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NFC Heavyweights clash when Giants host Packers

9:14 AM, Nov 23, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The two most recent Super Bowl champions will meet on Football Night in America when the streaking Green Bay Packers visit the slumping New York Giants on Sunday night.

"Both teams this weekend, the last two Super Bowl winners, play," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Each is in the lead in their division. So it's got a tremendous and exciting format."

Green Bay enters Sunday's game having won five straight games, tied with Denver for the longest current streak in the NFL.

Aaron Rodgers kept things rolling last Sunday with two touchdown passes, including the game-winner to Randall Cobb late in the fourth quarter as the Green Bay took a 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions in an NFC North battle at Ford Field.

Rodgers passed for 236 yards and an interception on 19-of-27 attempts with Cobb and Jermichael Finley each catching a score for the 7-3 Packers, who are now tied atop the NFC North with Chicago.

"We just had to have this win," said Rodgers. "We knew it was a struggle and we didn't play our best on offense. But when we needed it, everyone came through and this is a big one."

James Starks had 25 carries for 74 yards against Detroit while embattled placekicker Mason Crosby missed two field goals, but did make one late for Green Bay, which is 2-0 in division play this season and has won 24 of their last 28 regular-season games overall, the best record in the NFL over that span.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Giants, meanwhile, are coming off their bye week, a welcome respite considering their traditional struggles in November.

November Rain isn't just a painfully long power ballad by Guns N' Roses. It also describes the mood around the G-Men when the calendar flips from Halloween to Turkey Month.

The Giants and title-tested quarterback Eli Manning just can't seem to figure out things in the month and continued their now annual funk in Cincinnati back on Nov. 11 falling to Andy Dalton and the Bengals, 31-13.

Manning threw two interceptions and lost a fumble for the NFC East-leading Big Blue, which took a two-game losing streak into the break.

"I don't have anything I can say I was pleased with," said an angered Coughlin. "We need to play better.

Manning finished with just 215 yards on 29-of-46 attempts and did not throw a touchdown pass for a third straight game in Cincy -- his longest drought since his rookie season in 2004.

"I have to start playing better," Manning said. "We can fix it."

Some have speculated that Manning is fighting through a tired arm, something he denied

"I don't think so. I don't feel like it's tired," the veteran said.

This will mark the third straight year that the Packers and Giants have faced off in the regular season, the first time that has happened since 1985-87.

Two of the most venerable franchises in professional football history, the Packers and Giants have combined for 21 championships. Green Bay ranks No. 1 among all NFL franchises with 13 titles, while the Giants check in at No. 3 with eight championships.

Green Bay has won the last three regular-season meetings but the Giants stunned the Packers in a NFC Divisional playoff contest last season at Lambeau Field, a dominating 37-20 New York triumph.

"I think you learn that it's all about playing the right way at the right time and we didn't play our best football and they did," Rodgers said of last season's playoff loss. "They were the better team and they won, and that's why they moved on."

Overall the Pack holds a 31-24-2 edge in the all-time series, which includes a 4-3 postseason record.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

It's hardly time to panic in East Rutherford. The Giants have overcome far too much in the past few years to let a couple of midseason losses deter them from their ultimate goal, another Super Bowl berth.

New York is still atop what's shaping up as a very poor NFC East. All of that could change quickly, however, if New York can't figure out its November issues. The Giants are now 13-21 in the month under Coughlin.

"We done been here before," Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul told the New York Daily News. "I hate hearing it, but we have."

The rest may help Manning, who said he feels a little more pop in his arm.

"I think you just try and get rest and come back fresh," Manning said. "Obviously, I think having a week off just to get your mind off of football a little bit, then you come back and you're just excited, re-energized, have a great week of preparation."

Manning, who is 0-3 against the Packers in the regular season but beat them twice in the playoffs, both en route to Giants' Super Bowl wins, will be facing a banged-up Green bay defense without playmakers Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews.

"They're obviously two of our best players on defense and two of the better players on our whole football team, but that's the game of football," McCarthy said. "That's why it takes a team. They're both playmakers, impact players, and it's important for us to try and create other opportunities for the other guys on our defense."

Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, could be in the midst of a repeat performance. The Packers' leader has already thrown 27 touchdown passes versus six interceptions and sports an NFL-leading 107.3 passer rating despite being without his top receiver, Greg Jennings, for most of the season.

"I feel Aaron is having a very good season," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's what makes us go on offense."

Cobb has also really stepped up as a playmaker with six touchdown receptions over his last four games.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Green Bay remains the most talented team in football as evidenced by its strong play despite suffering significant injuries on both sides of the football but the bye week came at the right time for Manning, who was able too recharge his battery.

"It's a six-game schedule now," said Coughlin. "We're excited about it. We're excited to be back on the field. Hopefully they're well-rested and ready to go."

Perhaps more importantly for the Giants, Sunday's encounter is the last before the calendar turns to December.

"I hate the fact we keep putting ourselves in these situations," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "I guess we have to play with our backs against the wall. That's what it seems like and I don't know why it has to be that way."

Well the backs are against the wall so it's time to get it done.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 21, Packers 20

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