Giants-Packers: Protecting the ball

Now, I'm sure none of you guys are cheating on me with another blog, so I feel it's my responsibility to refer you to what Kevin Seifert is up to this week on the NFC North blog in advance of the New York Giants' playoff game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Kevin had a long piece today on the Packers' pass defense, which was, by yardage allowed, the worst in NFL history this season. Kevin's conclusion is that this is an issue the Packers have been unable to solve as the season has gone along, and something that could injure their chances at a repeat Super Bowl victory if indeed anything can:

The Packers tripped only once this season despite giving up an NFL-record 4,796 passing yards, mostly because they intercepted a league-leading 31 passes. In the playoffs, of course, the quarterbacks are better and less prone to mistakes. The Packers could face a Pro Bowl quarterback at every step between now and Super Bowl XLVI.

The bottom line: If an elite quarterback gashes them for yards but avoids the interceptions, he could knock the Packers out of the playoffs.

It's amazing the way the things that mattered in August can still matter in January. Going into this Giants season, one of the most important questions was whether Eli Manning could limit his interceptions. With a couple of glaring exceptions — three-pick games against Seattle and Washington — Manning has been careful and responsible with the ball. He had an interception returned for a touchdown in the Week 13 game against the Packers in New Jersey, and the Giants lost that game by three points.

There is little reason to doubt that Manning and the Giants will be able to move the ball and score points against the Packers — maybe even enough to win the game. What's most important for Manning at long last is the same thing that was most important before the season began. If he can avoid throwing interceptions, his chances of winning this game will improve dramatically. If he can't, he'll be playing right into the hands of a Green Bay defense that feeds off of turnovers.