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Giants need to stop Aaron Rodgers to beat Packers

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Giants need to stop Aaron Rodgers to beat Packers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Justin Tuck knows there is a way to neutralize Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Thinking about rattling him is probably not the way to go for the slumping New York Giants.

``I don't know,'' Tuck said of Sunday's game between the two most recent Super Bowl champions. ``We haven't rattled him yet. We've had success against him, slowed him down in his progressions because of some different looks. As far as being rattled? No, I haven't seen that yet.

``I hope I'm wrong. I hope we get an opportunity to rattle him on Sunday.''

For a primer on how, exactly, to unnerve the NFL's top-rated passer, Tuck might want to go back to last year's playoff game in Green Bay, where Osi Umenyiora and Michael Boley split four sacks and applied enough pressure on Rodgers to induce him to throw a game-sealing interception to safety Deon Grant.

That 37-20 Giants win was a far different affair than the teams' regular-season matchup, in which Rodgers threw for four touchdowns to go along with 369 yards passing in a 38-35 victory. Included in that one was a two-minute drill in which he maneuvered through the Giants' defense to position Mason Crosby for a game-winning, 31-yard field goal as time expired.

He looked then like he could not be shaken. In fact, he has taken on that same persona in both his regular season wins against the Giants, averaging 386.5 yards passing. He's thrown for eight touchdowns in those games.

The Giants' goal, then, is to interrupt that run of dominance by duplicating their playoff performance. To wit: hit him, cover his receivers, and make him throw the ball early.

But that could be easier said than done. After a slow start, Rodgers has led the Packers (7-3) on a 6-1 roll, including a five-game winning streak. He's thrown 24 touchdown passes and four interceptions over that span.

He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of those seven games, looking cool and calm the whole time, even as he scrambles for yardage and extend plays to allow standout receivers Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley to maneuver into open spaces.

If the Giants learned anything about handling Rodgers in 2011, it came from that playoff game.

``I don't think we did anything too different,'' safety Antrel Rolle said. ``We had a couple of personnel changes. We disrupted and took away his primary targets. And the defensive line and linebackers did a good job getting after him.

``I'm not saying not everyone did their job in that first game, but it comes down to whoever is hot on that particular day. It's a matter of last man standing.''

The easiest way to become that man would be to put Rodgers on the seat of his pants, as Umenyiora and Boley did last season. That, the Giants hope, would make him a bit antsy.

``Any quarterback can be rattled,'' safety Kenny Phillips, who could end his six-game absence because of a sprained right knee Sunday. ``It starts up front.''

Having Phillips back could allow the Giants to go back to the three-safety combination that was so successful against the Packers in the playoffs. Grant is no longer with the team, but Stevie Brown has proved a valuable replacement for him. With Rolle and Brown starting, and Phillips coming in as the deep safety, the Giants would have an extra option in the secondary that could increase the pass rush pressure on Rodgers.

That doesn't translate to rattling for Tuck. But it would be the next best thing.

``Rattle? He's played in a lot of big-time games. He's gotten hit a lot, and we want to hit him hard,'' Tuck said. ``That Seattle game (a 14-12 loss in Week 3), they hit him left and right every play, but that second half he came out and he was still as good as he always was.''

The Giants are looking to end a two-game losing streak.

``We just have to handle our game plan and approach it as a playoff atmosphere,'' Rolle said.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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