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Giants-Packers scouting reporting

January 13, 2012
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Giants on offense: After struggling to run the ball most of the season, the Giants returned to their Tom Coughlin roots last week as running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 155 yards in the dismantling of the Falcons. Jacobs (when he’s healthy and motivated - and that’s not a given) can run like a Mack truck. The 6-foot-4-inch, 264-pounder (yes, he’s built like a linebacker) plows through holes and into defenders with frightening force. If he starts strong, he’ll be a menace all day. If he starts slow, he’ll be invisible by the fourth quarter. Bradshaw is smaller at 5-10, 214, but still runs tough. Quarterback Eli Manning is a quiet, confident leader who stands tall in the pocket. He puts a nice touch on the ball and has great trust in Hakeem Nicks (decent speed, good body control) and the emerging Victor Cruz (sneaky speed and big-play ability).

Packers on defense: B.J. Raji doesn’t put up big numbers, but the big tackle controls the middle, occupying blockers and clearing space for athletic (and long-haired) linebackers A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews (they both specialize in brutal hits) to fill lanes.

Packers on offense: Aaron Rodgers (just give him the MVP trophy now) has been playing at an elite level for two-plus seasons and there is no reason to think that will stop Sunday. The 6-2, 225-pound QB has great field vision and reads through his progressions quickly. He has a cannon for an arm and can be deadly accurate. When he gets into a groove, he is virtually unstoppable. Jordy Nelson has become a reliable go-to guy (especially with Greg Jennings hobbled). Nelson finds open spots quickly, has strong hands, and has a knack for finding the end zone (15 TDs). Jennings (knee) is expected back for this game. A muscular, 5-11, 198-pounder, Jennings uses impressive strength and speed to gain separation. Tight end Jermichael Finley (6-5, 247) is your basic nightmare matchup.

Giants on defense: New York knows how to get after the QB. The front seven, led by swift and powerful end Jason Pierre-Paul, is deep. Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka will pressure the pocket from the outside while Chris Canty attacks up the middle. Linebackers Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn cover a lot of ground.

Special teams: Rookie Randall “Tex’’ Cobb has been brilliant as Green Bay’s main return man. He averaged 27.1 yards on 34 kickoff returns and 11.4 yards on 26 punt returns. He took one of each back for a score . . . Packers kicker Mason Crosby (that doesn’t sound like a football name) converted 24 of 28 field goal attempts with a long of 58 yards . . . Tim Masthay averaged 45.6 yards on 55 punts, including a 71-yarder . . . For the Giants, Jerrel Jernigan will handle kick-return duties . . . Former Boston College standout Will Blackmon will return punts . . . Lawrence Tynes hit on 19 of 24 FG attempts in the regular season and 1 of 2 last week . . . Steve Weatherford averages 45.7 yards per punt.

Miscellany: Unfortunately, Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies . . . Packers beat Giants, 38-35, Dec. 4 . . . This is the seventh playoff meeting between the franchises. The first five were NFL Championship games. The last one was the 2007 NFC Championship game (Patriots fans know who won that one) . . . Coughlin is 9-7 in the postseason while Mike McCarthy is 5-2.

JIM McBRIDE

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