Next-Level Preview: Giants vs. Packers

The New York Giants will face the Green Bay Packers Sunday night for the first time since the Giants upset the top-seeded Packers in the NFC Divisional Round last year en route to their second Super Bowl win in five seasons.

The Giants are coming off a disappointing 31-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Eli Manning threw two interceptions and was sacked a season-high four times. The Giants’ defense continued to struggle, allowing Andy Dalton to post a 94.8 Total QBR, the highest the Giants have allowed to a quarterback since Week 16 of 2010, when Aaron Rodgers threw for 404 yards and four touchdown and posted a 95.9 QBR. The Packers are rolling, having won five straight and their defense has not allowed more than 20 points in the last four games.

Let’s take a look at a few key areas the Giants will need to improve if they hope to win Sunday night.

Eli Manning Passing More Than 10 Yards Downfield, This Season | 2012 Season

•Over the first seven weeks of the season, Eli Manning had the third-best completion percentage in the league on throws more than 10 yards downfield and he had the most pass plays of 30 or more yards (12). Over the last three games, Manning has really struggled on those throws though. Among all qualified quarterbacks, Manning has the worst completion percentage on throws 10 or more yards downfield (30.3) along with the lowest yards per attempt (6.8) and the highest number of interceptions thrown (3, tied with two others) in that span. Over his last three games, Manning has the worst touchdown-to-interception differential on those throws in the league (minus-3).

One of the biggest reasons for Manning’s struggles on deep throws has been his lack of a connection with his favorite deep-threat receiver Victor Cruz. Over the first seven weeks, Manning and Cruz hooked up for 13 catches, 335 yards and three touchdowns on throws 10 or more yards downfield. However, over the last three games, Cruz has only caught two passes for 43 yards and no touchdowns.

Giants Pass Defense by Number of Rushers | 2012 Season

•The Giants will need to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers. In two games against Green Bay last season, the Giants sacked Rodgers six times, four of which came when sending five or more pass rushers. The Giants were much more successful sending five or more pass rushers against the Packers last season, averaging 5.8 dropbacks per sack, but they only had a sack every 43.0 dropbacks when sending four or fewer rushers.

This season, the Giants’ four-man pass rush has not been as effective. Over their first 10 games last season, the Giants had 21 sacks with their standard pass rush but have only 15 with such pressure through their first 10 games this season. Despite their reliance on the front four, the Giants defense has a better sack percentage and has allowed a lower Total QBR when sending added pressure.

Eli Manning vs. Aaron Rodgers Red Zone Passing | 2012 Season

•One of the biggest differences between Rodgers and Manning in 2012 has been their success in red-zone passing. Rodgers has excelled in such situations, garnering the highest QBR in the league along with the second-highest completion percentage among qualified quarterbacks. Manning, on the other hand, has struggled, with the fifth-lowest completion percentage. Rodgers is averaging a touchdown every 2.7 attempts while Manning is averaging a touchdown every seven attempts.