Giants WRs Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham vs. Packers CBs Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Sam Shields
It's no secret that the Packers' pass defense, which allowed more yards than any team in the league this season, could be in for a long day Sunday against the Nicks-Cruz-Manningham trio, which combined for three touchdowns and an impressive 17.6 yards per catch on 12 receptions in the Giants' 24-2 wild-card rout of Atlanta last Sunday. Normally, Nicks and Manning line up outside, and Cruz works in the slot, where is he is able to avoid press coverage.
Cruz, who came out of nowhere to shatter team receiving records, has been the Giants' most productive wideout. But Nicks, who is big and physical, is probably the most talented, despite his share of drops. His talent was certainly evident against the Falcons (six catches for 115 yards, including TDs of four and 72 yards), and in the Week 13 Packers-Giants shootout won by Green Bay (7-88 receiving and two TDs despite not being 100 percent, including a two-yard score which knotted the game at 35).
Cruz had a quiet game vs. Atlanta (2-28 receiving), but he was a major force in Week 13, with seven catches for 119 yards. Manningham, who lines up strictly outside, can be hot and cold. He did not play in the Week 13 game because of an injury, but he had 4-68 receiving and a back-breaking 27-yard TD last Sunday vs. Atlanta.
Manningham's presence will put more pressure on the Packers' cornerbacks, particularly Tramon Williams, who has gone from being arguably the league's top corner a year ago at this time to being picked on rather frequently. In the Week 13 game, Williams had five tackles and a pair of pass breakups but had his share of struggles with the Giants' wideouts. In his last game, Williams was taken to lunch by Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who had 11 catches for a career-high 244 yards and a TD in the regular-season finale. In the first Packers-Lions tilt on Thanksgiving Day, Williams had his best performance of the campaign, holding Johnson in check.
But all of the Packers' CBs have been prone to breakdowns the entire season, and if those breakdowns continue, another Super Bowl title seems unlikely. A steady pass rush, which also has been lacking much of the season, would no doubt make life a lot easier on the Packers' pass defenders.