By Curt Macysyn
Injuries will occur in the NFL, and this truism has especially applied to the 2013 season. For example, the New York Football Giants lost key personnel in the pre-season and stumbled out to an 0-6 start. On the other hand, the Green Bay Packers started off 5-2 and looked like a sure-fire playoff contender. But a spate of injuries have the Pack back on their heels, especially after the team recently lost key performers Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb and Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers broke his left collarbone against the Chicago Bears, and backup Seneca Wallace was lost to the team this week against the Philadelphia Eagles, when he pulled a groin muscle.
Don’t expect any sympathy from the New York Giants, however. New York’s injury woes started in mini-camp, when All Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul underwent back surgery for a herniated disc, and the injury bug continues to bite Big Blue. The G-men have lost starters Dan Connor, Stevie Brown, David Wilson, David Baas, Henry Hynoski and Chris Snee for the season, as well as top reserves Aaron Ross and Shaun Rogers.
Additionally, key personnel like running back Andre Brown, cornerback Corey Webster and offensive guard David Diehl have missed time with significant injuries, so New York has never been at full strength at any time this season.
Not Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood
Aaron Rodgers will not play this week after breaking his left collarbone against the Chicago Bears two weeks ago. The veteran signal caller ran the Packers offense crisply and effectively with 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions this season. Prior to his injury, Rodgers was only one of five quarterbacks in the NFL with a quarterback rating of over 100. And with Rodgers at the helm, the Packers ranked in the top 10 in rushing and passing, and overall, Green Bay ranks fifth in total offense in the NFL with an average of 420 yards of total offense per game.
Last week, Green Bay installed veteran backup Seneca Wallace as Rodger’s replacement, but Wallace injured his groin muscle against the Philadelphia Eagles after five passes. He was replaced by journeyman Scott Tolzien, as the Packers fell to the Eagles 27-13 in Green Bay. Tolzien was cut by the San Francisco 49ers in training camp and picked up by Green Bay. He was elevated from the Packer’s practice squad after Rodger’s injury.
Tolzien was 24-39 for 280 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles, but he also threw two interceptions. Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy has already named Tolzien the starter for the Packers this week against the Giants.
Running back Eddie Lacy has invigorated the Packers moribund running attack. The rookie from the University of Alabama has carried the ball 158 times for 669 yards and four touchdowns. Lacy averages 4.2 yards per carry, and he has caught 14 passes out of the backfield. Expect the Packers to try to control the time of possession by feeding the ball to Lacy, especially if Green Bay can take the lead in this game.
Veteran receiver Greg Jennings left Green Bay in the off-season for the greener pastures (pun intended) of Minnesota. The Pack also lost wideout Randall Cobb to a broken leg after the win in Baltimore against the Ravens. In their place, Jordy Nelson has been the Packers top receiver this season with 49 catches for 772 yards and seven touchdowns. James Jones has also stepped up his games as well with 25 catches and 410 yards receiving with two touchdowns.
In Cobb’s absence, Jarrett Boykin has made the most of his opportunity to play. Against Philadelphia, Boykin had eight receptions for 110 yards. Overall, the undrafted free agent from Virginia Tech has 23 catches for 362 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Packers are improved from prior years, which may or may not say a whole lot about their improvement.
Much like the Giants, Green Bay has a negative takeaway ratio (-4). But unlike New York, the Packers have more of a problem with takeaways than giveaways. The team has a mere three interceptions to its credit this year and eight turnovers credited to them overall. The eight forced turnovers ties Green Bay with the Atlanta Falcons for last in the NFC.
The Packers have been able to get pressure on the quarterback, accumulating 27 sacks in nine games, which ranks the team fifth in the NFC. Defensive end Mike Daniels leads the team with 4.5 sacks on the season. A.J. Hawk had a three sack game against the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year.
Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji get most of the notoriety on the Packers defense, but veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk remains a tackling force on defense. The nine-year veteran from Ohio State has accumulated 74 tackles this season, and he is on pace for his fifth season with more than 100 tackles.
Linebacker Clay Matthews returned to action against the Eagles after breaking his thumb, which required surgery, during an October contest against the Detroit Lions. Matthews played with a club to protect the thumb, but only had one tackle and one assist on Sunday. He also had a roughing the passer penalty called against him.
Green Bay leads the all-time series 31-25-2, but the Giants won last year’s Sunday night contest 38-10 at the Meadowlands. In that game, running back Andre Brown fractured his leg and was lost for the season. Brown had 64 yards on the ground and a touchdown before he was injured. The Giants sacked Aaron Rodgers five times in the contest and limited the All-Pro quarterback to 219 yards passing.
Packers rookie Eddie Lacy is on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards this season. The last Green Bay running back to crack the 1,000 yard mark was Ryan Grant in 2009 with 1,253 yards.
The Giants had 38 rushing attempts in their victory against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. For the season, New York averages 23.8 rushing attempts per game, ranking them 24th in the NFL. Over the last three games, all victories, the Giants have averaged 33.7 rushes per game.
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.