NEW YORK– By Mo Miller
Shortly after the Giants won, Vegas was put the line at Packers favored by nine. Since then, it has been lowered to seven and a half. I believe it should be even lower. In fact, as a Giants fan, I am rather confident about the Giants chances in this game.
First and foremost: On Sunday, Aaron Rodgers will have last played three full weeks ago. Rodgers may be amazing, but he is still human, and he will be a bit rusty. Top receiver Greg Jennings will be playing his first game since week 14, after missing the last four games of the regular season. You can practice as much as you want, but nothing compares to in-game play and competition.
Secondly, the directions the teams are going. The Giants are peaking at the right time, getting hot in Week 16 and improving since. The Packers? They are coming off a bye week in which they were resting. I tend to believe bye weeks tend to do more harm than good. As stated above, you can practice all day, but nothing compares to a real game with the opposing team staring in your eyes wanting to take you down.
Thirdly, week 13. The Giants played the Packers in week 13 and, while the Packers continued to be undefeated and went on to win, the Giants matched them score for score, and got what you might call a “moral victory”. The Giants will learn from that game, learn what they did wrong, and how to change and improve their mistakes. In 2007, the Giants played the Patriots in Week 17 and fell just short, but the game was considered a “moral victory”. The Giants learned from that game, and the rest is history. There is reason to believe Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff, as well as Eli Manning, will be doing much like they did a short four years ago.
Key to the game: The Giants defensive line must get pressure on Rodgers. The Giants can ill afford to allow Rodgers to stay in the pocket and wait for his receivers to get open, because he will hit them with ease.
Stat of the game: Packers top two receivers: Jordy Nelson: 1,263 yards 15 touchdowns
Greg Jennings: 949 yards 9 touchdowns
Giants top two receivers: Victor Cruz: 1,563 yards 9 touchdowns
Hakeem Nicks: 1,192 yards 7 touchdowns
Baylor- The Bears remained undefeated by winning at Kansas State in what ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb called the best road win of the season. The Wildcats beat up Missouri at home over the weekend, but Perry Jones ensure his team wouldn’t encounter the same fate with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Illinois- Brandon Paul put up the game of his life, scoring 43 points on just 15 shots and adding four blocked shots in the Illini’s home upset of Ohio State. It was the third biggest scoring night in school history.
Creighton- The Blue Jays protected its home court and won a big Missouri Valley game over Northern Iowa 63-60. Senior G Antoine Young put up 21 points in the win.
Seton Hall- In its first game as a ranked team in 10 years, Fuquan Edwin scored a career high 28 points in a blowout of DePaul.
Florida State- In what could have large bubble implications in a couple of months, the Seminoles earned a tight road win at Virginia Tech behind 18 points and 15 rebounds from Bernard James.
Kansas State- The Wildcats had a really good opportunity to make another large statement at home but couldn’t close the deal against Baylor.
Louisville- The new year hasn’t been kind to the Cardinals. Rick Pitino’s squad fell to 1-3 in the Big East after being absolutely pounded at Providence 90-59. L’ville shot under 38 percent from the field and came up completely flat against the Friars.
Virginia Tech- The Hokies needed to hold serve at home against a team with similar talent like Florida State. The selection committee won’t like this loss.
Five Games To Watch For Wednesday
1) Syracuse @ Villanova- 7 p.m. ESPN2- The Orange remain the nation’s top team, but a trip to ‘Nova’s hostile Philadelphia environs could spell a little trouble for Jim Boeheim’s crew.
2) Missouri @ Iowa State- 8 p.m. ESPN3- The Tigers need to come back strong after their loss at Kansas State, but the Cyclones are 2-0 in Big 12 play and could upset Mizzou.
3) Kentucky @ Auburn- 8 p.m. ESPN3- The Wildcats should breeze through with a win, but will UK look past this game? Can Auburn keep things close?
4) Rutgers @ Pitt- 7 p.m. ESPN3- The Scarlet Knights have two recent wins over Florida and UConn and the Panthers face a must-win game after starting 0-3 in Big East play. It’s do or die for Jaime Dixon’s team at home.
5) LSU @ Alabama- 9 p.m. ESPN3- Besides being a rematch of Monday’s laugher of a national title game, the basketball teams have some talent and the Tigers have a good chance to take some revenge on the road.
Pittsburgh Continues To Slide
Ottawa made sure to end this game early, and the Penguins could do nothing to prevent the Senators’ rise and the home team’s slow and unlikely midseason demise. The Senators took a 4-0 lead early in the second period with Jason Spezza, Nick Foligno and Colin Greening each getting two points and Ottawa cruised to a 5-1 win at the Consol Energy Center.
Milan Michalek scored twice for the Senators and helped hand the Penguins its fifth straight defeat. Evgeni Malkin scored the lone goal for Pittsburgh, whose All-Star caliber teammate James Neal was disappointed by the team’s performance.
“Tonight was a crucial game and we came out and put ourselves in a hole right away,” Neal said. “When you lose that many in a row, it’s tough, but you’ve got to find a way to battle back and get back to where we were as a hockey team.”
Brent Johnson started at goalie for Pittsburgh and allowed three goals on eight shots before being replaced by the usual starter Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury then allowed a goal on the first shot he faced. “A couple breakdowns and a couple miscues and we gave them goals, gave them easy goals,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “When they score four goals on nine shots, there’s some serious gaps on our part.”
While the Senators surge, the Penguins are still slumping without Sidney Crosby and could soon find themselves out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Toronto Starts New Year Off Strong
They call goalie Jonas Gustavvson The Monster up in Ontario, and he’s been proving this month that Henrik Lundqvist isn’t the NHL’s only dominant Swedish netminder.
Gustavvson won his fourth game in as many starts in 2012, posting his second shutout of the month in a 2-0 Maple Leafs win over Buffalo on Tuesday. Toronto has won four straight to launch themselves from outside the playoff picture to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller fell to 1-5 in his last six starts against the Leafs and seems to be at a psychological disadvantage when playing in Toronto, where the fans have been relentless in their chants against him. Buffalo has lost three in a row and have only won two of their last 10 games.
Nikolai Kulemin scored and added an assist for Toronto and his strong play has been noticed by teammates. ”Kulie’s one of those guys that kind leads by example, he doesn’t say a whole bunch,” Leafs D Cody Franson said. “He’s come out with the same work ethic every night.”
The two teams play again in Buffalo on Friday.
Thoughts & Theories
-Detroit lost 5-1 to the Islanders? What gives? ”It’s just our lack of working hard,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lindstrom said. “Our work ethic wasn’t there. For whatever reason, I don’t think we played as hard as you have to against a very talented team.” Matt Moulson took advantage of the Wings’ off night, scoring two goals and assisting on another. With St. Louis and Chicago both winning, the Red Wings now find themselves in third place in the Central Division and fifth in the Western Conference. That’s what you get for taking a night off in the National Hockey League.
-Minnesota badly needed a win to get back on track, and perhaps their nationally televised 5-4 shootout win over San Jose will be the elixir needed to get the Wild back on track. ”Boy, we needed that,” Matt Cullen, who scored in the third period and in the shootout, said. “It’s time. We’ve struggled here for long enough, and you can’t afford to struggle too long in this league. Teams pass you by, and we see where we are in the standings. We want to climb.” After going 1-8-3 in their previous 12 games, this win is positively gigantic.
Games To Watch
Wednesday- Raise your hand if you thought Pittsburgh and Washington would be the eighth and 10th seeds in the Eastern Conference at midseason? These two star-studded teams play on the NBC Sports Network.
Thursday- A battle between two of the league’s hottest teams, the Senators and Rangers, highlights the 13 games on the Thursday schedule. Besides for the Montreal-Boston rivalry renewing, the Canucks and Blues play each other in a battle of the Western Conference’s top two teams. We’ll see if Minnesota is really back to its winning ways as the Wild travel to Chicago.