The teams: The Green Bay Packers (7-3) vs. the New York Giants (6-4).
The time: 7:20 p.m. CST Sunday.
The place: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
The TV coverage: NBC – WTMJ (Ch. 4 in Milwaukee), WMTV (Ch. 15 in Madison) and WGBA (Ch. 26 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth in the booth.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 75-39 (including 5-3 in the postseason) in his seventh season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. The Giants’ Tom Coughlin is 88-61 (including 8-3 in the postseason) in his ninth year as the Giants’ coach and is 160-125 overall in his 17th year as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series 27-21-2 and also hold a 4-3 advantage in postseason play. The Packers have won seven of the teams’ last 10 meetings, although the Giants won the ones that mattered most, winning the 2007 NFC Championship Game and a 2011 NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Lambeau Field last January..
The rankings: The Packers’ 18th-ranked offense is No. 24 in rushing and No. 11 in passing. Their 16th-ranked defense is No. 11 against the run and No. 21 against the pass. The Giants’ 11th-ranked offense is No. 13 in rushing and No. 9 in passing. Their 22nd-ranked defense is No. 15 against the run and No. 25 against the pass.
The line: The Giants are favored by 2.5 points.
The injury report:
Out – CB Sam Shields (ankle), S Charles Woodson (collarbone), OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring), ILB Terrell Manning (shoulder).
Questionable – WR Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen), TE Andrew Quarless (knee).
Probable – WR Donald Driver (thumb), FB John Kuhn (hamstring), DT B.J. Raji (ankle), OLB Vic So'oto (illness), OLB Erik Walden (ankle).
Out – WR Domenik Hixon (ankle), LB Jacquian Williams (knee).
Questionable – S Kenny Phillips (knee), LB Keith Rivers (calf/knee),
Full participation – RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), C David Baas (ankle), S Tyler Sash (ankle), G Chris Snee (ankle), DT Linval Joseph (knee).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Case of the drops: Aaron Rodgers has always insisted that it’s mental mistakes, not physical ones, that get his goat. And based on how the Packers quarterback reacts on the field to his teammates – sometimes angrily jumping them for mental errors while not showing much obvious negative body language after a physical mistake like a dropped pass – would back up his contention.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, only two other quarterbacks have gotten more practice this season at reacting to drops by their receivers than Rodgers. Entering this week’s games, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford had watched his would-be pass-catchers drop 33 passes, and Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden had seen 32 passes dropped. Rodgers was third at 31, or 8.8 percent of his attempts. Rodgers’ drop percentage also ranks third in the NFL, behind Tennessee’s Jake Locker (11 percent) and Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert (9.7 percent). ProFootballFocus then took those numbers and created a stat called Adjusted Completion Percentage, which in Rodgers’ case was 75.99 percent, the second-best in the league behind Denver’s Peyton Manning.
“From our standards, one drop is too many. One drop is too many,” Packers wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said this week. “We certainly have to do a better job catching the football consistently. Regardless of the situation – be it more fundamentals as far as sometimes it’s hand placement, sometimes it’s not looking the ball in and looking to run first. The bottom line is, we’ve got to catch the football. We’ve got to catch the football. And we know from a fundamentals standpoint how to do that. From a focus standpoint, we know what it’s going to take to get that done. We have to apply it.”
While the perception is that one player – you know who – is the worst offender, the Packers in fact have three receivers with seven drops: Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley. Finley has dropped seven of 48 targets, Nelson has dropped seven of 62 and Cobb has dropped seven of 69.
What’s remarkable is that Rodgers’ receivers have been relatively consistent in their drop numbers. As mentioned, Rodgers has had 31 of 354 attempts dropped this year (8.8 percent). Last season, receivers dropped 48 of 548 (8.8 percent). In 2009, 48 of 583 (8.2 percent). And in 2008, 43 of 536 (8.1 percent). The 2010 season is the anomaly, when they dropped 41 of 607 (6.8 percent).