In the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Conan the Barbarian,” the question is asked “What is best in life?” Someone answers “Falconry,” while Conan says it’s to crush your enemies and hear the lamentations of their women. With that in mind, the Atlanta Falcons come to MetLife Stadium to do battle with the Giants. Sorry for the cornball intro. I just couldn’t resist.
Where do we stand right now? First, the venue. The Falcons are a dome team, and the game will be played outside. The original forecast was dicey, but the new forecast calls for temps in the low 40’s with sunshine. There aren’t many less hospitable places to play than New Jersey in January, but weather conditions, at least right now, don’t look like they will be a factor. The fact that the game is outside may cut down on Atlanta’s speed factor. It’s also worth noting that Atlanta played poorly in losses to the Bears in week 1 and to Tampa in week 3. Both games were played outdoors.
The next factor is the Giants’ D against Atlanta’s O. Justin Tuck called the Falcons’ linemen “dirtbags,” based on the fact that they use cut blocking in their schemes. While this is not a favorite technique for defensive linemen to deal with, the Falcons’ o-line hasn’t been haevily penalized. If the Giants defense wants to turn its three headed monster of Tuck, Osi, and JPP loose, they must stop Atlanta’s rushing attack.Michael Turner is a bull, and has actually outgained Bradshaw and Jacobs combined. Jacquizz Rodgers is not as effective, but can spell Turner. If there is an advantage, it’s that the Giants’ backs haven’t lost a fumble this year, while the Falcons’ starters have lost three. The Giants will need to contain the Falcons on first down for the DE’s ro be effective.
When the Giants have run for more than 100 yards in a game this year they are 7-1. The Giants rushing attack this year has been subpar. Typically, this was a Giants’ strength, but this year it has been their weakness. Both Bradshaw and Jacobs have rushed for about 650 yards this year. In order for the Giants to have a better than average chance at winning, they have to run the ball effectively. They don’t need to dominate, just run well enough to keep Atlanta off balance.
When Atlanta passes the ball, Julio Jones is now healthy and is the preferred target for Matt Ryan. Their tight end, Tony Gonzalez, is an all-world talent and a beast to bring down. Ryan doesn’t get sacked very often, which means that the Giants will have their work cut out for them. For the Giants, it looks as if Jake Ballard will be able to play, although Bear Pascoe filled in nicely, and Henry Hynoski also proved to be an effective weapon. Cruz and Nicks have been discussed ad nauseum, and Manningham should be back as well. If Manning can stay upright and get uncranked, he will have a big day.
Lastly, Matt Ryan is suffering from the same issue that Eli Manning was tagged with early in his career: he can’t win a playoff game. The Falcons’ head coach has them playing with grit and poise, and they are a dangerous team. The word is that if the Giants can get to Ryan early they can shake him. Some of Ryan’s former BC teammates who are now with the Giants (Snee, Kiawanuka) will attest to Ryan’s presence. Just the same, he has failed in his two previous playoff games. Actually, Eli Manning came up short in his first couple of tries as well, and faltered against the Eagles in 2008. This is his first trip back to the dance since then, so we’ll see if he has a case of the jitters.
Winding things up, it’s likely to be a high scoring affaisr. The weather won’t likely be a factor, but Atlanta doesn’t play well outside. The Giants need to win the turnover battle, rattle “Matty Ice,” and have a decent running game. The G-Men have been in playoff mode for the past two weeks, so they are likely primed to go again. Giants, 31-27.