If you are playing fantasy football in the playoffs, the two NFC games certainly have many more talented quarterbacks and receivers in the first round than the AFC does.
The other NFC game features a pair of 5,000-yard passers while Giants quarterback Eli Manning just missed the mark by 67 yards and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for a career-high 4,177 yards. Seven of the league's ten 4,000-yard passers play in the NFC.
Based on 2011 receiving yards, this game features three of the top 10 wide receivers: Victor Cruz (1,536), Roddy White (1,296) and Hakeem Nicks (1,192).
In addition, Julio Jones, who missed three games, finished with 959 yards. In other words, if he stayed healthy and maintained his 73.8 yards-per-game average, he would have finished with 1,180 yards.
For the entire playoffs, all of the EDSFootball.com contributors including myself will make a prediction (including the final score) for each playoff game.
Here are the predictions from the EDSFootball.com crew for the the Giants-Falcons game:
Going into the Sunday night game between the Cowboys and Giants, I had already made up my mind that Atlanta was going to beat the winner anyway. The Giants, however, made a convincing case, as they really took it to the Cowboys from start to finish. Even after a 21-0 lead evaporated into a 7-point game, the Giants kept their composure and scored the next 10 points to win the division and advance to wild card weekend. The Giants have been a bit inconsistent this year, and it certainly would not be surprising to see them get knocked out this weekend. They also have the potential to play with the best in the league, as evidenced by their defeating the Patriots in New England and losing on a last-second field goal to the Packers earlier in the year. Atlanta has a powerful offense that has started clicking down the stretch run of the season, but the Giants have the better overall team. Eli Manning has had the best season of his career. Victor Cruz has emerged as a true superstar to go along with the rest of the Giants solid receiving corps. And when Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora are on their game, the Giants have an excellent pass rush that is capable of slowing down an offense that is even as prolific as Atlanta's. Sunday night's game changed my mind on this one. I'm going with the GMen to move on.
Sean: New York Giants 30, Atlanta Falcons 27
The AFC games are stinkers this week. Thank god we have two exciting NFC matchups. I am not counting out the Falcons in this one, but this Giants team has something special going on right now. Everything seems to be going right for them. Eli Manning has been playing well enough down the stretch, and he always turns it on come playoff time. Atlanta has gotten away from their bread and butter which was always running the football. I don't believe that their rushing attack is back because Michael Turner had a big game last week vs the Bucs. Both teams have mediocre pass defenses, and both teams will be tested down field, but I think the difference in this one is the Giants ability to rush the passer where they were second in the NFL this year. I can see a big Matt Ryan fumble from a JPP sack being the difference in this one. I think the Giants win with a 4th-quarter comeback.
Dan: New York Giants 31, Atlanta Falcons 27
In the game that on paper should be the closest matchup of the weekend, will have the Falcons in search of that first elusive playoff win under Mike Smith's tenure. This game will certainly come down to how well the Falcons can hold Eli Manning, as the Giants have the worst rushing attack in the league averaging 89 yards per game. In theory the Falcons should use Michael Turner to control the clock and keep the Giants offense off the field, but since Michael Boley has come back the Giants rush defense has looked that much better. How could you not love the fifth-ranked pass offense going against the Falcons secondary that gives up 237 yards per game, and they are prone to giving up the big play. The Giants are battle tested as they played four of the top five teams in our power rankings this year, and I just don't trust the Falcons on the road outdoors.
Steve: New York Giants 21, Atlanta Falcons 10
You may have read the analysis of the 2011 coaching hot seat, where I mentioned that Mike Smith will lose his job should the Falcons be blown out by the Giants in the opening round of the playoffs. I’ll amend that slightly; the Falcons will lose a moderately competitive game, 21-10. The Giants are bad matchup for the Falcons, an issue exacerbated by injury. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has been held out of practice, and a healthy tight end would be critical to success exploiting the Giants weakness at linebacker. The Falcons ability to throw downfield will be neutralized by the Giants pass rush. I’d expect a couple of sacks from Justin Tuck and either Osi Umenyoira or Jason Pierre-Paul on the other end depending on who gets the playing time. The Giants will have a hard time running the ball against the Atlanta defense, but Eli Manning will be able to make enough plays in the passing game to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to get a few touchdowns. The most interesting part of this game will be the Monday following. The New York media will buzz of how the Giants defense stepped up and the upcoming rematch with the Packers. By noon on Monday we’ll be all tired of hearing the comparisons to 2007 and upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl, which will be especially amusing when the Giants lose by 20 to the Packers the next weekend.
Kevin: Atlanta Falcons 27, New York Giants 24
With the exception of the Redskins game in Week 15, the Giants have been playing better over the past five weeks. But the Falcons have started to turn things around as well. In three of the past four games, the Falcons have scored more than 30 points including two games with 40-plus points. In his past seven games, quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown no interceptions in six of those games. Since the bye, Ryan has a 20:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In their past four games, Roddy White (32-415-3) and Julio Jones (20-393-6) have combined for 52 receptions for 808 yards and nine touchdowns. With one of the four worst pass defenses based on yards allowed, the Giants will definitely have their hands full trying to contain the Falcons talented receivers. I see the Falcons escaping on a last-second field goal in a game that can go either way.
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