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Green Bay Packers: Five Keys to Game Against the New York Giants

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COMMENTARY | The feeling is bleak and the outlook grim these days for the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers set to miss his second straight game against the New York Giants.

For the third consecutive week, the Packers will put out a different starting quarterback, something that hasn't happened since the mid-80s, and the defense looks to be falling apart right before our very eyes. In fact, the Packers are literally falling apart, ravaged by injuries and scrambling to find enough bodies just to fill out a game day roster.

But it's not all bad for Green Bay.

Its loss last Saturday came to a team that's now 5-1 on the road, and the Packers had a third-string quarterback in for a majority of the game. Green Bay's next two games come against teams with a combined 5-13 record. Even winning just one of them keeps the Packers in the hunt for the NFC North title.

The Giants are winners of their last three games, and Green Bay must travel to the Meadowlands. But that three-game winning streak came at the expense of the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles (at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles are winless this season) and the Oakland Raiders.

Green Bay considers itself better than the previous two teams to visit MetLife Stadium as well as the team that plays there, even with a faulty defense, No. 3 quarterback and injury riddled roster. For the Packers to prove this notion, they will have to follow through on these five keys to the game.

Execute the game plan on defense

Against the Eagles, it wasn't necessarily the game plan that led the Packers astray, but rather the execution of said game plan. Players missed tackles, failed to get pressure on the quarterback and blew coverages left and right.

Green Bay's defensive backs can't afford to miss assignments against guys like Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Injuries in the backfield have made the Giants one of the worst running teams in the league, so there should be no excuse when it comes to stopping New York's ground attack. It will come down to staying on task in the secondary and leaving these last two games in the past.

Give Starks more carries

Even with Scott Tolzien at quarterback, the Packers will want to have a balanced attack on offense this Sunday. The man who has helped keep the Green Bay offense balanced week after week is tailback Eddie Lacy, who could very well be on his way to a Rookie of the Year honor.

That is, if he doesn't break down by the end of the season.

Over his last six games, Lacy is averaging about 25 carries. One area the Packers don't lack depth is running back, which is why it's peculiar that James Starks only has 17 carries in Green Bay's last three games since returning from a knee injury.

On those 17 carries, Starks has surpassed 100 yards. He's a solid change of pace back for the Packers and should figure to get more looks out of the backfield this Sunday if Mike McCarthy knows what's best for this offense moving forward.

Force turnovers

It's now or never for the ball hawks on this Green Bay defense.

No team gives the ball away more than the New York Giants. In fact, it isn't even close. The Giants have 28 turnovers through nine games this season and have a league-worst -13 turnover differential.

Ball security has been an issue for New York running backs, and nobody throws more interceptions than Eli Manning. But the Packers simply haven't been forcing turnovers this season like in past years -- nobody has forced fewer turnovers in the NFC than Green Bay.

Something has to give, and this is an excellent opportunity for Tramon Williams and Co. to get off the schneid.

Keep Tolzien comfortable

Aside from a couple of errant passes and poor decisions, Scott Tolzien played pretty darn well for having been called up from the practice squad five days before making his NFL debut.

Now, he will make his first NFL start on the road, which isn't a task for the faint of heart regardless of the location. While at the University of Wisconsin, Tolzien played in hostile environments like The Horseshoe, Kinnick Stadium and The Big House as well as the Rose Bowl, so this won't be his first rodeo.

Even still, there is a different kind of pressure that you must atone for in the NFL, and Tolzien appeared to handle it sufficiently last Sunday. Establishing a running game will be critical in taking some of the burden off Tolzien's right arm, and with a full week of preparation in his back pocket, Tolzien should be more comfortable under center with a more diverse playbook.

Don't let Eli get in a groove

Points will be difficult enough to come by for the Green Bay offense with injuries on the offensive line, at receiver and of course, at quarterback. The Giants have an above average run and pass defense, so there is no true weakness to exploit.

The defense is what must keep the Packers in this game, and for that to happen, it can't let Eli Manning rediscover himself and begin torching its secondary like he has in the past.

The talent and depth is there in the Green Bay secondary, but it needs to start proving it. Sam Shields, Davon House and Micah Hyde have all played well this season at cornerback, and there's a reason Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett are getting paid the big bucks.

Getting pressure on the quarterback is where it all starts, and the reduction in size of Clay Matthews' cast should benefit the Packers in that area. That in turn leads to more success defending the pass, but it's time for the secondary to step up, because how well Manning performs will be the difference between winning and losing.

Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.

You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe.

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