PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the fifth of five key matchups in the Packers' Week 13 game against the Giants at the Meadowlands Sunday.
Packers TE Jermichael Finley vs. Giants safeties Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant
Phillips, a first-round pick in 2008 who has come back from a serious knee injury in '09, is better suited than most safeties to defend Finley, who normally enjoys a huge edge in size and speed over his defenders. With a big frame and excellent athleticism, Phillips has all the tools you could ask for, but he has come up short so far this season when it comes to making impact plays (only two interceptions and one forced fumble).
The Giants' second-leading tackler (66), Phillips had a team-leading 10 tackles in the team's Week 16 45-17 loss to the Packers last season. With Finley out for the season, Phillips had to contend with a Packer TE trio in that game of Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree and Donald Lee, who had a two-yard TD.
Normally the dime safety, Grant was in the starting lineup as part of a four-man LB package against the Saints and finished the game with five tackles, one fewer than Phillips. Grant offers strong leadership and is a hard hitter, but he has lost a lot of speed.
Finley has been telling the local media this week that he is ready for a breakout game. He has had two or fewer catches in four of the last six games and just a combined 3-68 in the last two games and is no doubt feeling more than a little frustrated. Finley last scored a TD in Week Nine at San Diego.
Finley ranks third on the team in catches (36), receiving yards (513) and TDs (five) and continually draws some sort of double team, which has helped other Packers receivers benefit from one-on-one matchups, particularly WR Jordy Nelson. It does indeed seem like the big tight end could be ready for his most productive game in a while.