Green Bay Packers want to remain perfect in December under head coach Matt LaFleur
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Green Bay Packers got back in the playoff race over the last month. And all they have to do to nail down a postseason spot is take advantage of a weak schedule during the final five weeks.
The Packers (6-6) will look for a fourth straight win and fifth in six games when they face the Tommy DeVito-led New York Giants (4-8) at MetLife Stadium on Monday night.
The game kicks off a stretch for the Packers that will feature games against Tampa Bay (5-7), Carolina (1-11), Minnesota (6-6) and Chicago (4-8).
Not only does the schedule appear fairly easy, playing in December has been the best of times for the Packers since Matt LaFleur took over as coach in 2019. The team is 16-0 in the month, with those December performances helping the Packers make the postseason in three of the last four years. They missed last season with an 8-9 record.
The only team to win more consecutive December games was the San Diego Chargers with 18 straight from 2006-09, before their move to Los Angeles.
LaFleur isn’t taking anything for granted and he has told his team to stay focused, especially with the Giants riding a two-game winning streak.
“As soon as you start feeling yourself and you feel like you’ve arrived, this league has a way of knocking you off,” LaFleur said. “And the bottom line is, we’re a .500 football team. We’re 6-6 right now. We’ve clawed out of a tough spot, but every week, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game.”
The Packers have done that in overcoming a 2-5 start to the season.
The Giants started 1-5 in a season marred by injuries, particularly on the offensive line and at quarterback. DeVito has progressed from an undrafted rookie free agent who made from the practice squad to a starter with injuries to Daniel Jones (ACL) and Tyrod Taylor (ribs).
New York has not been eliminated, but it cannot afford another loss.
“Everything that we want is in front of us, but at the same time, we just take it one week at a time and try to focus on this week,” said DeVito, who got the starting nod from coach Brian Daboll despite Taylor being ready to play.
“If we start looking ahead and we miss one,” DeVito added, “there’s nothing going forward.”
One of the biggest differences with the Packers during their recent surge is the way the offense performs at the start of games.
The Packers have scored touchdowns in their first two series in each of their last two games – a 29-22 Thanksgiving Day victory at Detroit and a 27-19 home triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s quite the turnaround for an offense that failed to score a single first-half touchdown in five straight games earlier this season.
In posting their first winning streak, much of the focus and kudos have been showered on DeVito. He has thrown four touchdown passes and no interceptions in the past two games while becoming a feel-good story in a bad season in which the Giants have have been held to 159 points.
The defense has actually done more than DeVito.
It has six interceptions and two fumble recoveries in the past two games. New York’s special teams recovered another fumble. That’s nine takeaways. The Giants’ plus-5 turnover differential is tied for sixth in the league.
POWER OF LOVE
After struggling through some growing pains earlier this season, Green Bay’s Jordan Love has emerged as one of the NFL’s hottest quarterbacks over the last few weeks.
The first-year starter has completed 68.5% of his passes for eight touchdowns without an interception over his last three games. The only other quarterback this season to have three straight games in which they completed at least 65% of their passes for multiple touchdowns and no interceptions is Dallas’ Dak Prescott.
Giants rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt is coming off his best game with five catches against New England for 109 yards, a 21.8 yard average. He has yet to catch a touchdown pass.
A third-round draft pick, Hyatt is not expecting the Packers to double team him much this week.
“Just looking at the Packers and looking at what they do, I’ll be surprised if they do that,” Hyatt said. “They’re a big, big zone team. So it’s going to be a little different compared to the Patriots. It’s going to be a good game. We can’t wait.”
The Packers haven’t allowed more than 24 points in any of their last eight games. That’s the Packers’ longest such streak within a single season since 2010, when they gave up 24 points or fewer in nine straight games.
The Giants average 13.3 points, second worst in the league. The Patriots ranked No. 32 at 12.3 points.