Commentary

NFC predictions: Clean sweep for Green Bay

ESPN.com's NFL reporters weigh in with their predictions for the conference championships Sunday. Here's the NFC outlook.

Originally Published: January 18, 2008
By ESPN.com

Charles Woodson Al Harris, Eli ManningDavid Stluka/Joe Robbins/Getty Images/Nelson Chenault/US PresswirePackers CBs Charles Woodson (left) and Al Harris (right) aim to put the squeeze on Eli Manning.
ESPN.com's NFL reporters weigh in with their predictions for the Giants-Packers NFC Championship Game. (Click here for staff AFC picks.)



Jeffri Chadiha: Packers, 24-21

The Packers have had a magical quality about them all season, and that's not about to change.

Green Bay has plenty of offense with Pro Bowl quarterback Brett Favre and running back Ryan Grant. The Packers also have an aggressive defense that is built around a fast front seven and a secondary blessed with two Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks (Charles Woodson and Al Harris). If that's not enough, the Packers also get to play the Giants in what should be a frigid Lambeau Field.

That doesn't mean the Giants will wilt Sunday. They are 9-1 on the road this season for a reason. It just means that their compelling playoff run is about to end. They have too many injuries in the secondary, and you can bet Favre will take advantage of that.



John Clayton: Packers, 21-10

In Vegas terms, the Giants are playing with house money. They have exceeded expectations by winning two playoff games, so the pressure should be off. Tom Coughlin has proved he's the right coach for this franchise now that he has made himself more player-friendly. Eli Manning earned the confidence of his teammates by leading the team to road victories at Tampa Bay and Dallas.

But the Packers have one of the league's youngest rosters and they are having a blast. The fact that young players such as Greg Jennings and Ryan Grant can play so well in their first playoff games shows that this team is insulated from playoff pressure.

What could be the deciding factor? The Packers have more healthy receivers than the Giants have healthy cornerbacks, and Favre will take advantage of that.



Matt Mosley: Packers, 27-24

The Giants somehow survived against Tony Romo and an allegedly explosive offense by using backup cornerbacks. R.W. McQuarters and Corey Webster played well at times, but I don't like their chances against the Packers' receivers. It will be imperative for them to tackle well because Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and rookie James Jones have been outstanding after the catch.

Also, Brett Favre has an advantage over Eli Manning when it comes to playing in cold weather. Manning hasn't experienced anything close to 10-degree weather this season. In fact, the Giants haven't played a game when it has been below 36. Favre is 43-5 in games played at or below 34.

Favre gets rid of the ball so quickly that Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo might not be able to rely as much on the blitz as usual. His best chance for creating pressure is to send players such as Justin Tuck (10 sacks) up the middle.



Len Pasquarelli: Packers, 27-23

As gallant as the battered New York secondary was in the divisional-round victory at Dallas, there won't be enough healthy bodies to cover all the Green Bay wideouts when the Packers spread the field. The Giants will hang in the game throughout, but the guess is that the Packers will make one more big play than does New York, and we'll predict it's Greg Jennings who makes it. In his resurgent season, when he has thrown the deep ball about as well as he ever has, Brett Favre gets one more shot at a second Super Bowl ring.



Mike Sando: Packers, 27-23

Eli Manning's sudden emergence as a heady game manager gives the New York Giants a chance to beat most teams and compete with the best.

The job gets tougher this week. Green Bay Packers cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris play as though they know officials won't call pass interference on every play, so they might as well rough up receivers. Manning might have a hard time exploiting that kind of coverage. The Packers will test his accuracy. The Giants should be able to run the ball, but they'll need more than that.

The Packers are fresher. Their offensive line isn't the most athletic, but Brett Favre gets rid of the ball before trouble arrives. His receivers and tight ends excel after the catch. The Giants probably won't win unless they can contain the run and force Favre into third-and-long situations. The Packers' guards aren't the best in pass protection, but Favre can overcome their deficiencies when armed with favorable down and distances. Green Bay should be able to spread out the Giants and find mismatches against a banged-up secondary.

The Giants appeared spent after beating the Cowboys. By kickoff in Green Bay, Wis., they will have traveled about 3,500 miles in little more than a week. They have the talent and resolve to pull the upset, but the odds are against them.