After spending two full days in London, I can confidently say there will be about 1.2 million Green Bay Packers fans at Tottenham Spur Stadium on Sunday afternoon and around 11 New York Giants fans.
I don’t know, maybe the New Yorkers are here, and they’re too sheepish to wear their team colors, despite the Giants’ surprising 3-1 start. It is absolutely surreal to see the overwhelming number of Cheeseheads. I’m here with a group of KFAN listeners, and our first two days have been spent visiting some of London’s landmark spots: Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Borough market – and there is green and gold everywhere. It’s going to be quite the scene on Sunday. And you can be sure that pub owners across London are wondering what took us so long to get here.
As you probably know, Green Bay is the 32nd and last team to make an appearance here. In all of the years of London games, this is the first game featuring two winning teams. That almost seems impossible until you remember that nearly every game has included the Jacksonville Jaguars.
No one on the planet expects the Giants to finish the season with a winning record, of course. But their defense, led by former Baltimore Ravens’ wizard Wink Martindale, has been surprisingly feisty. Their front, led by Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, and rookie Kayvon Thibodaux has been stout. However, let’s take it with a grain of salt. The QBs they’ve faced? Ryan Tannehill, Baker Mayfield, Cooper Rush, and Justin Fields.
Still, they’re near the top of the league rankings in third down and red zone defense, and that will keep you in a lot of games. They’re stepping up in class this weekend against Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, who bring an offense to the table that is still finding its way and showing signs of legit promise. Aaron Jones looks as electric as ever, and Romeo Doubs is gaining increasingly more of Rodgers’ trust each week, despite a penchant for not finishing some plays.
The only time Rodgers and Martindale have faced off was last year’s game in Baltimore, a 31-30 thriller. The Pack won, but Lamar Jackson didn’t play, nor did most of the Ravens’ corners. Wink, who loves to blitz, chose not to tempt fate against No. 12. He probably will use the same formula on Sunday, knowing Rodgers loves to feast on blitzes as much as he likes to guzzle ayahuasca.
The Giants rank 28th against the run, giving up 141 yards per game, and Aaron Jones reminded us last week that he is electric with the ball in his hands, among the best in the league at gaining yards after contact. AJ Dillon hasn’t been as productive as expected, but his time is coming. The success on the ground will set up play action, and I think this is the week we get an explosive Christian Watson play.
The Giants’ early season success is highlighted by Saquon Barkley’s emergence, who finally looks like the explosive talent we saw in his rookie year. He’s been dominant, and the Pack will need to tackle a lot better than they have as a group because he is the only weapon you have to worry about when it comes to the Giants. Their wide receiver room has been decimated by injury, with Sterling Shepard tearing his ACL last week and Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney not making the trip due to injury.
Packers DC Joe Barry stubbornly refused to play his base defense last week, even when the Pats were chewing up yards on the ground in the second half. I really hope he rethinks that position against this team. His corners are more than capable of handling their assignments. He needs to have the horses up front to try and deal with Barkley. It would also help if De’Vondre Campbell plays more like the All-Pro he was last season and not the guy who’s already missed more tackles than he did in all of 2021.
The Pack catches another QB break, as Daniel Jones will play with an injured ankle that knocked him out last week. When healthy, he’s one of the more dangerous running QBs in the league. If that ankle keeps him in the pocket, the Packers will feast. The Giants like to run a lot of RPOs, but it’s hard to believe that will be in the playbook this week. Jones is gimpy, and his backup, Tyrod Taylor, is still in concussion protocol. Jaire Alexander will be back from his groin injury and will have opportunities to take one the other way.
Trying to contain Barkley on first down and putting Jones in second and third and longs is the recipe for a dominant day for Green Bay’s defense, but slowing Saquon will be a significant challenge. Let’s hope Adrian Amos is cleared from concussion protocol; the defense loses a lot when he’s not on the field.
The wild card in this game is not knowing how the long trip overseas will affect the players on the field, but I think it will be more of an issue next week. The Minnesota Vikings’ performance on Sunday may give us some indication since they (like the Pack) chose not to take their bye week following the London trip. Things may get off to a slow start, but I think Green Bay’s offense will eventually move the ball with ease, and the Giants won’t be able to keep up on the scoreboard.
Not sure if the stadium is equipped to handle a Lambeau Leap or two, but it will be a festive afternoon, regardless, for the thousands of fellow Cheeseheads who made the journey overseas.