EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The New York Giants are desperate to take the next step in a steep climb into the playoff picture while the Green Bay Packers are striving to halt a slide in Sunday’s showdown between old rivals.
Green Bay have lost their last two games with quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined with a broken collarbone to slip to 5-4 in the competitive NFC North, while New York have won three in a row to stir hopes after opening 0-6 in the mediocre NFC East.
The teams are both accustomed to success as winners of three of the last six Super Bowls. The two old franchises have won 21 NFL titles between them - Green Bay, a record 13, and the Giants eight - including seasons before the advent of the Super Bowl.
New York, Super Bowl winners of the 2011 and 2007 seasons, are gaining confidence but have yet to approach top form.
“We’re definitely a 3-6 team,” defensive back Antrel Rolle said on Wednesday, dismissing a suggestion that the Giants consider themselves better than that. “We can’t mistake that under any means, but our level of confidence is definitely rising each and every week.”
Eli Manning, who ranks 31st among NFL quarterbacks, has cut down on the flurry of interceptions he threw at the start of the season but has failed to get the passing game in top gear.
“We’re still fighting. We’re still fighting to get back on track and get back to where we need to be,” Manning told reporters by his locker. “We can’t let any more slip away.”
New York also ranks a lowly 29th in yards rushing.
The Packers, champions of the 2010 season, will be starting a third different quarterback in three weeks with Scott Tolzien slated to start for Green Bay, who are tied with the Bears and trail the Detroit Lions (6-3) by one game in the NFC North.
“This is a long year,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy told reporters at the Giants practice facility in a conference call.
“Two weeks ago, things looked different than they do today. It’s important to stay focused on who you are each and every week and what you need to do to get it done. That’s our plan when we come up to New York.”
Seneca Wallace came in for Rodgers after his injury in a home loss the Bears. When Wallace was sidelined last Sunday at home against Philadelphia, Tolzien stepped up.
“He’s a very confident kid, he’s a smart kid,” Jordy Nelson, Green Bay’s top receiver with seven touchdowns, said about the former San Francisco benchwarmer who was elevated from the practice squad. “He’s a guy who puts a lot of time and work into his craft.”
Tolzien performed well in a losing effort against the visiting Eagles, completing 24-of-39 for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“I expect him to do well, probably even a little better knowing he’s going to be the starter and that we’re game planning for his skills.”
Green Bay may choose to lean on rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who gained 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the Bears and has rushed for 669 yards this season.
Giants pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul said his shoulder, hurt in last week’s victory over the Oakland Raiders, still bothered him and he was not sure about playing on Sunday.
Editing by Frank Pingue