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PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the fourth of five key matchups in the Packers' Week 13 game against the Giants at the Meadowlands Sunday.
Packers LB corps vs. Giants RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs
The days of the Giants being considered a power running team are definitely over. The Giants' ground game, ranked last in the league entering the team's Monday nighter vs. the Saints, was outrushed 205-73 by New Orleans five nights ago.
To have a realistic shot at pulling off an upset, the Giants offense cannot be as one-dimensional as it has been most of the season. It would help if they could control the clock to keep Green Bay's high-powered attack off the field with some semblance of a ground game. Getting back Bradshaw, who has missed four straight games with a stress fracture in his right foot, certainly would not hurt the Giants' cause, especially with the likelihood growing that the Packers' normal starting ILBs, A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop, will remain out due to calf injuries suffered in Detroit (neither Hawk nor Bishop has practiced all week).
Bradshaw practiced Friday for the first time in a month and will probably play, although he is still officially listed as questionable. Not only does Bradshaw pose a much bigger threat to the Packers' defense than Jacobs with his ability to make something out of nothing, both rushing and receiving, he also is as good as any back in the league in terms of blitz pickup. Should he be able to play, it will be interesting to see the extent to which Bradshaw's stress fracture has affected his ability to cut
Jacobs has been OK when he gets room to run and can get up a good head of steam, but lately that hasn't been happening. Many close observers believe both his speed and effort are on the decline.
Whatever they do Sunday, both Bradshaw and Jacobs need to hold on to the ball. In the lopsided loss to the Packers in Week 16 last season, each of them suffered a costly strip in what was a very sloppy effort overall by the Giants (six turnovers).
Bishop and Hawk will be replaced by rookie D.J. Smith and Rob Francois, respectively, each of whom more than held their own in relief efforts in Detroit. Smith, who registered five tackles against the Lions, made it clear that he meant business right away when he brought down Lions RB Kevin Smith for no gain on his first play of the game. Francois, meanwhile, made a key interception.
Erik Walden, who led the Packers in tackles in Detroit with eight, has gotten steadily better in the last month or so both vs. the run and in coverage.