|NFC Championship Preview: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers Odds Matchup & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 16 January 2008 13:50|
NFC Champ Preview
Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers enjoy one of the best postseason home-field advantages in the NFL. The New York Giants, however, might not be intimidated by the frigid conditions at Lambeau Field because of their outstanding play on the road.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Green Bay -7 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 40.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on Green Bay -7 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Favre looks to add another chapter to his legendary career and lead the Packers into their fifth Super Bowl on Sunday by winning the NFC championship game against the Giants, who are riding the longest single-season road win streak in league history.
For only the second time in his career, Favre will play an NFC title game at Lambeau Field. Green Bay beat Carolina at home in 1997 en route to its first Super Bowl victory in 29 years, and the only one of Favre's career.
"It's been 11 years, I think, since ... I have to kind of refresh my memory on it," Favre said. "Times have changed a bunch, I guess."
The Packers, who lost Favre's second Super Bowl appearance in 1998, are 13-2 all-time in playoff games on the "Frozen Tundra" of Lambeau Field.
"Home-field advantage is what we are focused on," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think it is an advantage for any football team. It is definitely going to be cold here Sunday."
It may not be an advantage against the Giants (12-6), who are truly on the road to the Super Bowl. Two playoff victories have run their streak of road wins to a league-record nine straight, dating to a season-opening loss at Dallas.
New York now looks to set another NFL mark by winning 10 road games in one season, breaking the record it shares with the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I think it is just a matter of the grit, the determination, the character, the leadership, the toughness, and the mental toughness," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "In a lot of ways when we come out and we get booed, we are kind of interested in how high the volume of the boos are."
The Giants avenged two regular-season losses to the Cowboys with a 21-17 win at top-seeded Dallas last Sunday in the divisional round. New York is one win away from its fourth Super Bowl appearance and first in seven years.
"This is an opportunity that can make all the dreams that you have ever had since you're a little kid come true with a couple wins," New York receiver Amani Toomer said.
The fifth-seeded Giants' win also allowed the second-seeded Packers to host the NFC title game instead of traveling to Texas.
That Favre is getting another chance to reach the Super Bowl is a bit of a surprise, given his subpar play in 2005 and 2006. The Packers (14-3) had their only losing season with Favre in 2005, going 4-12, and appeared to be headed for another after going 4-8 to start the next season.
But Green Bay rallied to win its final four games, and although it missed the playoffs, the run was a factor in convincing the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer to return. It has certainly paid off as the three-time league MVP threw for 28 touchdowns and 4,155 yards - the third-highest total of his career.
"I don't want to sound like I'm totally surprised," said Favre about being one game away from another Super Bowl. "But I knew it could happen. The question was could I last."
Favre was extremely effective in last Saturday's 42-20 divisional victory over Seattle. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns as the Packers bounced back after trailing 14-0.
That deficit was a product of two fumbles from running back Ryan Grant, who recovered to turn in the best rushing effort in Packers' playoff history. Grant ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Grant is someone the Giants are very familiar with. Due to its glut of running backs, New York dealt Grant to the Packers for a sixth-round draft pick shortly before the season opener after he spent two years with the Giants on the practice squad.
"Ryan performed and played very well during the preseason," Coughlin said. "We had a position, as anybody who scouts or knows football can relate to, that had five or six NFL football players and that was one of them, that was the position for us."
Not surprisingly, Grant is still friends with many current and former Giants.
"I'm very close with a lot of guys on the team, close to Tiki (Barber)," Grant said. "I learned a lot from him, a sense of composure, professionalism and little things on the field."
There's also a friendship between Favre and New York defensive end Michael Strahan, who notably broke Mark Gastineau's NFL single-season record of 22 sacks when Favre laid down for him in a 34-25 Packers' win that closed the 2002 season.
Strahan, who hasn't sacked Favre in two meetings since that game, faced a similar decision to Favre about whether to retire after New York went 8-8 and lost to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs last season. The seven-time Pro Bowler held out of training camp before returning for his 15th season with New York as he searches for his first Super Bowl title.
With Favre on the other side, there's been less attention on much-maligned Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The top overall draft pick in 2004, Manning had his leadership skills criticized by Barber and his playmaking ability questioned during a season in which he tied for the NFL lead with 20 interceptions.
After losing his two previous playoff games, Manning has shined in New York's two wins with a total of four touchdown passes and no interceptions. He threw for two TDs and 163 yards in the win at Dallas last Sunday, just hours after brother Peyton and Indianapolis were eliminated by San Diego.
"I don't think I am doing anything different," Manning said. "I am just trying to take what the defense is giving me. It is just a matter of being in a good situation in the game."
The Manning family is expected to make the trip to Green Bay to see if Eli can reach the Super Bowl just one season after Peyton played in and won his first.
The weather, which calls for temperatures in single digits as well as snow flurries, could dictate the effectiveness of both teams' passing attacks.
"I think you prepare by practicing and getting ready for their defense," Manning insisted. "You don't worry about the weather. There is no point in being concerned about it."
Another factor affecting Green Bay's vaunted passing attack is the state of New York's depleted secondary.
The Giants played last Sunday without cornerbacks Sam Madison (abdominal) and Kevin Dockery (hip flexor), and their status for Sunday is uncertain. Rookie cornerback Aaron Ross left the Dallas game with a shoulder injury in the second half, but returned to practice Wednesday.
When the teams met in Week 2, Favre took advantage of a New York defense still adjusting to new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo by completing 29 of 38 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns as Green Bay won 35-13 at Giants Stadium.
Both teams have undergone plenty of changes since that game, with the Giants' defense in particular showing major improvement and finishing with a league-high 53 sacks.
Also, Grant and New York running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw did not have a single carry in that game. All three figure to be featured prominently in the cold, snowy conditions in the rematch. The Giants' tandem helped New York average 134.3 yards rushing in the regular season to rank fourth in the NFL.
The venerable franchises have met five times in the playoffs - all NFL championship games between 1938-62, with Green Bay winning the last four meetings. New York lost 37-0 in 1961 in its only postseason visit to Lambeau, then named City Stadium, and also lost 16-7 the next season at Yankee Stadium.
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