The Green Bay Packers will play their first ever regular season game overseas as they head to London to play the New York Giants Sunday morning. The Giants are off to a surprisingly strong start on the strength of the league’s best running game but have health issues at quarterback with both starter Daniel Jones and backup Tyrod Taylor dealing with injuries.
The Packers are coming off a tough 27-24 overtime win over the Patriots that improved their record to 3-1 while the Giants defeated the Bears 20-12 to improve to 3-1 on the season.
The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 29-23-2 in the regular season. These two teams first met back in 1928. The Packers also lead the playoff series 5-3. The Packers won the last three meetings between the teams including a 38-13 playoff win in 2016 and a 31-13 win in New York in 2019.
Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in London:
- Contain Saquon Barkley
The Giants have the best rushing offense in the league with an average of 192.5 yards per game. The key to the ground game is Saquon Barkley who has gained 463 yards and is averaging 5.5-yards per carry.
Barkley was limited the past two seasons with injuries but is healthy again and has returned to his previous form as one of the most dangerous runners in the game.
The Packers run defense remains a problem and Joe Barry’s group must concentrate on containing Barkley.
The Packers are allowing opponents to gain five yards per carry and have again concentrated on stopping the pass. The defense needs better tackling from De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker needs to take better angles to the ball carrier and the outside linebackers need to consistently maintain the edge. The defensive line has been blown off the ball by offensive blockers in many games this year.
The Giants will stick around in this game if the score is still close and they consistently run the football.
- Don’t Let Daniel Jones Beat You with His Legs
The Giants aren’t sure if Jones will be ready to play Sunday as he is dealing with an ankle sprain. He did practice Thursday and seems to be optimistic about playing against the Packers.
Jones is not a great passer. He is presently averaging just six yards per attempt and 157.8 yards per game through the air.
He is, however, one of the more dangerous scramblers in the league and has gained 193 yards on the ground in four games and is gaining 6.2 yards per run, more than he gains per play through the air.
The Packers may need to use either Walker or Campbell to spy on Jones and make sure he doesn’t run for key first downs and big gains that can keep drives alive.
Green Bay may be fortunate to be facing Jones when his ankle isn’t 100 percent which may limit his scrambling ability.
Backup Tyrod Taylor is still in concussion protocol and may not be ready for Sunday’s game. The Giants third quarterback is Davis Webb who could be elevated from the practice squad if either Jones or Taylor are unable to go Sunday.
- Run the Ball Consistently
The Packers have been running the ball well this season except for the game against Tampa Bay and they should be able to run well against the Giants.
Both Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon have contributed to the success. Last week, Jones was outstanding early while Dillon led the charge on the game-winning drive in overtime.
The Giants run defense has struggled this season. They rank 28th in the league against the run and are allowing opponents to gain 141 yards per game on the ground. When you consider the Giants are 3-1 and opposing teams were not running the ball more often in the second half to run out the clock, these numbers are even more of a concern.
Opponents are also averaging 5.1-yards per rush which is worse than the Packers defense.
The Packers should be able to run the ball early and often and set up play action passes and downfield shots after Jones and Dillon give Aaron Rodgers and company favorable situations and matchups.
- Protect Aaron Rodgers
The Packers offensive line has struggled at times to protect the quarterback. Rodgers has been sacked nine time in four games and has been pressured frequently.
Elgton Jenkins has lacked his usual consistency in pass protection since his return. The coaching staff is hoping that will improve as he regains his form after returning from knee surgery. But will he get back to his prior form and if so, how quickly?
Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence leads the Giants with two sacks this season. As a team, they have eight sacks which ranks them 17th in the league.
The Packers will need a better performance from their offensive line so Rodgers has time to find his receivers downfield and create splash plays.
The Giants secondary is vulnerable and if Rodgers has time to throw, he should have a good game against them.
- Spread the Ball Around in the Passing Game
The Packers offense works best when Rodgers utilizes multiple receivers to keep opponents guessing. Allen Lazard gained 116 yards on six carries against New England while Romeo Doubs continues to grow as a receiver despite still making some rookie mistakes. He is a dangerous weapon when he makes the right reads.
The Packers are also looking to incorporate Christian Watson and Robert Tonyan into the offense more as Watson learns the system and Tonyan recovers from his knee injury.
Randall Cobb remains a reliable third-down option who runs well after the catch and could cause problems for the Giants in the slot.
The running backs could also be involved in the passing attack which would make it even more difficult for the Giants defense to cover all the Packers receiving options.
- Bounce Back on Special Teams
Rich Bisaccia’s group played well in the first three games but the punt return and kick return coverage struggled against the Patriots.
Neither kick returner Gary Brightwell nor punt returner Richie James, Jr. are off to a good start this season for the Giants, but the Packers cannot allow their special teams units to give the Giants a shorter field and favorable field position.
If the Packers are even average in this area, they should be OK, but a bounce back performance by the special teams would be a big boost for the team.
The Packers are the better team on paper and Jones’ ankle injury will likely limit the damage he can do on scrambles and runs.
The key for the Packers is to contain Barkley and to at least break even on the turnover battle. The Giants will need to outrush the Packers by 40 or more yards and win the turnover battle to have a chance to pull off the upset.
The Packers also need to do a better job on this long road trip than they have in past long trips to California or Florida. Hopefully, the change in time zones and the new experience don’t lead to a flat performance by the Packers.
The Packers are the better team and they should find a way to win this football game.
Packers 27, Giants 13
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