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Giants brimming with confidence heading to Lambeau

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By Eric Edholm

The Giants believe they should have beaten the Packers in Week 13. They pressured Aaron Rodgers and forced him into 18 incompletions, an unusually high number for him. They sacked him four times. They ran for 100 yards back when that was parade-worthy. And they were less than a minute from overtime at home against the undefeated world champs. Considering how hot the Giants are now, it wouldn't stun anyone — certainly not themselves — if they go into Lambeau Field and challenge the Packers, who suddenly don't look invincible.

The PFW Spin

When these teams last met, the Giants were without C David Baas, a late scratch 90 minutes before game time, and Mitch Petrus was making his first start at guard. So it was impressive that the Giants could effectively block the Packers' A-gap blitzes and gain five yards per rush. However, the Packers played that game without their two starting inside linebackers, Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk. That certainly affected how they blitzed and played run defense.

But for the Giants, the good news is that they ran the ball well on a day when their line was in disarray and when they previously had not been having success doing so. As it stands now, coming off a 173-yard performance against the Falcons in which both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw ran effectively, the Giants should feel tremendous about going up to Green Bay and having continued success on the ground.

"I think we're always confident, but obviously guys are playing well," QB Eli Manning said. "Our play is at an all-time high for the season. That's the most important thing. The defense is playing outstanding. Offensively, we didn't get off to a fast start (against the Falcons), but we never lost our faith and kept playing hard, didn't make mistakes and eventually we got things going and played very well in the second half."

The Packers should be most worried about stopping WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, who was Sunday's big-play hero with two TDs (Nicks also scored twice in Week 13). They can do that best by pressuring Manning better than they did in the first matchup and refining the pass rush that was one of their best weapons last season. The secondary is ripe for the picking, but it does make game-changing interceptions — an NFL-high 31 of them in the regular season.

Defensively, the Giants know their pass rush is steaming. They had seven players hit Falcons QB Matt Ryan Sunday. And in the first matchup, the Giants found some cracks in this Packers offensive line. It's a group that will welcome back OLT Chad Clifton, but how rusty is he? Jason Pierre-Paul is not the type of guy you warm up against; he bites you from the first snap. ORT Bryan Bulaga's status also is in question, so the Packers are hardly set up front.

The Giants can't just focus on the edges. There must be heat applied from the inside, too. Anything to keep Rodgers off balance and missing throws again.

"I know a lot of people put a lot of concentration on pressure up the middle, but I think pressure in all areas," DE Justin Tuck said. "Normally when you get pressure up the middle it allows you to take away some of his avenues to throw, but Aaron is not as short as (Drew) Brees so he can see a little better when it comes to hands in his face and things like that, but it still makes it tougher if you get pressure up the middle."

The Giants know they have the talent to win. They almost did last time. Rodgers hasn't taken a snap in a game in three weeks. But they have to avoid the payback angle: The Giants can win because they are talented not because they wish they would have beaten them a little more than a month ago. Manning said he's trying not to think like that.

"I don't think about it like that," he said. "I think, 'Hey, we have a great shot.' We're playing in the playoffs. We're playing a good team, and just have fun with that opportunity and go out there and play our best football."

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