The second set of games on Wild Card Weekend starts off with a great matchup, as the Atlanta Falcons are going on the road to face the New York Giants.
The Saints easily defeated the Lions yesterday, so the winner of this game is heading into Lambeau to take on the 15-1 Packers.
Well, at least the fun will last for a week.
The Falcons return to the playoffs after being the top seed in the NFC last season at 13-3. They ended up losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers 48-21. Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to three winning seasons and two playoff berths in his first three seasons, but he has yet to win in the playoffs. Today would be a great time to finally get that first “big” win.
Although Atlanta went 10-6, it is interesting to see how they fared against tougher opponents. They went 1-4 against playoffs teams, with their only win being against Detroit, (losses were against Green Bay, Houston, and New Orleans twice). The last loss against New Orleans turned into a laugher, with the Saints winning 45-16 and Drew Brees breaking Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season.
The offense will have an easier time this week, with the Giants owning the 27th ranked defense and allowing 25 points a game on average. Matt Ryan has two threats at the receiver position, with Julio Jones and Roddy White, along with Tony Gonzalez at tight end.
Michael Turner should be able to have a solid game going up against the Giants run defense which allows just over 121 yards a game. Turner has 1,340 yards on the year with 11 touchdowns, and getting him going early will be crucial for the Falcons. His success can set up the passing game, and make the play-calling less predictable.
New York Giants
After being second-tier news behind the Jets for the past few years, the Giants find themselves at the top of the football echelon in New York once again. They took care of business against Dallas last week to win the unusually average NFC East.
The G-men have a major problem that must be at least partially fixed today, and that is their running game. They are ranked dead last in the league with 89.2 yards per game on the ground. Their leading rusher, Ahmad Bradshaw, only has 659 yards on the year while Brandon Jacobs has 571. Injuries have had an impact on the stats, and even with the lack of yards the two have combined for 16 rushing touchdowns on the year.
The weakness in the running game is more than made up for in the passing game, which is ranked fifth in the NFL. Eli Manning fell 67 yards short of 5,000 on the season, and he has two receivers with over 1,000 yards. Victor Cruz leads the team with 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns, and he has become one of the most popular receivers in the NFL. He should be able to find the end zone and do his rendition of the “salsa” today.
In their last two games, the Giants’ defense has allowed a combined 28 points. These were against the Jets and the Cowboys, which were both essentially must-win games for both teams involved. This shows how the Giants are capable of stepping up to the occasion, and shutting down the opposing offense. The return of Osi Umenyiora has helped, along with the consistent play of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
Matt Ryan has not been able to win a big game in his career, and I do not see it happening today. The Giants get to play at home in the stadium that they won in the past two weeks. Eli should be able to make up for the lack of run support, and send his team to a matchup against the Packers.
Giants 31-Falcons 27
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants
- Falcons-Giants Date, Time, and TV: Sunday, January 8th at 1:00 on FOX
- Falcons-Giants Announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
- Falcons-Giants Point Spread: Giants -3
- Falcons-Giants Over-Under: 48.5