EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Since meeting in the NFC wild-card game in January 2017, the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants have followed the same path for a couple of seasons.
Neither made the playoffs the past two years and both fired the coaches who got them to the postseason in the 2016 season. The Giants got rid of Ben McAdoo in late 2017 and the Packers dumped long-time coach Mike McCarthy 12 games into the ’18 season.
Pat Shurmur is now in his second season running the Giants and Matt LaFleur is in his first with the Pack. Their roads also have gone in much different directions.
LaFleur and the Packers (8-3) are tied for first place in the NFC North with Minnesota heading into a game Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Giants (2-9), who have won seven times in 27 games under Shurmur.
Good times seemingly have returned for the Packers, though they need a quick rebound from being routed at San Francisco. The Giants remain in the dumps, with three straight losing seasons and six in seven years.
The Packers got a reality check this past Sunday night in a 38-7 loss to the 49ers in San Francisco. LaFleur sidestepped a question on whether he was curious to see how his team responded this week, saying they were just looking for the chance to play again.
They certainly have to right opponent.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley, the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, says things have not gone the way the organization wanted the past two seasons, and everyone is fighting through the adversity with the belief things are going to change.
“You’ve got to believe it first for it to actually happen,” Barkley said. “If you don’t believe in it, it will never happen. That’s why it’s important because it starts there. Not only myself but everyone in this locker room, we believe, we’re going to continue to believe, going to continue to work and try to finish this season off as strong as we can— starting off with the Packers, who are a great team.”
The rookie quarterback has thrown a touchdown in nine straight games and his 17 lead all rookies. He has thrown only one interception in the last four games, while passing for 11 touchdowns. His problem remains fumbles. He has lost 10 fumbles, including one against the Bears that led to a 3-yard touchdown drive.
Aaron Rodgers is having another great season. He has 18 touchdown passes and two interceptions. What might he do against the Giants’ secondary?
Rookie DeAndre Baker and second-year pro Sam Beal started alternating at one cornerback spot last week. Rookie cornerback Corey Balentine struggled in the slot against the Bears and rookie Julian Love will get more playing time at safety with Jabrill Peppers nursing a back injury. The only veterans are cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Antoine Bethea.
MR. JONES AGAIN
The Packers need to get running back Aaron Jones more active in the passing game. His production has dipped since receiver Davante Adams returned from turf toe. Adams has caught seven passes in each of his three games back. Jones, who has 11 rushing touchdowns, has caught one of four targets for minus-1 yard.
In the three games before Adams returned to the lineup, Jones had 15 catches for 205 yards and three touchdowns. LaFleur wants him more involved this week.
The Giants’ third-year placekicker went to the Pro Bowl last season, making 32 of 33 field goal attempts and 31 of 32 PATs. The consistency has not carried over. He is 8 of 12 on field goals this season and 21 of 24 on extra points. He has missed either a field goal or an extra point in five straight games. He missed two field goal attempts (42, 43 yards) in last weekend’s five-point loss to the Bears. He also had a kickoff go out of bounds, giving Chicago the ball at its 40.
The Packers allowed the 49ers to sack Rodgers five times on Sunday night. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga injured his right knee and left the game. Alex Light replaced him but struggled.
Watch the right side of the line. If Bulaga doesn’t go, Light might get the start. Or right guard Billy Turner might move out to tackle. That would give Lucas Patrick a chance to start at right guard. The Giants might look to exploit the injury.
“Our goal is just to put our best five out there and we’ll go from there,” LaFleur said.