It's playoff football time in Gotham City. No, its not the Jets but the Giants that are headed to the post-season to take on the Atlanta Falcons. The crowd will be amped. The atmosphere will be electric. And the game should be good.
QB Matt Ryan has enjoyed his best season as an Atlanta Falcon (4177 yards, 29 TDs, 92.2 passer rating). Ryan enjoyed this season due to the play of rookie WR Julio Jones(54 receptions, 959 yards, 8 TDs), WR Roddy White(100 receptions, 1296 yards, 8 TDs) and TE Tony Gonzalez(80 receptions, 875 yards, 7 TDs). But for as much as these guys did for the passing game, Ryan's best friend needs to be RB Michael Turner(1340 yards, 11 TDs). Turner has been the barometer for the Falcons. When he is given the ball 20-25 times, this Falcons team is tough. When the Falcons become a passing team, that's when they become vulnerable. It should be interesting to see how Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey calls this game. If I were him, I would attack the Giants with Turner. If that running game is successful, then you keep the Giants pass rush, led by Jason Pierre-Paul(16.5 sacks) and Justin Tuck, off balance. Ryan better hope the Nascar pass rush doesn't get cranked up. The Falcons have the better matchups in terms of their WRs and TEs vs the Giants DBs, but Ryan can't make great passes when he's looking up at the sky.
QB Eli Manning(4933 yards, 29 TDs, 92.9 passer rating) has certainly been inconsistent this year. He played great in games against the Patriots and the Cowboys and then there was the Seahawks game. Yikes! But of recent, when the game and the season has been on the line, he's been Eli the Clutch. But for as clutch as Eli has been, what's even more incredible is he's led this team to the playoffs with the worst running game in the NFL. Well, its playoff time and that means its time for the Giants to run the ball better. They need RBs Ahmad Bradshaw(171 carries, 659 yards, 9 TDs) and Brandon Jacobs(152 carries, 571 yards, 7 TDs) to play like the beasts they can be and not like the duds they have been for most of the year. If Eli can get some help in the running game, then expect some fireworks in the passing game. Victor Cruz(82 receptions, 1536 yards, 9 TDs) has been the star of the Giants offense all season. In this game, he ought to be licking his chops. No offense to Falcons CBs Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, but neither can handle Cruz, let alone WR Hakeem Nicks(76 receptions, 1192 yards, 7 TDs) on the opposite side. This game has all the makings of another big game for Eli. The two guys that could throw a wrinkle in those plans are DE John Abraham and LB Curtis Lofton. Abraham, even though he doesn't have big sack numbers this year(9.5), could cause serious problems for a Giants offensive line that has had their problems at times this year. As for Lofton, he's the guy that is their best defensive playmaker in the back seven. He must show up and show out for this Falcons defense.
As far as how this game goes, expect the run games of both teams to be the key. I just have a feeling that the Giants running game will get its acts together and give Eli some support. The Giants will be big today and the Falcons will end another year in disappointment.
Prediction: New York Giants 27, Atlanta 23