The NFL playoffs are almost here. On Sunday morning, the Atlanta Falcons will go on the road to take on the New York Giants. This game is the penultimate game of Wild Card Weekend, and is the last NFC game.
The two teams last met in 2009. The Giants won that game 34-31 in overtime.
The Falcons made the playoffs last season. They had their season ended in a 48-21 loss at the hands of the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.
The Giants haven't made the playoffs since the 2008 season. Their season was ended in the divisional round, 23-11 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Where: MetLife Stadium. East Rutherford, NJ
When: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. EST.
Watch: Fox. Replay available via Game Rewind package on NFL.com (minimum $19.99 payment).
Live Streaming Audio: NFL.com Audio Pass ($29.99 for year, $27.99 team specific, $9.99 a month
Who will win?
Giants (-3), according to Sportsbook.
I don't trust the Giants enough at that spread. They looked good against the Dallas Cowboys, but the Falcons are the more complete team. Given a three-point cushion, I'll take the Falcons.
What's At Stake?
In the playoffs, this is pretty simple. If the Falcons win, they will earn a trip to Green Bay. That will be interesting as they will be going against the No. 1 seed in their place. A season ago, the Packers were the No. 6 seed and beat No. 1 seed Atlanta in the second round.
The Giants won't know their opponent (if they win) until the end of Saturday's game between the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints. Sportsbook lists the Saints as 11-point favorites. If that holds, and the Giants win, New York will take on the Packers. If the Lions and Giants both win, the Giants will go to San Francisco.
Falcons' Injury Report
Per USA Today.
FB Ovie Mughelli, G Mike Johnson, CB Kelvin Hayden, and LB Mike Peterson are on injured reserved.
LB Stephen Nicholas is doubtful.
WR Kenny Meier is questionable.
Who is the better quarterback?
CB Brent Grimes is probable.
Giants' Injury Report
Per USA Today.
WR Domenik Hixon, CB Justin Tryon, CB Michael Coe, T William Beatty, WR Michael Clayton, and T Stacy Andrews are on injured reserved.
LB Mark Herzlich, TE Jake Ballard, and RB Da'Rel Scott are questionable.
DE Justin Tuck, and DE Osi Umenyiora are probable.
What They're Saying
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution quoted the Falcons' offensive line coach Mike Mularkey defending his offensive line against Giants' defensive end claims that they are "dirtbags."
We thrive on doing things right...We thrive on playing physical. We’ve been doing that for four years. Nothing is ever preached beyond the whistle. Ever...We are really disciplined.We try to be one of the least penalized teams and offenses in the NFL. We’ve done a good job for the most part. We’ve had some spurts where we had some bad penalties, but it’s really, really important for us to don’t hurt ourselves with penalties such as that. It’s addressed all of the time.
Ralph Vacchiano of New York Daily News wrote that close losses to the 49ers and Packers are reminding the Giants of the end of their 2007 season, when the final game of the regular season to the then-undefeated Patriots. Of course, the Giants won the Super Bowl rematch.
Pushing those two teams down to the wire made the Giants feel like they did after their infamous regular-season finale in 2007 when they nearly beat the 15-0 New England Patriots and left feeling they were as good as any team in the NFL. If the Packers and 49ers are the best the NFC has to offer, the Giants won’t be afraid of a rematch with either one.
Falcons' Player to Watch
QB Matt Ryan. No other quarterback in their history has ever taken the Falcons to consecutive playoff appearances. That's great, but Ryan's record is 0-2, and his performances have been less than stellar. In two games, look at his numbers.
The interceptions need to come down. When they do, the win-loss record will improve.
Giants' Player to Watch
DE Jason Pierre-Paul. He's been incredible this year. New York's best chance here revolves around him getting in Matt Ryan's face, making the Falcons more one-dimensional.
Falcons' offensive line vs. Giants' defensive line.
The Giants' success has been predicated by their rushers getting to the quarterback. If they don't, it's going to be a long night for the Falcons.
On the Hot Seat
Nobody's job is really on the line. But if the Falcons go down, Mike Smith will have the same playoff record as Matt Ryan. He will have a lot of pressure in 2012 to reverse that. Tom Coughlin has certainly done enough to keep his job. He's won a Super Bowl and now has grinded out a division title. He'll be safe through next season.
Prediction: Falcons 26, Giants 20
The Falcons are the more complete team in this one. We'll get a good game in this one, but the Falcons' overall balance will be too much.