Pick-Six Preview: Packers at Giants
Green Bay Packers (8-3) at New York Giants (2-9)
The vitals: Noon Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
TV: Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake)
Series: Packers lead 28-23-2.
The last time: On Oct. 9, 2016, the Packers won 23-16 at Lambeau Field. The Giants pulled within 23-16 with 3 minutes remaining on a touchdown catch by Odell Beckham but Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb on third-and-10 to clinch the victory. Cobb caught nine passes for 108 yards.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning started the first two games but was replaced by Daniel Jones, the sixth pick of this year’s draft. Jones won his first two starts but the Giants have dropped seven straight. He’s 22nd in quarterback rating (87.8) and completion percentage (62.5) and 32nd in yards per attempt (6.41). Jones has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his first nine starts; only three quarterbacks since the 1970 merger have a longer career-opening streak. Hall of Famer Kurt Warner holds the record with 23. Jones has thrown 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions but leads the NFL with 14 fumbles and 10 lost fumbles.
His top weapon
The No. 2 pick of the 2018 draft, running back Saquon Barkley had one of the great rookie seasons in NFL history. He rushed for 1,307 yards with a 5.0-yard average, caught 91 passes for 721 yards, scored 15 total touchdowns and led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage. A high-ankle sprain kept Barkley out for most of four games and he just hasn’t been the same player. In his first two games, he rushed for 227 yards with a 7.83-yard average. In his last five games, he rushed for 224 yards with a 2.77-yard average. Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, he averaged 3.34 yards after contact and had 10 runs of 31-plus yards. This year, he has averaged 2.46 yards after contact with 13 runs of 10-plus yards. By contrast, Green Bay backup Jamaal Williams has averaged 2.92 yards after contact with 10 runs of 10-plus yards despite getting 42 fewer carries. Barkley is on pace to finish the season with 1,077 scrimmage yards – about half of last year’s prodigious total.
New York is 29th in the league with 28.0 points allowed per game and 27th with 377.5 yards per game. That doesn’t mean the Giants are a bunch of 100-pound weaklings, though. Against the run, they rank seven with 3.93 yards per carry. Against the pass, they are sixth in interception rate at 2.82 percent. Markus Golden leads the team with 7.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. He rushes primarily against the offense’s right tackle. With a healthy Bryan Bulaga, the Packers would feel good about this matchup. But with Bulaga perhaps not available due to a knee injury sustained at San Francisco, Green Bay might have to counter with Alex Light or move right guard Billy Turner into that spot.
33.6: Green Bay’s third-down conversion rate is tied for 25th in the league, a mark slammed by last week’s woeful 1-of-15 performance at San Francisco. Pro Football Reference has third-down data going to 1991. This is the team’s worst of those 29 seasons. When the Packers reached the NFC Championship Game in 2016, they moved the chains 46.7 percent of the time. When they reached the NFC title game in 2014, that mark was 47.2 percent. During their record-setting 2011 season, Green Bay converted 48.1 percent of the time.