The NFL returns to London for the second straight week as a pair of 3-1 teams face off at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. The Giants will put their 2-0 record in the U.K. on the line against a Packers team that will become the final NFL team to play an International Series game.
Although the records are impressive, this may not be the most competitive game, since the Giants' quarterback room has been hit hard with injuries. Daniel Jones suffered a sprained left ankle last Sunday and backup Tyrod Taylor is in concussion protocol. If neither can go, New York may have to turn to practice squad QB Davis Webb or the free-agent market.
Mediocre quarterback play was expected from the Giants this season, but few saw the Packers falling off this much offensively to start the season. Green Bay is 21st in scoring (18.8 ppg) as Aaron Rodgers has a career-worst 43.1 QBR (22nd).
But with strong defenses and beatable schedules, both teams find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt. Can the Giants score a signature win to cement their place as a contender? Or will the Packers topple a backup quarterback for the second straight week?
New York (3-1) vs. Green Bay (3-1)
Three Things to Watch
1. What will the Giants get at quarterback?
This is the question everyone wants to know. Head coach Brian Daboll has indicated that Jones will be a game-time decision, although he likely won't be at 100 percent, even if he does play. Jones practiced "a little" on Wednesday, and it bares watching how much he participates in the rest of the week.
An injury to his plant foot is particularly brutal for Jones, considering he's picked up 193 rushing yards and two scores through parts of four games. Jones has not been a particularly threatening passer this season (6.0 ypa), so Green Bay's vaunted defense may not have to respect his legs either.
Due to the nature of his injury, Taylor seems unlikely to play, but he is more of a downfield passing threat if he does start. Since 2018, his average air yards per attempt is 8.72 compared to Jones' 7.54 mark. Webb, on the other hand, is a total mystery after not attempting a pass in his lone NFL appearance.
2. Can the Packers expose New York's run defense?
Don't be fooled by the Giants only allowing one rushing touchdown all season. Their run defense has been brutal this season. By traditional stats, they rank 28th in yards allowed per game (141.0) and 27th in yards allowed per carry (5.1). Advanced stats aren't any better: 31st in run stop win rate (27 percent) and 25th in adjusted line yards (4.88).
That's bad news as they face one of the better run offenses in the league. Aaron Jones is second among running backs in yards per carry (6.8), first downs (19), and DVOA (36.0 percent). Bruising AJ Dillon is having a down year at just 3.8 yards per carry, but this seems like the game to get him back on track.
Rodgers hasn't been his normal self this season, and being able to lean on the rushing attack more takes pressure off. The Giants won't have a chance if they allow 150-plus yards, as they did in their lone loss to the Cowboys. Defensive tackle Leonard Williams (knee) missing practice and possibly missing another game won't help.
3. Will turnovers ever come consistently for the Giants' defense?
One of the big areas of improvement for the Giants in Daboll's first season is the turnover department. After giving the ball away 30 times last year (1.8 per game), they're down to five through four games (1.3). And with six takeaways, that's a plus-one differential instead of minus-eight in 2021.
However, the way the Giants have picked up those turnovers is a bit puzzling. They've recovered a league-high six fumbles (nearly matching last year's total of seven) but haven't picked off a pass all season. Fumble luck does not tend to be a repeatable skill, so the Giants may not be able to depend on recovering most loose balls going forward — even though the Packers have lost four fumbles this season, tied for third in the NFL.
Rodgers' interception rate this season (2.3 percent) is nearly double his career rate (1.3 percent), but he hasn't necessarily been inaccurate. His 12.8 percent bad-throw rate is his lowest since Pro-Football-Reference.com started tracking in 2018, and his 81.2 percent on-target rate is tied for his best.
So even if his overall numbers are down, the Giants will need perhaps their best defensive performance of the season — without cornerback Aaron Robinson (knee), who just landed on IR — to pick up their first interception.
Beating the Packers with a fully healthy offense would be tricky enough. But playing with a beat-up or backup quarterback seems like it will be a bridge too far. Although Saquon Barkley looks like a world-beater again, the Packers should be able to key in on him and prevent him from becoming a one-man wrecking unit. Unless the Giants have unnaturally good turnover luck, they will likely come back to earth in their first-ever London loss.
Prediction: Packers 21, Giants 10
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