2012 NFL Playoffs logo2012 NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoff Predictions: 5 X Factors That Will Determine Giants-Falcons Winner

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 01:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants reacts after making a catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Eric BallFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2012

The New York Giants are either the most dangerous team in the playoffs or dead ducks.

It’s the hardest team to project in the postseason, and I think most people would agree that it’s impossible to forecast what team will show up against the Atlanta Falcons.

To get some sort of better idea on the matchups of this coin flip of a game, here are the five X factors who will have the biggest say in the outcome.

 

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Hawks

Ryan has been a spectacular regular season quarterback in his four seasons in the league, but two playoff performances leave a lot to be desired. Last year when his one-seeded Falcons lost to the six-seeded Packers, Ryan threw for only 186 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also failed to throw for 200 yards and tossed two picks in his other playoff game in ’08.

Another performance like that and Atlanta is toast.

 

Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants

Cruz has exploded onto the scene and has been absolutely incredible for the G-Men this season. 1,536 yards and nine TDs make him the most valuable weapon for Eli Manning to throw to.

We all know what Manning can do in the postseason, but how will Cruz fare in the biggest game of his life?

 

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants

A star was been born this season and Pierre-Paul must continue to bring the heat. He had 16.5 sacks during the season and was part of a unit that collected 48 on the season, which was third in the NFL.

Forcing Ryan into poor throws early will rattle his confidence and really put the Falcons offense behind the eight ball.

 

Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons

To counter the pressure of the Giants' front four, Turner has to have a big night to keep the offense balanced. In the Falcons last two playoff losses Turner has been bottled up for 81 yards on 28 carries. That is completely unacceptable on Sunday.

 

Dunta Robinson, CB, Atlanta Falcons

Robinson has struggled at times this season with receivers sneaking past him and that is exactly what Cruz will be looking to do. It will be imperative for Robinson to stay in front of his man and prevent the big play.

The Falcons won’t be able to win this game if it’s a shootout, and limiting Manning and the passing attack to intermediate throws will be incredibly important.

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