My wife, A-Star, is from West Virginia. She was born in Wheeling, WV. She was raised in Wheeling, WV. She went to school at West Virginia University. Her Mountaineer football blood is thick. After all, her roots are "Almost Heaven." This year - West Virginia was one win away from the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans. They had to win 1 game and they were going to the National Championship. We had rented out a hotel room off of Bourbon Street. We were driving from Miami to New Orleans. We were stopping in Kiln, MS to visit a local tavern and to ask the locals for a tale of #4. Yeah, I was going to be that guy! But, I was also going to be rooting for my wife's college football team in the National Championship game. All that they had to do was win ONE game at HOME. We all know how that one ended.
I've learned my lesson. Hence, I pass my education onto you. In this crazy world of football parity, it's one game at a time.
G-Force, we must be prepared. We take no prisoners. If the defense is on the field, elevate. If you have a voice, lose it. Plan on leaving Lambeau with an inability to speak. The NFL has granted us with the MAIN EVENT - the game under the lights...sleep in on Sunday. Rest up. Sleep off the hang over from Saturday. And be prepared to go to battle on Sunday.
The New York Giants are coming to the most magical of stadiums on Sunday. Lambeau Field. Under the Lights. The winner receives a trip to Arizona and a Super Bowl Berth. The temperature is expected to be around 8 degrees with winds of 10 mph. Let's play some football, mates!
The Giants have won 9 straight road games. Their defense stepped up to the challenge of Romo, TO, Barber, and Texas Stadium. The Giants left victorious. They deserve to be applauded for a terrific defensive performance. For much of the game, it looked like the Cowboys were the more physical team, but with the game on the line in the 4th Quarter, the Giants defense dug deep and came up with big plays to get themselves off the field.
Over the past two weeks, Eli Manning has also shown an ability to string together consecutive passes at crucial moments of a playoff game. Since Jeremy Shockey's injury, he has developed a nice chemistry with Amani Toomer and Steve Smith. Toomer has been a big time play maker on third downs in the playoffs. Smith has also proved to be sure handed and deceptively physical over the last two weeks. Smith has been able to get just enough separation and Manning has been accurate enough to put the ball where only Smith could catch it.
Kevin Boss has also developed into a respectable TE. He uses his body well and shields defenders as he runs short curls and down and outs. He's an effective possession TE and will pose a threat to the Packer defense on short yardage passes.
Plaxico Burress has been somewhat quiet in the post season but he is absolutely dangerous and possesses big play potential. It'll be important for Collins and Ras-A-tari to prevent Burress from getting behind them.
While the Giants have some threats on offense, they have "keep-the-chains-moving" guys. The Giants may attempt to find Burress deep down the field, but other than him, I look at the Giants receivers as possession players. Therefore, my biggest concern heading into this Sunday is the Giants running game. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw have turned into their own version of "Thunder and Lightning." Jacobs is a load to bring down and he's surprisingly quick. Bradshaw is a burner who is surprisingly tough to bring down. If the Giants can stuff the ball down our throats on the run, we could be in trouble. We must stop the run. AJ Hawk, Nickie B, and Brady Poppinga must dominate the second tier of the defense and prevent Jacobs and Bradshaw from finding seams in the offensive line. Strong LB play is pivotal towards shutting down the Giants rushing attack. Hawk, Barnett and Poppinga will be challenged from a speed and power perspective this weekend.
The strength of the Giants defense is found in their front 4. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora make up what is arguably the best pass rushing DE combo in the NFL. Justin Tuck is a solid utility player on the Defensive Line as well. Tuck can rush the passer from both the DE and DT positions. Fred Robbins is an admirable run stopping DT. Hell, Dave Tollefson, the Packers 7th round pick last year, was even found picking up a sack against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round.
The Giants do a good job of disguising blitzes with their LB's. Kawika Mitchell and Antonio Pierce relish the opportunity to rush the passer. Both have had tremendous post seasons.
I think the Packers will be able to attack the Giants secondary. They are banged up. Their starters - Kevin Dockery and Sam Madison - might not play. Both missed the Giants game. Back-up, 1st round pick, Aaron Ross started last week, but dislocated his shoulder. He claims that he will be able to play this week except the last time I saw him, he was standing on the sidelines with his arm in a sling. Corey Webster has been a ball hawk in the post season. He played very well against Dallas. He also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble against Tampa Bay. RW McQuarters has been victimized by the Packers before and he will be victimized by the Packers again this week. Gibril Wilson is an above average safety who plays well in coverage, but the Giants other two safeties, Michael Johnson and James Butler, struggle in pass situations.
The best way to slow down a good pass rush is a solid run game. Ryan Grant, stay loose. I expect the Packers to come out and attempt to establish the run on the first possession. Probably in the "Falcon formation." Two TE's. Two FB's. Grant running right at Michael Strahan. In games past, Tauscher has performed very well against Strahan. I foresee a similar result from Tauscher this weekend. Grant running right. Cutting back into the teeth of the Giants defense. 6 yards. 14 yards. 3 yards. 11 yards. 8 yards. 2 yards. 7 yards. Banging away at the New York defense.
Grant slows down the pass rush. Welcome to the play-action pass. If Aaron Ross is on the field, his shoulder will be tested. Favre to Driver. Aaron Ross will not be able to arm tackle Donal Driver. Driver will enjoy yards after the catch. Favre to Franks for 6. Favre to K-Rob for a 1st down. Favre to the touchdown maker, Greg Jennings.
I could not recall the last time that the Packers came out of shotgun...Jones lined up wide right. The slot receiver lined up between Jones and Tauscher. The play was designed to drag James Jones across the middle underneath the slot receiver...putting Jones in space. Twice, last week, the Packers ran this play. Twice James Jones had BIG receptions. I do not remember the Packers running this play since the pre-season when Jones showed that he had the potential to make an impact as a rookie WR. In fact, the last time I recall the play was when Jones caught the ball and fumbled it against J'ville in the third pre-season game this year. Nonetheless, McCarthy impressed me by digging deep into the play book on two plays that led to 1st downs on 3rd down.
The Packers take an early lead. The temperature drops from 6 to 5 degrees. Eli no longer wants to get off the heated bench. Eli, it's OH SO COLD. He has not performed well in cold weather. Eli will not beat us. The pressure from the Packer defense intensifies. Kampman and KGB apply pressure. Jenkins, who played his best game of the year last week, continues to provide an inside push. Pickett plugs run holes. Corey Williams gets in Eli's face on 3rd down.
Chuckie lines up against Toomer as Toomer lines up in the slot. Rasta Al stands man-to-man with Plaxico. T-man Williams scratches and claws with Steve Smith on the outside.
The Giants do keep it close for most of the 1st half. They may even take a lead early in the 2nd Quarter. But, this is day for the G-Force. This is a day for the Packers to return to the Super Bowl. This is a day for McCarthy, Thompson, and Favre to stand at the podium and take back the NFC Championship trophy.
Green Bay 34. New York 20.
G-Force, this game is not about who is better. If the Packers and Giants played at Lambeau 10 times, the Packers would win 9 times. This game comes down to 2 things: Heart and Preparation.
Heart: The Packers must win the battle of the elements. The G-Force must also defeat the elements.
Preparation: I saw the Packers on the NFL Network for the first time this year. It was during the first couple of weeks of Training Camp. The NFL Network was televising the Packers scrimmage at Green Bay East High School. During the show, McCarthy could be heard saying that his motto for the 2007 season was defined by 6 P's: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. G-Force, we must do the same. Be prepared to BRING IT!
Lambeau, here I come!