Tony Gonzalez, Matt Ryan and the Falcons: Why They'll Defeat the New York Giants
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It seems hard to believe, really.
But it's true.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has never won a playoff game. Ever. The future Hall of Famer has played in 238 regular season contests without a playoff victory. That is the most by a position player in the Super Bowl era. Gonzalez lost all three playoff tilts he was in with the Chiefs and was with the Falcons last season when top-seeded Atlanta lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers.
That's all going to change on Sunday.
Here are three compelling reasons why I feel that the Falcons, who enter Sunday's Wild Card Weekend game with the Giants as three-point underdogs, will leave MetLife Stadium with Gonzo's first playoff triumph.
The Falcons wide receivers will take flight
Atlanta owns two of the most dynamic wide receivers in veteran Roddy White and rookie speedster Julio Jones. That duo, along with Gonzalez, will be facing a Giants secondary that allowed 225 passing yards a game this season to rank a dismal 29th in the NFL.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has not performed well in his two previous playoff outings. He has something to prove. "Matty Ice" has had a very solid overall season, tossing 29 touchdown passes with just 12 interceptions. He comes into the game red-hot, having thrown 10 touchdowns and no picks in his last four games.
Will Tony Gonzalez win his first playoff game on Sunday?
Big Blue will have their hands full.
Michael Turner can establish the run
One of the keys to the game will be keeping the Giants' high-powered offense off the field as much as possible and head coach Mike Smith has just the man to do that in Turner, who finished third in the NFL in rushing with 1,340 yards.
The powerful halfback scored 11 touchdowns and will be facing a Giants defense that ranks just 19th in the league in rushing defense with 121.3 yards allowed per game. Turner will be vital in helping Ryan establish his play-action passing.
Turner also chipped in with 168 receiving yards—which doesn't seem like much, but it was a career-high for him so the Giants have to be aware of Ryan tossing Turner screen and dump-off passes.
Is home field really an advantage?
It's true that Atlanta was just 4-4 away from the Georgia Dome this season. However, the Giants were just 4-4 at home this year so home field may not be such a big advantage after all.
Since 2004, home teams in the NFC Wild Card round own a surprising 13-15 record. Not exactly intimidating.
For all the negative talk about how bad a dome team's prospects usually are when they have to play outdoors in January, the Falcons seem to have caught a break. According to weatherunderground.com, the forecast for Sunday calls for temperatures in the low 40s with winds from 5-10 mph. Those are balmy conditions for early January in the Garden State.
Prediction: Falcons 24, Giants 21
Turner gains over 100 yards and Jones grabs a long scoring pass from Ryan to give Gonzalez his long-awaited first playoff win.
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