Last season, the Green Bay Packers entered the playoffs as a wild card team and proceeded to run off a string off three straight road wins on their way to the Super Bowl. They entered the playoffs as the last team in the NFC to earn a playoff berth, and they ended their three-game winning streak as the undisputed best team in the conference.
If there’s a 2011 version of the Packers, it’s the New York Giants. They aren’t the lowest seed in the NFC, but they were the last team to earn a playoff berth and they had the worst regular season record of any NFC playoff team at 9-7.
In 2010, the Packers were forced to win their last two regular season games (one against the Giants and another against the Bears) to earn a playoff berth, just as the Giants had to beat the Cowboys twice in December to win the NFC East title. After beating the Falcons on Sunday, the Giants will be traveling to Green Bay to face those same Packers, who, in a reverse of fortune, are the now top seed in the NFC.
It’s not exactly the same situation — the Giants did open the postseason at home against Atlanta — but can the Giants become the 2011 version of the 2010 Packers?
One of the best predictors for future success is the amount of points a team has scored compared to points allowed. In 2010, while the Packers were the lowest seed, but they led the NFC with a +148 scoring margin despite their 10-6 record. That hasn’t been the case for the Giants, who finished the 2011 regular season with a minus-6 scoring margin against. While the Packers didn’t lead the NFC in 2011, they finished with an even better scoring margin of +201 (7 points behind the Saints). That makes it look like the 2010 Packers were just a couple breaks from an even better record, while the 2011 Giants were that close to an even worse one.
Also, the Packers are much better at home. While the Giants have a slight road advantage this season (5-3 away compared to 4-4 at home) they didn’t fare much better in the scoring department. They averaged 26 per game scored and allowed while on the road. The Packers were near perfection on the road (7-1) but they only outscored their opponents on average by a score of 30 to 24. On their way to an unbeaten home record, they had an average win of 40-21 and scored over 40 points in five of eight home games. The Giants defense might be feeling really good after pitching a shutout against the Falcons, but in their four regular season games against playoff bound teams, they allowed an average of 33 points.
While the Giants should be confident after a big win over the Falcons, they’ll have to play even better this weekend against a much strong opponent.
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