NFL

Giants vs. Falcons: Highlighting Game-Changers in Pivotal NFC Matchup

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 28: Safety Thomas DeCoud #28 of the Atlanta Falcons gestures to the crowd while warming up before the start of the Falcons game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 28, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2012

Week 15's slate of NFL games will feature a number of huge matchups, but none more pivotal than Sunday afternoon's showdown between the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants and the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons.

New York is chasing down the NFC East division title, while Atlanta is aiming to wrap up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs for the second time in three years.

But before the two teams kick things off inside the Georgia Dome, let's highlight some game changers sure to leave their mark. 

 

 

Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, TE

Veteran tight end and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez sometimes flies under the radar in Atlanta with wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones getting plenty of attention on the outside. But don't overlook No. 88 on Sunday.

Gonzalez has more catches (81) than any other Falcons player this season, and has seven touchdowns coming into Sunday's showdown with the G-Men.

New York ranks 27th defending the pass this year, and should give up plenty of big plays to Atlanta's fourth-ranked aerial assault. The Giants will have to make a big decision, however. Will they lock in on the Falcons' explosive wideouts, or double-team Gonzalez at the line of scrimmage to effectively take Matt Ryan's safety valve out of the game?

 

 

David Wilson, New York Giants, RB

A rookie running back out of Virginia Tech, David Wilson had a breakout performance last week against the New Orleans Saints, rushing for 100 and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. 

New York will need the first-year back to be at his very best inside the Georgia Dome on Sunday with starting back Ahmad Bradshaw nursing a knee injury. The Falcons are suspect against the run, giving up 4.9 yards per carry this season, or 31st in the NFL.

Don't expect Wilson to average 7.7 yards per carry again this week, but he'll certainly have a favorable matchup in Week 15, and is coming in with tons of momentum on his side.

Wilson could also potentially turn the game with a big return. He racked up 227 return yards and one touchdown on just four kick returns last weekend in New York's win over the New Orleans Saints.

 

 

Thomas DeCoud, Atlanta Falcons, S

The New York Giants boast the NFL's ninth-best passing attack this season, and that's where Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud comes in.

DeCoud has five interceptions through 13 games this season, and leads Atlanta in that category. The veteran will need to limit the number of big plays the Giants make in the passing game in Week 15 if the Falcons are to get back on track and remain undefeated at home in 2012.

Eli Manning has been known to be careless with the ball at times. Manning threw two picks last week against New Orleans, and has 13 in 13 games this season. 

Look for DeCoud to get his hands on a few of Manning's throws this weekend, and to potentially change the game for Atlanta. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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