5 Big Questions Facing Green Bay Packers in Matchup with Giants

Sep 26, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs for a touchdown during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs for a touchdown during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

To help get you prepared for the Green Bay Packers Week 5 matchup with the New York Giants in London, as always, I dive into my five big questions about the upcoming game.

Does Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry play more aggressively?

Last week against the run-heavy Patriots, who also featured a third-string quarterback, we saw the Packers play less nickel and in their heavier 3-4 base defense. However, even with New England oftentimes playing with a sixth offensive lineman on the field, Green Bay remained in their cover-2 shell.

New England would rush for 167 total yards at 5.1 yards per carry. In addition to needing to play with an extra defender in the box in those obvious running situations, the Packers’ front-seven needs to play better as well.

On Monday of this week, Matt LaFleur mentioned that he wanted more physicality from his defense, along with more flexibility from Barry.

"“Quite frankly, I think we got to play more physical,” said LaFleur on Monday. “We can’t just sit back and catch, and this is something I’ve talked to Joe (Barry) about. As much as possible, we’d like to hold the 2-shell, but we might have to come out of it, especially when we are fairly confident that a team is going to run the ball.”"

The Patriots game wasn’t the first time this season that we’ve seen Barry burned by his loyalty to the two-high; against Minnesota, Justin Jefferson had a massive first half taking advantage of the Packers’ soft zone coverages–which often time left him with a lot of space to work with.

This week the Packers once again face a run-heavy team in the New York Giants, who are led by Saquon Barkley and his 5.5 yards per rush. Slowing the Giants’ offense begins with slowing the run, but will we see Joe Barry making adjustments? This is not a Giants offense that takes a lot of deep shots, so my hope is that the answer to the question is yes.

How does the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line hold up against the blitz?

The offensive line seems to be trending in the right direction for the Green Bay Packers; however, there are still instances where they are leaking oil a little bit. Entering Week 5, the Packers’ offensive line ranks ninth in pressure rate allowed this season.

This week they will be up against a Giants defense led by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale that loves to blitz. In fact, they lead the NFL in blitz rate in 2022.

Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, has been very good this season when blitzed, completing 77% of his passes at 8.7 yards per attempt with two touchdowns to one interception per PFF. This is a fine line, however, as Rodgers’ completion percentage and yards per attempt rank in the bottom third of the NFL when he’s under pressure.

If the Green Bay Packers offensive line can handle those blitzes more often than not, it should create some run-after-the-catch opportunities for the pass-catchers, who rank among the best in YAC, along with Rodgers having the opportunity to push the ball downfield.

It’ll also be interesting to see if Martindale pulls back on the blitzing a bit since he is going up against Rodgers, who, as already mentioned, has been quite effective when blitzed this season.

Can the Green Bay Packers offense find success on third downs and in the red zone?

As Matt LaFleur said on Friday, the Giants have one of the best situational defenses in football. They rank second in third down conversion rate allowed and second in red zone defense as well. The Packers, meanwhile, rank ninth in third-down offense and 13th in red zone offense this season.

The key for the Green Bay Packers in these situations is that they find success on early downs to put themselves in manageable third-down situations or, even better, avoid third-downs altogether. This begins with the run game, which is averaging 5.0 yards per carry as a team, along with Aaron Jones being one of the better running backs at creating big plays.

The Giants’ run defense is allowing 5.1 yards per carry in 2022 and have had particular issues with setting the edge and containing the opposing running back. This also happens to be where Jones has had a lot of his success.

As it has all season, the quick passing game will be key for the Packers as well. This has put less strain on the offensive line with the ball coming out quickly, it gives the pass-catchers YAC opportunities, and Rodgers, once again, has been very efficient when the ball is out in under 2.5-seconds, according to PFF.

As has been the case all season, success on offense for the Packers begins with a heavy dose of Jones and AJ Dillon on the ground with the quick passing game mixed in.

Is Sunday going to be a big day for the Green Bay Packers pass rush?

The Giants average the fourth-most rush attempts per game this season, and as already discussed, Saquon Barkley has been one of the most productive running backs in football. So we should expect New York to really lean on the run game.

However, while the New York offensive line is having success as run-blockers, they are really struggling in pass protection, allowing the highest pressure rate in the NFL through four games.

Now, with that said, the fact that Daniel Jones’ average time to throw is 3.29-seconds isn’t helping things either. Whether he’s not seeing the field, receivers aren’t getting open, or both, the ball needs to come out more quickly to help the offensive line.

In order for Rashan Gary and the rest of the Green Bay Packers defensive front to have these opportunities to get after Jones, who is also dealing with an ankle injury, which could hamper his mobility a bit, they need to slow the run game.

This begins with Barry making adjustments and the defensive front doing a better job of shedding blocks, setting the edge, maintaining gap integrity, and making tackles. But the Packers’ offense can also play a role in this as well, by giving the defense a lead to work with, thus limiting New York’s chances to run the ball as they play from behind.

If Green Bay can make the Giants one-dimensional, it could be a big day for Gary, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark.

Which team handles the travel the best? The Green Bay Packers or the New York Giants?

This is certainly an unusual week for both teams, with routines being thrown all out of whack. There is less preparation time than normal, in all likelihood lighter practices, and of course, the trip across the pond to a time zone that is six hours ahead of Green Bay and five ahead of New York.

It’s difficult to quantify what effect all of this will have on each team — or maybe it won’t — but Matt LaFleur has mentioned on a few occasions that whichever team handles the travel and short week the best is going to be in the best position to win.

"“I just think it’s such an adjustment that I think a lot of it is who handles this trip the best is going to be able to play to the best of their abilities,” said LaFleur on Wednesday."

For what it’s worth, the Packers have had trouble in the past traveling to the west coast, putting together some lackluster performances against both San Francisco and the L.A. Chargers in recent years.

In terms of travel and rest, things don’t get any easier for the Green Bay Packers following this game. Instead of having a bye week, the Packers chose to have it later in the season, so they will play next Sunday at home against the Jets. They then have a three-game road trip against Washington, Buffalo, and Detroit.

Without question, it is going to be a grueling five-game stretch for the Packers, but the good news is that LaFleur is very good about listening to his players and modifying schedules when additional rest is needed.