Week 15: New York Giants At Atlanta Falcons
- QuarterbackEli Manning is at a crucial point in the season. While his numbers have been good and he has had a number of eye-opening games, he has not been consistent this year. He is one of the top five quarterbacks in the league and he needs to play at that level from this point forward if the Giants are going to have any chance at repeating last year’s Super Bowl triumph.Matt Ryan has had a sensational season and it is somewhat understandable that the Falcons had an off-week against the Panthers after a huge victory against the Saints in Week 13. Ryan sees the field well, throws the ball well on the run and knows how to keep plays alive with his feet. After getting eliminated by the Giants in last year’s playoffs, this game means a lot to Ryan and the Falcons.
- OffenseThe Giants have gotten quite a bit from their running game this season, far more than they did last year when they won the Super Bowl. However, running back Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a knee injury in Week 14 against the Saints. He was able to return, but he may not be at his best against the Falcons. Wide receiver Victor Cruz has shown he can torch solid defenses and the Falcons may be quite vulnerable.The Falcons get enough from running back Michael Turner to take pressure off of Ryan. Turner is not likely going to break many long runs, but he can be tough to bring down. The combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones at the wide receiver spot can be devastating. White will catch anything he can touch and Jones is a sensational deep threat.
- DefenseThe Giants have as much talent on the defensive end as any team in the league, but they have not played to that level for much of the season. They must put more pressure on the quarterback and that means Jason Pierre-Paul must assert himself like he did a year ago. If the Giants can’t put consistent pressure on Ryan, the secondary could be in for a long afternoon.The Falcons use their speed, positioning and intelligence to make big plays on defense. Defensive end John Abraham remains their best pass rusher and he has registered 10.0 sacks so far this season. His quickness will test the Giants’ offensive line. Safety William Moore is the team’s leading tackler and he also has four interceptions this season. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is a big hitter who can cause havoc.
- Special TeamsThe Giants are decent in coverage, but they got a huge lift in Week 14 against the Saints when rookie David Wilson returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. The Giants have confidence that punter Steve Weatherford can deliver in crucial situations while placekicker Lawrence Tynes is quite dependable in game-winning FG situations.The Falcons can be explosive in their return game with Jacquizz Rodgers handling kickoffs. Rodgers has a long return of 77 yards and he is averaging 27.6 yards per return. Placekicker Matt Bryant has been solid, making 29-of-34 field goal attempts. Matt Bosher has been dependable, averaging 47.9 yards per punt.
The Falcons have been pointing to this game since the schedule came out last winter. The Giants eliminated the Falcons in the wild-card round of the playoffs with ease, and that loss has motivated them to have a sensational season. However, if they get pushed around by New York once again, they may not be as good as they have looked all season.