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Giants-Packers: Three keys to Sunday’s NFC wild-card game

Eli Manning leads the Giants into their sixth

Eli Manning leads the Giants into their sixth playoff appearance since he was drafted in 2004. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Patrick Smith

The longest Giants postseason drought since Lawrence Taylor turned pro is over.

Big Blue had missed the playoffs the previous four seasons. The last time that happened was a 17-season drought that lasted until 1980.

But how far can these Giants (11-5) go with a juggernaut like the Packers (10-6) standing in the way on their home turf?

Here are three keys to Sunday afternoon’s NFC wild-card matchup, which kicks off in Green Bay, Wisconsin at 4:40 p.m. on Fox/5.

Contain Rodgers

After a relatively average (by his standards) start to the season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing like a man possessed. During the Packers’ current six-game win streak, he’s tossed 15 touchdowns without an interception while completing 71% of his passes. He hasn’t thrown a pick since Nov. 13.

Keeping the former two-time league MVP and one-time Super Bowl champion from getting hot is critical to a Giants victory.

In addition to pressure up front from the likes of Olivier Vernon, the Giants secondary must blanket top options Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. All eyes will be on Pro Bowl selection Janoris Jenkins and the rest of the defensive backfield.

The Eli barometer

Big Blue’s own two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning didn’t have the same success as Rodgers during the regular season, but he has come through in big spots before.

During the team’s two most recent championship runs, Manning completed 63.1% of his passes for 2,073 yards, 15 TDs and two INTs over eight games. Those are all well above his career rates.

Manning’s three one-and-done playoff games were clunkers, with a 55.4% completion rate, a 2-6 TD-INT ratio and no more than 169 passing yards in a game.

History is clear: As Eli goes, so go the Giants.

Calling all receivers

The Giants’ three-game skid early in the season bottomed out the last time they visited Green Bay on Oct. 9, losing 23-16. A late Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown catch made for a respectable score, but the Packers soundly beat the G-Men that night. Jenkins had a strong game, but most of his teammates failed to find a rhythm.

Beckham didn’t have a particularly strong game, while Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz were a nonfactors. The receiving corps can’t afford another lackluster outing, especially with the specter of the overblown New Year’s Day yacht party story dominating headlines though the lead-up to Sunday’s game.


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