The New York Giants' road to Super Bowl LI begins in Green Bay, the site of two of the greatest triumphs of Eli Manning's career.
Their trip to Lambeau Field became official hours after the Giants finished up their 11-5 season with an impressive 19-10 win in Washington on Sunday afternoon. When the Packers (10-6) defeated the Detroit Lions 31-24 Sunday night, they clinched the NFC North title and the No. 4 seed in the NFC. That set up a date with the fifth-seeded Giants in the wild-card round Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET.
Some teams might be intimidated by a winter trip to Lambeau, especially with high temperatures next weekend expected to be only in the teens. But the Packers, 6-2 at home, are not nearly as unbeatable in Green Bay as they used to be, especially in the postseason. Maybe nobody knows that better than Manning, who beat the Packers in overtime in frigid Green Bay in the 2007 NFC Championship Game, 23-20, and then beat the 15-1 Packers, 37-20, in Lambeau in the 2011 NFC divisional round.
Both times, Manning and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.
Also, Ben McAdoo, in his rookie season as a head coach, is very familiar with winning in Green Bay. He spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for the Packers from 2006-13, learning under current Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.
Still, of the four possibilities heading entering Sunday, the Packers might have been the opponent the Giants least wanted to face. Not only did the Packers beat the Giants in Green Bay, 23-16, back on Oct. 9, but the Packers have been rolling, heading into the playoffs on a six-game winning streak. And in his last seven games, dating back to the week before Thanksgiving, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 18 touchdown passes without an interception.
The Giants actually picked Rodgers off twice when they met in Week 5, when Rodgers completed 23 of 45 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns. But against a Packers defense that finished as the 22nd-ranked defense, the Giants recorded a season-low 221 total yards of offense. Manning was just 18-for-35 for 199 yards and a touchdown, and playing without Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, the Giants ran for just 43 yards.
That game was one of several miserable performances on the road this season for the Giants. They finished 4-4 away from MetLife Stadium, although one of those wins was against the Los Angeles Rams at a neutral site in London. Their best wins on the road were their Opening Day win in Dallas and their season-ending win in Washington. In between, they had a string of ugly losses and an ugly win over the Cleveland Browns.
If they're going to get to Super Bowl LI in Houston on Feb. 5, they'll almost certainly have to do it all on the road. If they get by the Packers, their next stop would either be at Atlanta (11-5), where they'd face the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense, or Dallas (13-3), where they'd face a Cowboys team they've already beaten twice this season.