What will happen tonight? I am made nervous by the lack of a Giants' victory narrative that we can evaluate. Seattle had a proven quarterback, solid defense and a great coach with a seasoned team. You could see how they could win. The Packers beat them like a drum.
The Giants don't have that story. Eli Manning has played well and I think he's going to be a very good quarterback but it doesn't seem likely that he can light up the Packers defense. Against the Cowboys, he mostly avoided mistakes and had a great drive before the end of the first half. (He is great in the two minute drill.)
They have a great pass rush (they were all over Romo) but I don't think that will rattle Favre and the back seven don't figure to handle the Packers short stuff and YAC. The Cowboys ran all over them in the first half but went away from the run in the second. The Cowboys moved the ball but, when they needed it, no one stepped up and made a play; in that sense, the fact that TO was playing hurt was huge. The Packers seem to have too many playmakers for that to happen.
There's no reason to believe the Giants can win, but ...
They have won nine in a row on the road. That's a huge thing. It bespeaks character. They are playing a third straight road game against a team that is playing as well as anyone in the NFL in their historic venue under conditions that only the Packers and , to a lesser degree, the Bears, Browns and Bills still play in on more than a rare occasion. But the Giants have won nine road games in a row.
In fact, as Bob McGinn argues in today's Journal Sentinel, the weather may increase the likelihood of a Giants win. The argument is that no one can really play in this stuff and that makes it a great equalizer. The Ice Bowl was a fluke of a game. Dallas scored touchdowns on a long option pass where Rentzel was uncovered, a return of a fumble recovery and a field goal set up by a fumble recovery. One of the Packers scores came on a blown coverage. Until that last drive, no one could really do what they wanted to do. Even then, the Packers had to, essentially, run a play they didn't have - Starr's sneak - because the backs couldn't get any traction (although, ironically, Mercein did on the last play and had to throw his arms up in the air to avoid being penalized for pushing Starr into the end zone. Good thing he went to Yale.)
My fear is that the cold takes away the passing game and the Giants get their running game going. Ryan Grant or Favre fumble a few. Sort of a reprise of the second Bears game.
On balance, I don't expect that. The Ice Bowl analogy is flawed because 1)it won't be that cold and 2) the Packers have a heated field now. Tonight, everything but the tundra will be frozen.
The Bears game analogy is flawed because the problem there was the wind. We won't have much of that tonight so it's not at all clear to me that the passing game will be taken away by the weather. It was 3 degrees at kickoff (-17 windchill) in the '96 championship game and the Packers hung almost 500 total yards and 31 points on the Panthers.
It may be a tight game because the Giants are playing well enough to make it that, unless they just run out of gas. They had a must win road game at Buffalo, a game against the Pats which they played like it was their Super Bowl and two road playoff games. You can make a case that they are playing beyond their ability and they might not have anymore of that.
I think we're looking at a tight game until the start of the fourth quarter. The Packers score a couple of touchdowns to put it away. Packers 35 Giants 17.