EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Brett Favre isn't going to spend much time watching tapes of the Green Bay Packers' win over the New York Giants earlier this season.
Heading into the NFC title game against the Giants on Sunday, there's little the Green Bay quarterback can learn from the mid-September game.
Sure, the Packers won 35-13, putting the game away with a 21-point fourth quarter.
The reality is the game was close until the final quarter and both teams have changed markedly in the past four months in putting themselves a game away from the Super Bowl.
Start with the Packers (14-3).
After a miserable showing in a season-opening 16-13 win against Philadelphia, Favre and the Packers showed in Week 2 that their spread offense could be effective.
What's even more impressive was that Favre showed that the steady Donald Driver wasn't his only receiving threat. He threw passes to eight players in the win, and his young offensive line limited New York to one sack.
The game also foreshadowed a new threat - Ryan Grant. Acquired in a preseason deal with the Giants, he had a 21-yard reception on a screen pass. As the season went on, he gave the Packers a legitimate running threat.
Green Bay's defense also showed it was for real, holding its opponent to 13 points for the second straight week.
The big change for the Giants has been the development of its defense under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. After surrendering 80 points in losing the first two games of the season, they have given up 30 points only three times in the next 16 games.
Eli Manning seemingly has turned the corner in recent weeks, playing almost flawlessly in playoff wins over Tampa Bay and Dallas. Big halfback Brandon Jacobs is healthy for this game after missing the first one with a knee injury.
The Giants (12-6) also have momentum, which was generated in a regular season-ending loss to the New England Patriots. It was a game the Giants could have rested everyone for the playoffs. They didn't and they are playing their best ball of the season.
``This is no secret, they are a much improved team in all phases,'' Favre said.
Favre hasn't watched much videotape yet, but he sees a totally different style on defense. In the first game, the Giants were cautious, wanting to keep everything in front of them.
``Now they are rolling the dice, and I'll tell you, the front guys are playing outstanding,'' Favre said. ``We were concerned about them in the first game and we had better be concerned about them again.''
The past three weeks are a bigger concern for Favre, especially the two playoff wins that pushed the Giants' winning streak on the road to an NFL single-season record nine games.
``I'm not trying to sugar coat it,'' Favre said. ``They have beaten some very good teams. It is hard to win on the road. They had every chance to beat New England, and I will give them a lot of credit for that. So we are in for a tough one.''
The Giants were coming off 45-35 loss to Dallas on the road in the season opener when they entertained the Packers on Sept. 16 - ironically, the same date that San Diego and New England first played this season.
Both teams missed early field goals and the Giants eventually went to the locker room, leading 10-7 on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress and 48-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes. DeShawn Wynn scored on a 6-yard run for the Pack.
Favre took over in the second half. He hit his first 14 passes and threw three touchdown passes.
A big kickoff return by Tramon Williams ignited Green Bay at the start of the second half. Favre finished the drive with a 2-yard TD pass to Bubba Franks.
After Tynes got New York within 14-13 with his second field goal with 4:22 to go, Favre threw TDs of 3 yards to Donald Lee and 10 yards to Driver in a 1:54 span in the fourth quarter, the second set up by a fumble on a kickoff return by Giants' rookie Ahmad Bradshaw.
``A lot happened that wasn't very good for us in the fourth quarter,'' coach Tom Coughlin said.
A lot happened before the fourth quarter that also wasn't either good or smart.
The defense blew a quite a few coverage assignments in the second half and the offense was its own worst enemy with dumb plays.
Tight end Jeremy Shockey, now sidelined by a broken leg, cost New York a first down on the drive that ended with Tynes' first field goal because he spiked the ball after a catch, offsetting a Packers' penalty.
Tynes' second field goal resulted after veteran receiver Amani Toomer was called for taunting.
``The way things went last time with our football team, no matter if I was playing or not, it would have been the same,'' said Jacobs, who missed the game with a sprained knee. ``We didn't play very good football. We had some parts that weren't in the right place, and I think we're a better football team than that. I think we can go there and try to play the best that we possibly can so we can give ourselves an opportunity.''

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