They were destined to face each other in the playoffs. You knew it, I knew it, we all knew it.
When the Giants and Packers walked off the field in the Meadowlands on Dec. 4, the Packers a 38-35 winner, the calendar immediately got turned back to 2007, when the Giants came out of the five hole to win it all. Along the way, the Giants scored an upset win in Green Bay in the NFC title game.
"That score, 38-35," I thought to myself as I made my way to the locker room, "wasn't that the score of the Giants-Patriots game in 2007?" A few minutes later, I was able to verify that was, indeed, the score. At that exact moment, there was no doubt in my mind that these two teams would face each other again, and it didn't take much thought about the seeding to quickly discern that the Packers were gonna be No. 1 and the Giants would have to be No. 4, and that would likely mean a divisional-round matchup at Lambeau Field.
So here we are. The Giants and Packers are each teams of destiny because they were destined to face each other, as they will this Sunday.
The Giants come into this game with a Cinderella feel to them. If Yogi Berra had played for the Giants, he would've described this season as déjà vu all over again.
Everything seems to be falling the Giants' way, except for one thing: Lambeau Field and the fans that will occupy it on Sunday belong to the Packers and only the Packers. There will be no infiltration of Giants fans on Sunday; that won't happen in this town.
At about 3:30 on Sunday afternoon, the Giants will emerge from their tunnel to a resounding chorus of boos, followed by an explosion of cheers for the Packers as they come onto the field. That's the X factor in this game that few people have acknowledged. Just because the Giants won at Lambeau in the '07 title game doesn't lessen the Packers' advantage for this game.
The Packers have the best quarterback and the best fans and that's a combination no team has beaten at Lambeau Field since Oct. 17 of 2010, when the Dolphins caught the Packers off-guard and at a low point in their season and scored a 23-20, overtime win.
Mike McCarthy's team is rested, healthy and at home for a game that would kick-start a run to a second straight Super Bowl title. The Packers couldn't ask for better circumstances, and that includes a weather forecast that is very favorable for throwing the football.
Enough talk. Let's go.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Giants.
1. Protect the quarterback—It starts with that because you can't complete a pass if you can't throw a pass. The Giants' pass-rush is on fire and the Packers' offensive line must douse the flames.
2. Deny big plays—The Giants had three big ones in the first game between the two teams. Take away those three plays and the game would not have been close.
3. Stop the run—Don't be fooled by the No. 32 rush ranking. The Giants' running game has come to life and it's giving them the balance Tom Coughlin craves.
4. Force turnovers—It's how the Packers win on defense.
5. Play to the crowd—Home field is the Packers' single-greatest advantage in this game. Use it.
6. Make them play run—The Packers must avoid becoming one-dimensional and allowing the Giants to rush the passer exclusively.
7. Throw screens—It makes the pass-rush run sideways.
8. Live in the moment—Forget about the Saints; the Giants are the team to beat.
9. Win the battle of energy—The team that wins the test of will is the team that will win the game.
10. Be true to your identity—Being who and what the Packers are was good enough 15 times this season. Don't try to change anything now. Additional coverage - Jan. 12