The defense of their Super Bowl Championship is over as the top-seeded Packers lost their divisional-round matchup with the New York Giants by a score of 37-20. Big Blue did everything right as they dominated the Packers from almost the outset of the game. The Giants’’ run game continues to improve from their woeful regular season numbers. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 85 yards and a touchdown. Hakeem Nicks had a whale of a game, as well, putting up 165 yards and 2 touchdowns on 7 catches. Eli Manning was clutch and the line held its own against the Green Bay pass rush. The defense continues to channel the 2007 version of itself, putting consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers, playing physical coverage against a stable of talented pass catchers for the Packers, and holding up against the run. For the Giants to top the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, they’ll need to continue their winning ways during this current hot streak. Of paramount importance is maintaining the pressure coming from the front four. San Francisco’s worst loss of the season, to the Ravens on Thanksgiving, can largely be attributed to the pressure Baltimore put on Alex Smith. The 49ers have a good run-blocking unit, but their offensive line has severe limitations in pass protection. This could be a great matchup for the Giants and should present them with an excellent opportunity to get back to the Super Bowl.
Green Bay now has to go back to the drawing board and prepare for next season. First on the agenda for the Pack should be finding a bookend pass rusher to pair with Clay Matthews and identifying a player that can get to the quarterback on the interior. Not having Cullen Jenkins to pull blockers away from no. 52 really hampered his ability to get to the passer this season and affected every level of the defense particularly in pass coverage. Another priority should be improving the talent-level in the secondary. Charles Woodson really showed his age this year and may be best served kicking back to safety to close out his Hall of Fame career. Tramon Williams needs to find a way to recapture the magic from last season.
While most of the offseason focus should rightly fall on the defense’s shortcomings, the offense has some issues of their own. Green Bay has few pending free agents (see here), but the most important of these are on the offensive side of the ball. Tight end Jermichael Finley was inconsistent this year, but his amazing athleticism and game-breaking skills would be difficult to replace. He’s a candidate for the franchise tag. Center Scott Wells is also set to hit the market. He would be tough to lose, so expect the Packers to make a strong push to lock him up long term. Finding a back to pair with James Starks will also be a target of Ted Thompson. Other than those three issues, the main focus of the offense should be spending as much time as they possibly can this offseason with the Jugs Machine, because the dropped passes are now at the ridiculous level.