Saturday, January 7, 2012

Falcons-Giants playoff preview

After beating the Jets and Cowboys to clinch their first playoff spot in three years, the Giants have confirmed that, for now, they are the best team in New York. On Sunday at 1:00, the Giants begin their quest to prove that they are the best team in the country. They play the 10-6 Falcons at home in the second of two NFC wildcard match-ups.


The Falcons have one of the more balanced offensive attacks in the NFL. Runningback Michael Turner was third in the NFL with 1340 yards and fifth in the league with 11 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Matt Ryan was eighth in the NFL with 4177 yards finishing with just seven fewer yards than Tony Romo. He threw for 29 touchdowns, tied for sixth in the league with...Eli Manning. Ryan had three major targets in Roddy White, rookie Julio Jones and future hall-of-fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Giants secondary, even at full health, is not good enough to shut down all of the Falcon receivers which means they will have to return to the defensive strategy that they used to defeat the Cowboys twice: get to the quarterback before he can throw the ball down-field.

Though Tony Romo was able to complete over 78% of his passes in week 17 against the Giants, he was unable to connect to receivers for big gains. The Cowboys were held to  just 6.8 yards per pass. The Giants prevented Romo from picking on their weak secondary by sacking him six times and forcing quick dump-offs to his runningbacks. Going into the game, runningback Felix Jones averaged just more than two receptions per game. He had seven against the Giants. To effectively control the Falcons offense, Giants pass rushers Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck need to have another dominant performance. This will not be easy though as the Falcons have only allowed 26 sacks on the season, less than two per game.

On offense the Giants will have to face a defense led by defensive end John Abraham, who led the team with 9.5 sacks on the year, and linebacker Curtis Lofton who was fifth in the NFL with 147 tackles. The Falcons defense is strong against the run and has allowed just 97 rushing yards per game. They are more susceptible to the pass, so look for Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to be big factors. Mario Manningham will also be healthy and ready to play. The Giants need Eli Manning to continue playing the way he has all year that led to his best season ever. Cruz has been a big reason for Manning's improved play and is a consistent target on third down and other important plays.


Projected Score: Giants 31, Falcons 20

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