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2022 NFL season: Three things to watch for in London's Giants-Packers game on NFL Network

New York Giants
2022 · 3-1-0
Green Bay Packers
2022 · 3-1-0

American football returns to the U.K. for a second consecutive week. The previous Sunday’s game treated Londoners to a Vikings victory, courtesy of a heartbreaking 61-yard double-doink by Saints kicker Wil Lutz as time expired.

This time around, the Green Bay Packers are set to become the final team in the league to play an international game when they square off against the New York Giants.

The two teams’ combined .750 win percentage is the highest of any international game in Week 4 or later, per NFL Research, and it will somewhat shockingly be the first time in 32 tries that a London game features two teams with winning records. 

The Giants have emerged as one of the NFL's September surprises under new head coach Brian Daboll. They are 3-1 for the first time since 2011 and have a chance to move to 4-1, which would be the club’s most wins through five games since its 5-0 start in 2009.

The Packers aren’t quite the same old, same old under Matt LaFleur. Their offensive efficiency has taken an understandable dip as a cast of young receivers gains its footing, and Aaron Rodgers is already two interceptions away from trying his career high in LaFleur’s system, but Green Bay still has a shot to hit the 4-1 mark for the fourth straight year.

Not only that -- look away, Bears fans -- but with a win here and a Chicago loss later in the day, the Packers (785 wins) would knock the Bears (785) out of sole possession of the league’s all-time wins mark for the first time since Dec. 3, 1921.

Here are three things to watch for when the Giants and Packers meet Sunday in London on NFL Network:

  1. Saquon Barkley must keep shouldering the load. It’s no secret at this point that Barkley is back. The 2018 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year had a career-high 31 carries in the Giants’ 20-12 win over the Bears on Sunday, and he turned the influx of opportunities into 146 rushing yards. He currently leads the league in rushing and has amassed 100-plus yards from scrimmage in three of four contests. If New York is to continue its newfound winning ways, Barkley may need his best performance yet. Daniel Jones could barely move last week after turning his ankle and only returned when his backup Tyrod Taylor sustained a concussion. The Giants starter is off the injury report and ready to play against Green Bay, but there's still the question of how how healthy Jones looks while giving it a go. Any lingering effects could rob the Giants quarterback of his mobility a week removed from putting up 68 yards and two TDs on the ground. Given the need to safeguard Jones and the fact that Green Bay is allowing 5.0 yards per carry, all signs are pointing to a Big Blue Barkley show here -- perhaps with another dash of Wildcat. 
  2. Pressure is on for the reigning MVP. Adrian Peterson was previously the only reigning Most Valuable Player to suit up in London. He did so in 2013. On Sunday those in attendance will be treated to a QB who has taken home back-to-back hardware. Aside from the obvious of getting Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon rolling in the run game, there's a major factor in play regarding what kind of show Rodgers puts on for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The grizzled vet has yet to throw a touchdown against the blitz and currently has a league-worst 79.8 gap in passer rating when throwing with no pressure (108.4) versus under pressure (28.6). New York has meanwhile blitzed on 41.9% of dropbacks (second-most in the NFL) and generated pressure on 29% of QB dropbacks, good for 12th in the league. Assuming the Giants continue to apply the heat with the same success, Rodgers must up his play under duress if he’s going to flash the gaudy numbers expected from an MVP. 
  3. Is either team for real? There’s still an unknown quality to the 2022 iterations of the Giants and Packers after the first month of the season. The Giants’ upset victory over Tennessee was the headline of Week 1, and they replicated the grind-it-out style to defeat a woeful Panthers team and a Bears squad still searching for its identity. The tedium of New York’s victories has generated debate over whether Daboll’s Giants deserve contender or pretender status. For instance, the defense is currently ranked ninth in points allowed but has also proven itself a sieve in the run game, allowing 141.0 rushing yards per game (28th in the NFL). But if the Giants eke out a victory in their signature style against the NFC's No. 1 seed two years running, we will all have to respect their postseason potential. Although a team with 39 regular-season victories since 2019 deserves the benefit of the doubt, even Rodgers admitted Sunday that Green Bay’s way of winning isn’t sustainable. At long last, the Packers have a top-10 defensive unit in points and yards allowed. The only problem is the offense is averaging 18.8 points per game, the team’s worst mark since 2006. After the Packers required overtime to vanquish third-stringer Bailey Zappe and the Patriots in Week 4, another struggle against a limited Jones could rouse enough commotion in Green Bay to be heard from Trafalgar Square.

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