The injury-plagued Green Bay Packers will give Scott Tolzien his first career start Sunday, while the status of two of his offensive linemen is unclear.
Although the New York Giants have won three straight, they are hardly licking their chops at the prospects of facing a third-string quarterback.
These teams have different issues heading into this matchup in New Jersey in which running the football could prove decisive.
Tolzien was pressed into action in last Sunday's 27-13 loss to Philadelphia after veteran backup Seneca Wallace suffered a groin injury on the opening series. Wallace started for an injured Aaron Rodgers, out with a fractured left collarbone.
An undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin, Tolzien completed 24 of 39 passes for one touchdown and two interceptions and was named the starter for this game by coach Mike McCarthy.
"I saw a young man get better during the course of the game running plays he hasn't played yet and doing things that I thought was exceptional for a young quarterback," McCarthy said. "So I was very pleased with his performance."
Green Bay (5-4) fell one game behind first-place Detroit in the NFC North. Tolzien is confident as he tries to help the Packers avoid their first three-game slide since a five-game skid Nov. 24-Dec. 22, 2008.
"I think if you don't have your confidence, it's very tough to have success," Tolzien said. "That's where internally it begins to have that confidence."
New York (3-6) has what appears to be a favorable matchup after facing unsettled quarterback situations during its win streak. The Giants took on Josh Freeman making his Minnesota debut in a 23-7 victory Oct. 21, knocked out Michael Vick and were up against rookie Matt Barkley for most of a 15-7 win over the Eagles the next week and came out of their bye and took advantage of a hobbled Terrelle Pryor in last Sunday's 24-20 victory over Oakland.
That doesn't mean Tolzien doesn't have New York's respect.
"We're 3-6," safety Antrel Rolle said. "We're in no way, shape or form going to underestimate anyone. We know exactly who we have ahead of us."
It's not clear what the Packers' offensive line will look like after center Evan Dietrich-Smith and right tackle Don Barclay exited last week's game with knee injuries. McCarthy didn't want to reveal their statuses.
"Obviously, (the) New York Giants, the defensive line factors into this, into how you prepare for them," McCarthy said. "So that's all part of the guessing game, part of the chess match."
The Packers could get a break if Jason Pierre-Paul is unavailable for the Giants. The defensive end missed practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury suffered against the Raiders.
Green Bay may want to focus more on a rushing attack that is sixth in the league with 143.1 yards per game. Rookie Eddie Lacy is eighth in the NFL with 669 yards on the ground.
The Giants have also made a conscious effort to run the ball more by topping 30 carries in every game of this win streak. They were boosted by Andre Brown's 115 yards with a score last Sunday in his season debut after being out with a broken leg.
Brown has scored a touchdown in six straight games.
"Don't look back," he said. "If I looked back at all the injuries I had, I probably wouldn't be here right now. Just move forward and keep working."
The emphasis on the run could be because Eli Manning has a passer rating of 68.5 for his worst mark since his rookie season. Manning has 11 touchdown passes and a league-high 16 interceptions.
"It hasn't happened to the degree we want it to at this point in time, but we're going to need this aspect of our offensive team as we go forward," said coach Tom Coughlin about the Giants' passing attack.
It is not all Manning's fault since the Giants own the league's fourth-worst rushing attack at 76.9 yards per game and are the only team that has not had a running play gain at least 20 yards. New York has a league-low seven 10-play drives, and 9.8 percent of its catchable balls have been dropped for the NFL's fifth-worst mark.
Manning has thrown for 926 yards and nine touchdowns with a 109.1 rating in his last three meetings with the Packers, including a 37-20 victory in a divisional playoff game two seasons ago and a 38-10 home rout last Nov. 25.
Besides the possibility of playing behind a banged-up offensive line, Tolzien will be part of a unit that is already missing wide receiver Randall Cobb (broken leg) and tight end Jermichael Finley (bruised spinal cord).
"They still got Jordy (Nelson) out there, they still got (Andrew) Quarless, I believe James Jones is back and they've got a lot of weapons with the running game with Eddie Lacy," Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "They're still a good team and we can't lose sight of that."
Jenkins will play for the first time against the franchise he spent his first seven years with before leaving as a free agent after the 2010 Super Bowl-winning season to join Philadelphia.
The Associated Press News Service
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