Recent History All That Matters for Packers and Giants

The Giants pushed the Packers to the limit last month, so forget about four years ago

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If you talk to anyone in New York about the Giants this week, you're sure to hear talk about 2007.

Everyone around town is convincing themselves that this year's Giants team is a spiritual heir to the team that came into the playoffs with low expectations before rattling off three road wins to take the NFC, including a win at Lambeau Field.

Once in the Super Bowl, they knocked off the unbeaten Patriots -- and players pointed to a 38-35 loss to them in the regular season as a reason why they were able to pull through.

The fact that these Giants lost to the Packers 38-35 in early December only adds fuel to the fire. The existence of that game makes it a bit silly to reach all the way back in time for talking points.

As similar as this Giants team might be to their 2007 champions -- strong pass rush, Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin -- the Packers are a totally different team.

Aaron Rodgers in his prime is miles ahead of Brett Favre in his retirement drama, as evidenced by the way the Packers quarterback shredded the Giants en route to the winning field goal.

The Packers offense, with Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson, is much deeper than the one they had that day, and Clay Matthews is a defensive playmaker that they didn't have back then. The Giants look a lot like the team that won that day, but the Packers bear almost no resemblance. 

That's not to say that keeping the focus on the here and now means we can't talk about a Giants win. They proved that they could keep pace with the Packers on the scoreboard in that matchup, mostly because the Packers secondary is vulnerable to a team with a quarterback playing as well as Manning is playing right now and because of a defense that can make even Rodgers uncomfortable. 

There are differences this time around. The venue has shifted, the Packers have two starting linebackers that were injured last time around and the Giants have Osi Umenyiora back in the lineup. But if you're looking to history as a guide, you should be using that December game and not the 2007 version to give some insight into what will happen this weekend.

And what insight do we glean? These two teams are pretty closely matched with every reason to believe they are going to play another thriller.

History isn't the only storyline to watch, however. Here's four more that could impact who advances to the NFC title game.

Momentum vs. Rust - These two teams are perhaps the biggest reasons why there's a belief in some circles that it is better to be the road underdog in this round than it is to be a team that's been at the top of the conference all season. Both of their Super Bowl runs consisted of three straight road victories, building up the notion that it is better to have a head of steam than it is to be at home after a week of rest.

Since 2001, teams with a first-round bye are 25-15, and that's about as good as it gets in the NFL, but they are just 12-12 over the last six years. Home teams in the Wild Card round were just 21-19 heading into last weekend when all four of them won their games so, basically, the numbers tell us nothing.  

The death of Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's son - This is a bit of a third rail because the outcome of a football game means nothing compared to what Philbin and his family are going through right now and because you can't possibly figure out what it does to the mindsets of so many different individuals, but it is clearly part of the story leading up to Sunday afternoon's game. While it has added something to the Packers' plate, they seem to be well-equipped to handle the jolt. Mike McCarthy is an offensive guy, Aaron Rodgers is in complete command and the team is experienced enough that they aren't likely to be rattled by a the different week of preparation.

Did The Chiefs Provide a Blueprint? - When a team wins 21 of 22 games, it is only natural to look to the one loss for an idea of how to beat them. The danger of doing that is that the Packers who lost to the Chiefs in Week 15 were missing wide receiver Greg Jennings and both starting offensive tackles while playing on the road. All three players will be in the lineup this weekend at Lambeau Field, which means that it makes more sense to use the previous Giants game as a guide to how the Packers can lose. 

You Down With JPP? - The rise of Jason Pierre-Paul this season has been fascinating to watch, as he went from a situational pass rusher to one of the best defensive linemen in football. Pierre-Paul just about won the key game against the Cowboys in Week 14 by himself and he's been almost unstoppable over the second half of the season. The Packers love going with five wideouts to attack defenses, but JPP can thwart those plans by himself if the Pack isn't careful about blocking him.

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