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Giants Focus is on Green Bay, Not Miami

(AP Photo - Matt Ludtke)

(AP Photo – Matt Ludtke)

First off, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, the New York Giants wide receivers went to Miami on their mandatory off day on Monday. It happened. This is the playoffs, and the playoffs are the Giants’ only point of focus this week.

On Tuesday, all Giants’ receivers reported to the team facility on time and in good shape. With an impending duel with the red-hot Green Bay Packers, that’s all the Giants are concentrated on. Game tape studying and on field practices are the most important things to talk about this week, not a picture on a boat.

“The players were off,” said Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. “I’m not going to talk about players and their time off. They showed up yesterday ready to work. Had a good practice…”

“Let’s move along,” said Giants receiver Victor Cruz. “It’s all about Green Bay now. We’re already a couple of days removed from that. Green Bay is the focus.”

The Green Bay Packers, after a 4-6 start, looked to be on their way to determining draft position more than playoff position. Aaron Rodgers, who said, “R-E-L-A-X,” in 2014 after a dreadful 1-2 start of the season, only to finish the season with a 12-4 record, had another soundbite this season. That soundbite was, “we’re going to run the table,” and did he ever live up to his end of the bargain. The Packers finished the remainder of the season 6-0 and the offense looks to be running on all cylinders. The Giants know what they’re going to be facing this Sunday at frigid Lambeau Field.

“They do a good job of staying steady and not reacting to what’s going on outside of the building, like a lot of good organizations,” said McAdoo. “Aaron is playing at a high level and the team feeds off of him.”

Not only is Rodgers a point of emphasis for the Giants to focus on, but there are multiple pieces on that offense to concentrate on. Rodgers has formidable weapons to throw to. Jordy Nelson obviously sticks out, with his name always at the top of the receiving lists. After tearing an ACL last season, Rodgers missed having his deep target. This season, Nelson has posted 97 receptions, 1,257 receiving yards (13.0 receiving yards per game), and 14 touchdowns. Besides Nelson, Rodgers still has multiple options down the field. Davante Adams (75 receptions, 997 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns) and Randall Cobb (60 receptions, 610 yards, four touchdowns) also stick out as points of emphasis for the Giants defense.

“They’re producing, and they’ve got a quarterback that can get it to them from anywhere, from any angle,” said Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. “You think he’s running this way and he’ll throw it that way. They work well together.”

One of the wild cards on the Packers offense heading into Wild Card weekend (cheap pun for a cheap pop), is receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery. With starting running back Eddie Lacy suffering a season ending ankle injury and backup James Starks suffering from concussion issues, Montgomery emerged as a last resort option at running back. The stressful running back situation put the Packers under pressure, but Montgomery emerged as a diamond in the rough. As the starting running back, Montgomery rushed for 457 yards on 77 attempts (5.9 yards per attempt) for three touchdowns. Montgomery’s unpredictability is something the Giants defense must look out for.

“At the end of the day he’s a receiver and receivers don’t like to be touched,” said Giants safety Landon Collins. “You got big guys in there, linebackers, and defensive backs that like to hit, so he’s going to have to suck it up if he’s going to touch the ball.”

The key to stopping Rodgers in this game is to pummel him with a strong defensive effort. The Giants defense has done that for the majority of the season, shutting down top offenses such as the Cowboys, Lions, and Redskins. The Giants will have to throw the newly dubbed “NYPD” (New York Pass Defense) at Rodgers. Rodgers did take advantage of a Giants defense still trying to figure out chemistry with each other early in the season, although not posting the greatest stats. Rodgers completed 23 of 45 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

This is a new defense that Rodgers is facing and he can expect to be disrupted in the pocket. Not only that, but the Giants have a defense system in the backfield that has the ability to pick off Rodgers.

“Yeah we’re trying to slow him down,” said Collins. “That’s the job. We try to get him uncomfortable and try to take advantage of it. That’s the biggest key keeping him contained and keeping him inside the pocket so he doesn’t have the chance to move the sticks and make the big plays down the field.”

“I’m a backfield watcher, I agree,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “I know with some quarterbacks you can peek a little bit more than others. This isn’t a game where you really want to do that. You have to stay zoned in on your man because they like to scramble, and it seems designed for them to move around when [Rodgers] scrambles so you have to be focused.”

Now is the time, more than ever, for the Giants receivers to be used to their full potential. Everyone knows how spectacular Odell Beckham Jr (101 receptions, 1,367 receiving yards, ten touchdowns) has played for the Giants. Sterling Shepard (65 receptions, 683 yards, eight touchdowns) has emerged as a great second target for Manning, with great speed at his arsenal. Victor Cruz (39 receptions, 586 yards, one touchdown) provides veteran presence in the receiving corps and has playoff experience where he played an integral role in the Giants winning Super Bowl XLVI. The Giants have an advantage against the Packers defense, who has given up 269.2 passing yards per game (31st in NFL) and 32 pass touchdowns (3rd most in NFL). If this isn’t a moment for the Giants receivers to make their presence felt in the most important part of the football season, then nothing is.

“That’s obviously the plan,” said Beckham Jr. “They’re, like I said, a red hot team. They’ve won six in a row, they had to win each and every game to get in. It’s about finding the best matchup that you think you have and going at it.”

“We just see, due to some injuries, some guys that aren’t playing their natural position,” said Cruz. “Just some guys that are trying to figure it out and get through games…As an offense, we want to do some things to combat that and make sure that we are prepared for whatever they throw at us and whatever guys cover us that we are able to win our one-on-one battle.”

There was some glimmer of hope in the running game during last weekend’s 19-10 victory over the Redskins. The running game has particularly struggled all weekend. In Week 17, rookie Paul Perkins received the starter’s designation for the game and was able to rush for 102 yards on 21 carries. That, combined with Rashad Jennings’ 52 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown, led the Giants rushing unit to have 164 total yards. This has been the season high in rush yards in a single game. The run game has been the bane of the Giants’ offense all season, and it looks to be solved in perfect timing, right before the playoffs.

“…the guys up front did a great job blocking, the running backs ran tough and made guys miss, the receivers blocking downfield,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning. “So we have to continue to do that, just be really sound on our assignments, make sure that guys are doing the right thing…When you get to third downs you have to be able to convert on third downs, give yourself more opportunities to run a lot of plays, so that you can mix in the run and pass.”

The Giants are focusing on these points of emphasis heading into Green Bay this week. Not a photo. The playoffs. The Giants have potential to make a deep run in the playoffs, due in part to a spectacular defense and an offense with tons of potential. The goal is winning a Super Bowl, and the Giants have the formula to get it done. In order to accomplish this goal, they have to get through the red hot team in the frozen tundra of Green Bay.

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