games, both far cries from the pace typically seen by Dom Capers' defenses. In fact, from 2009-2012, the Packers intercepted 103 passes, which led the NFL by a whopping 17. This season, only three have come on 303 passing attempts against Green Bay. Here's the statistical difference: From 2009-12, Green Bay averaged one interception for every 20 attempts. This season, it's been one every 101. There would seem to be no better week to change that trend than this one, as the Packers take on the NFL's interception leader in Eli Manning (16). On the road and starting a young, inexperienced quarterback, Green Bay will likely need one or two takeaways to win.

4. How Do the Packers Contain New York's Three Receivers?

A secondary that is struggling mightily won't get a rest in Week 11. In fact, Sunday might be its most difficult test of the season. The Giants haven't been great passing the football this season, but Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle are as good as it gets in terms of a three-receiver set in the NFC. Cruz is a master of the slot, and both Nicks and Randle are the kind of big, physical receivers that have occasionally given Green Bay troubles. Just a season ago, Cruz, Nicks and Randle all caught touchdown passes during the Giants rout in New York. And during the previous three meetings alone, Nicks hauled in 19 catches for 330 yards and five scores. Somehow, a confidence-shaken secondary needs to shake off the troubles and get sticky again. If not, Manning and his trio of receiving weapons could tear the same kind of holes in the Packers defense that both Josh McCown and Nick Foles—not exactly two world-beating quarterbacks—have in back-to-back weeks.

5. Which Offense Will Run For More Yards?

Two stats might have a strong say in who wins in New York Sunday. Turnover differential is an obvious one. But the other is likely in the running game, which you wouldn't always expect in a game featuring the Packers and Giants. Green Bay has been dominant throughout this season on the ground, but the sledding will continue to get more and more difficult as defenses stack the box and force Tolzien to win in the passing game. The Giants are also allowing an average of just 61.7 rushing yards over the last three games, all ending in wins. New York has suddenly found a capable runner in Andre Brown, who went for 115 yards against the Oakland Raiders last week. The Packers' stone wall against the run has been gashed wide open in recent weeks, as the Bears and Eagles combined to rush for 375 yards. To beat the Giants Sunday, the Packers might need to be +1 or +2 in the turnover category and have a big advantage on the ground.

Prediction: New York 31, Green Bay 20 (6-3)

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

UP-Packer's picture

Solid analysis on the key points. The Giants will definitely be stuffing the box daring Tolzien to beat their defense with his arm. Young QBs have a high propensity to get rattled & turn the ball over (picks). ---- Somehow, the Pack needs to win the TO battle or they will be 5-5 come Sunday night.

Stroh's picture

Tolzien isn't the type to get rattled. That might be his biggest strength as a QB. He won't get rattled. He threw 2 INT's last week, one a bad throw one a bad decision. Tolzien should play well enough for the Packers to win IMO, and its just as likely he plays very well. If the OL plays well the Packers should win. I'll say 27-24 Packers.

themasterfake's picture

somebody has calmed down a lot since Sunday regarding Tolzien.

KurtMc's picture

good points Zach.

I too se NY putting 8 in the box and daring us to throw. MM will hopefully have something (???) planned of or this event.

At this point with the D, it's a coin flip. Not sure if anything Supprises me anymore.

NY WILL WANT TO THROW early, to get a lead then pound it. Lets hope were up to it. Pivital game.... My two cents.

Uncle Louie's picture

There's a reason the DB's have very few INT's, the receivers are wide open most of the time. I'd be happy with bumping their receivers at the line, tighter coverage and solid tackling. When they become more aggressive turnovers will follow. Until then........ Same o'l crap.
Heck, a few stops on third down would be nice.

Morgan Mundane's picture

Ya that will happen

pooch's picture

NewYork 31 Greenbay14,our d is putrid against average qb's I would imagine Eli has shaken the rust off.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree with you Zach.

My first reaction was, is there only 5 questions for the game?

To me the game is won if:
-The Packers win the turnover battle. Honestly, I think the Packers have to have a +2 turnover battle win too.
-They have to run the ball effectively.
-The defense plays a lot better.
-Play mistake free football. Can't have untimed bad penalty's and can't have drive killing penalty's.
-Redzone efficiency. If they convert more redzone trips into points (especially TD's), they will win.

I think they have to do these things as well as Tolzien has to play well. If they do these things, They will win.

Point Packer's picture

Yes. I agree completely.

Al's picture

You have us losing but going to 6-3? huh?

Zach Kruse's picture

I'm 6-3 in picking GB games this season. That's what the record is indicating there.

Al's picture

The Giants are not very good and we can win this game if Tolzien just doesn't make any huge mistakes. But even more importantly the D needs to show up. We don't need turnovers but we do need to keep the Giants offense under control. No more big gashes.

Longshanks's picture

I think one player people are overlooking big time is Mason Crosby. I think he's going to play a huge role in this game. He needs to make ALL his kicks no matter where they are from. We need his best performance of the year in this game. MM needs to have that 100% trust in this guy in case Tolzein can't keep moving the chains on those critical third downs. The Packers are almost dead last in the red zone td scoring so Mason will play a huge role tomorrow in my professional opinion. Get er done Mason!!

Longshanks

The TKstinator's picture

I think Tolzien comes from a very talented family.

JRR, his dad, wrote all those Lord of the Rings and Hobbit books.

If Scott can play qb as well as his father writes, it'll be smooth sailing for GB till 12 returns.

Cow42's picture

Looks like most posters are hoping for the following things to happen in order for the Pack to get a W...

-defense plays well and doesn't give up big plays
-win turnover differential
-run the ball
-Crosby have a good game

Have any of you watched this team this year?

Other than "run the ball" you gotta guess that there's less than a 10% chance that any of the other three of those keys will happen.

Calf21's picture

Please ignore my dad.
He's off his meds again.
The only time he's happy is when he's miserable.
But of course then he's miserable, so he's unhappy.
Can you see the vicious circular logic that prevails here?
Me neither.

Morgan Mundane's picture

I've got Cruz, Nicks, and Eli resurrecting their careers today, holding hands at the end of the game and singing Kumbaya. Giants 34, Packers 3

RunAndHyde's picture

I'm scared to even make a prediction because this one could go either way IMO. In Lacy we trust and.......For whooom the belllll Tolzzzzzz!? Time marches on!

Gary's picture

Hopefully someone reminds the D that time does indeed continue marching on after the third quarter. Du-duh du-duh duuuuuuuuuuh - weeedilweeedoo… weedooweedooweee du-duh du-duh duuuuuuuuuuhh...

Zub's picture

Prediction, MM made the decision this week to start a QB on emotion, it will be clear at some point in this game that will a mistake and Flynn will finish the game.

Gary's picture

Who were MM's other options for starting QB's at the time he made that declaration? Flynn wasn't on the team and Wallace was injured. How was that a mistake? Tolzien's not coming out if he can make it past the first-series curse.

PackerPete's picture

I thought we should come back weekly and revisit the original
questions, and answer those. That's my entertainment for the
rest of the season, as this team is not going anywhere.
1. Can Scott Tolzien Build on a Surprising Debut?
No, unless you count throwing INTs at inopportune times as such.
2. Will the Packers Make a Key Fourth Quarter Stop?
Nope.
3. The Packers Defense Has to Get a Few Turnovers, Right?
Well, 1 does not count as a few, so no.
4. How Do the Packers Contain New York’s Three Receivers?
They didn't.
5. Which Offense Will Run For More Yards?
With the threat of having to defend run and pass, the
Packers gave up more run yards. the Giants only had to
defend the run to handily win.

packeraaron's picture

<em>1. Can Scott Tolzien Build on a Surprising Debut?
No, unless you count throwing INTs at inopportune times as such.</em>

This is just ignorance.

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