Giants vs. Falcons: Two Teams Heading in the Wrong Direction

James MardikosContributor INovember 19, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons against the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Giants are two years removed from a World Championship in which they pulled off probably the biggest Super Bowl upset of all time against the previously undefeated New England Patriots. They are also now a year removed from the Plaxico Burress accidental shooting, and their promising 2008 season was ruined

The Atlanta Falcons are two years removed from the Michael Vick fiasco, but are one year removed from an improbable playoff appearance which was orchestrated by Vick's replacement Matt Ryan.

While both teams had opposite routes, the New York Giants, and Atlanta Falcons both had high hopes coming into this 2009 season. Some even predicted Super Bowl runs for these two teams after their playoff appearances from just a year ago.

And after the first five games of each team's season, it seemed like the prognosticators were looking like geniuses after the Giants roared out to a 5-0 start, while Atlanta was 4-1.

Going into their match-up on Sunday at the Meadowlands, both teams find themselves at 5-4, and really struggling.

Where people believed that the Wide Receiving core of the Giants would be their downfall without Burress, to the contrary they have actually been one of the strengths, with the emergence of Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and First Round Pick Hakeem Nicks.

The problem with the Giants is a defensive unit that was supposed to be their strength. A season ending injury to safety Kenny Phillips has been the biggest blow, while corner Aaron Ross, defensive tackle Chris Canty, and linebacker Michael Boley have all been nicked up and missed time, exposing the team's lack of depth in those areas.

The one area where depth was never a problem was the Giants vaunted defensive line. However, All-Pro's Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck have been lack-luster at best this season, while backup Mathias Kiwanuka and usually productive DT Fred Robbins have both been almost non-existent.

With the Giants not getting as much pressure on the QB as in years past, the secondary has been exposed and was downright torched the past four weeks by Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb, and Philip Rivers.

As for the Falcons, their much hyped quarterback Matt Ryan has just been too inconsistent this season. The Peyton Manning comparisons need to stop. Halfway through the season and Ryan has already thrown more interceptions than his stellar rookie of the year campaign of a year ago.

The problem seems to be the presence of tight end Tony Gonzalez who was acquired this off-season.

Jon Gruden, during the Falcons-Saints Monday Night Football a couple of weeks ago explained it perfectly, "He locks into Gonzalez almost every play"

And therein lies the problems, when Ryan locks in, the secondary locks in, and therefore the end result is the interceptions.

Gonzalez of course is arguably the best receiving tight end of our generation, but Ryan needs to realize he has a Pro Bowl Receiver in Roddy White, and he needs to look his way more often (White already has a 200 yard game this season, why wouldn't you look more his way).

The job doesn't get any easier with the injury to their Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner last week. Jerious Norwood will be replacing him, but Norwood isn't an every down back, and this just gives the opposing secondary that much more of an advantage.

Can the maligned secondary of the Giants take advantage of this?

Or will Matt Ryan find his rhythm against the depleted corps?

Sunday's matchup is almost like an elimination game in my mind. With the NFC South obviously out of reach for the Falcons with the Saints 9-0, Atlanta is in good position for a Wild Card, and with a win against the Giants highly improves those chances.

As for the Giants, they need to stop this losing streak, and with Dallas, and Philly just plain enigmatic, the NFC East crown isn't out of their reach.

Do or Die? We'll see Sunday