It takes quite a bit to overshadow two of the most historically successful franchises in the NFL but that will likely be the case on Sunday night as the two biggest names on a grand stage won’t be Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning. While most of the country’s attention will be focused on the second presidential debate, there should be quite a bit of drama over on NBC too in what could be a classic between a pair of potential playoff teams.
Green Bay started the year as a trendy Super Bowl pick and looked like one of the more complete teams in the league through three games, dropping only a tough road contest at the division rival Vikings by just a field goal. Amazingly the Packers have done it all with Rodgers not quite looking like his normal MVP-level self for a full game just yet. He has thrown seven touchdowns and benefited from the return of Jordy Nelson but it will be a tough task against a Giants defense that looks much improved after an offseason re-tooling.
Speaking of New York, the G-Men are in an interesting spot and starting to feel some pressure after the first quarter of the season. After a 2-0 start had many thinking they’re the team to beat in the NFC East, suddenly they’re in last place. Add to that some locker room squabbling after Odell Beckham Jr.’s temper got the best of him and first-year head coach Ben McAdoo is facing quite a challenge this week.
The Giants have won the last three games in this series however, including three of the past four at Lambeau Field. Green Bay did roll over New York in a big win back in their last meeting in 2010 and own the series lead overall but this has been heavily tilted to the Giants in recent memory.
New York at Green Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, October 9, 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Packers -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Aerial attack
Odell Beckham Jr. gets a lot of the press for the Giants (and even more so after his issues last week at Minnesota) but the Giants have a quality receiving corps that is rounded out with Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard. All three are likely to be on the field quite a bit on Sunday but will have a tough task for the second straight week. The Packers’ secondary has plenty of talent but has been allowing more than 300 passing yards a game and could be without cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) for yet another key game.
2. Bringing pressure
The Giants gave Olivier Vernon big bucks to come to the Big Apple and he’s been a quality addition so far in shutting down run lanes and getting to the passer. Teaming up with Jason Pierre-Paul gives the team two dangerous defensive ends that the Packers must slow down or else Aaron Rodgers will be running for his life. The opposite is true for Green Bay, which has some decent options coming off the edge but has not found a way to get to Eli Manning in their past meetings despite sub-par offensive line play from the Giants.
3. Finding a rhythm
Both Manning and Rodgers have Super Bowl rings and can be some of the toughest quarterbacks to stop when they’re on their game. Each has some incredible options in the passing game and don’t have to be completely perfect in order to rack up the completions. If either starts to get on a roll against some defenses that are a little suspect through the air, things could get out of hand quickly.
There are a lot of intriguing matchups around the NFL in Week 5 but none as interesting as the one going on at Lambeau Field. While NBC executives hope that may be enough to get viewers to tune into football instead of the presidential debate, the numbers probably won’t be huge other than that of the two offenses matching wits on the gridiron.
The Giants enter their second road trip to an NFC North locale with their backs up against the wall. They’re already behind the competition in their own division and the past two losses have both exposed some of the team’s flaws for all to see. They still have a great opportunity to go into a hostile environment and pull out a win but they’re going to need their defense to step up like it did against Dallas and New Orleans while getting something going on offense that involves converting on third down.
It will be a tall task however, especially given that Green Bay is coming off its bye and are 8-2 the next game after a week off under head coach Mike McCarthy. The secondary has not lived up to the lofty billing it received in the preseason but will have an opportunity to put any struggles behind it with a good performance against a trio of quality receivers. Offensively, the Pack has a pretty good group of pass catchers themselves and the edge at quarterback and running back as well. The Packers come into this game fresh and should be hungry to get a statement win over the Giants that keeps them near the top of the NFL power rankings and the NFC standings.
Prediction: Packers 33, Giants 27
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.