The New York Giants enter Week 5 with a 3-1 record for the first time in 11 years. Big Blue fans know that 2011 season all too well, fondly retracing that miraculous run to Super Bowl XLVI. It’s mostly been a torturous experience since, but this weekend’s second London game, after the Vikings beat the Saints last weekend, gets the spirits back to this season’s Divisional Round: a classic against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on an icy Lambeau pitch. .
Eli Manning rallied New York, starting late to earn a 37-20 win on a bitter Sunday night in Wisconsin. But it’s the other side of the ball that resonates more deeply, not least with their return to London and their special bond with one of Britain’s most influential figures in the NFL.
Osi Umenyiora, the two-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler, stripped Rodgers in that game to 20-10 in the third quarter as the Packers edged closer to a trip to the red zone.
Umenyiora was a force of nature at her peak while moving gracefully; In one of the game’s key plays, his towering 116kg frame blasted past a Packers double team before swinging sharply at a 90-degree angle and tossing the ball out of Rodgers’ reach to force the turnaround .
While the Giants have dropped to 26th in the PFF defense rankings, they are a respectable eighth against the pass in total yards allowed, but their vulnerability is soon revealed by that same metric in their rush evaluation, languishing last fifth. . Perhaps Umenyiora’s legacy can inspire Brian Daboll’s men to extend a blitz rate of 42.9% this year and last week’s staggering 50% pressure rate against the Chicago Bears and a Justin Fields wading.
But while there will be a feverish desire to watch Rodgers, a four-time MVP in search of a third successive honour, whip the ball over every turf blade in north London on his UK debut, this will be the formidable combination of running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon who threaten to turn this into a one-sided competition and vindicate the “hosts” as 9.5-point favorites.
“With the Packers, it’s not just Aaron Jones, it’s also Dillon,” said former Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew The Independent. “They did a really good job running their passing game through their running backs to start the season without Davante Adams. This opens up the game for receivers on the field.
“When the Packers play the Giants, we’ll get a good idea of how they’re transforming their offense. When you lose Adams, you don’t have a lot of good receivers, a few rookies trying to make plays. You have motorized your attack to cross the running game.
“Aaron Jones, when he got out of UTEP [University of Texas at El Paso], I thought he was the best back and sleeper in the draft. His ability to catch the ball, run between tackles, he’s getting lean through the hole.
“And AJ Dillon, I wasn’t a big fan of that pick at first, but obviously when you saw what they wanted to do and thought about it…a 250-pound return to Wisconsin in November and December will rush for a lot of meters, nobody wants to attack him. And to move forward, it’s good to see the plan executed.
The Packers have yet to showcase the outlandish box of tricks seen throughout Rodgers’ time with superstar wide receiver Davante Adams, who has since left for the Las Vegas Raiders, but their killer running game and streamlined passing , to suit raw rookie prospects Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson, provides a great base for last year’s No. 1 seed in the NFC.
“They do enough to win, they have a QB that handles the game extremely well,” said former Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner. “He can handle RPOs and get the ball out quickly. He seems to either dink and dunk or knock the ball down the field on the tee routes. It’s not really fancy, but they will get better. I think they will get more sophisticated as they go, they win with simplicity, it doesn’t matter how you win, you just need to get those Ws.
As Jones and Dillon punch, the thrill of a rejuvenated Saquon Barkley caused real buzz around the Big Apple with a league-leading 463 rushing yards.
“Running backs bringing a double threat is where the league is heading, and in Saquon, which I have been a harsh critic of for the past few years, it looks like he is back,” remarks Jones-Drew.
“He runs more violently, with more confidence, he is the leader of the team. He’s more explosive, you have to put more on his shoulders because Daniel Jones obviously can’t handle what he’s dealing with. They have to find ways to get the ball to him in space, he is a very good road runner, receiver and he catches the ball with his hands. Be creative.”
Quarterback Jones is the wild card, of course, after nursing an ankle injury all week to cast doubt on his looks, with Daboll signing free agents for further consideration in practice due to immediate reinforcement Tyrod Taylor still on concussion protocol.
Denied the fifth-year option, Jones was tasked with proving he can lead the franchise and remain a starter in the league through 2023 and beyond.
UK fans will be hoping to see Jones take on Rodgers given the rollercoaster nature of his performances since being drafted sixth overall in 2019. But his gritty nature and deceptive speed in space may just complement Barkley enough to give a hint of upheaval.
“We all wanted to know if Daniel Jones was the guy,” Warner remarks. “I don’t know if we know the answer to that question, but Brian Daboll plays to his strengths: crafting a lot of quick throws and taking the ball out of his hands after problems up front.
“They have three tight sets, hard playing action and get the DJ out in space so he can use his legs, streamlined readings outside. It’s not just conventional. Create easy opportunities. The defense is playing well, we have Saquon, let’s not put everything on the knees of Daniel Jones. It’s about building a culture and instilling some hope. Daboll did.
Green Bay Packers vs New York Giants live from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this Sunday, the second of three NFL Games in London in 2022, will air live on ITV with coverage starting at 2pm BST