Sunday Wild Card Prediction: Atlanta Falcons vs New York Giants
Sunday, January 08, 2012
by Frank Martin
Deja vu all over again? That's the mindset of the New York Giants, who are beginning to conjure up visions of their stunning Super Bowl run of 2007 as they prepare to host the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC wild card matchup on Sunday.
The Giants have rebounded from a four-game losing streak to win three of their last four, including impressive victories over the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys in the last two weeks to secure the NFC East title.
Conversely, the Falcons are looking to purge the memory of last season, when they entered the playoffs as the No. 1 overall seed and were promptly shelled by eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay in their postseason opener.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6): Atlanta may not possess the firepower of Green Bay or New Orleans, but it certainly is not lacking for weapons for quarterback Matt Ryan. Roddy White (100 receptions) and rookie Julio Jones (8 TDs) are a dangerous WR tandem and veteran TE Tony Gonzalez had 80 catches on the season. The key for the Falcons, though, will be RB Michael Turner, who rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns and can play a huge part in slowing New York's pass rush. Ryan threw for 4,177 yards and 29 touchdowns – both career highs – and was picked off only 12 times. In his last four games, Ryan threw 10 TD passes and zero interceptions.
New York Giants (9-7): Eli Manning threw for 29 TD passes and a career-high 4,933 yards. He has uncovered a gem in big-play WR Victor Cruz, who hauled in nine scoring passes for a team-record 1,536 yards. Cruz capped the season by putting up 164 and 178 yards in the last two games, including TD receptions of 99 and 74 yards. The running game continues to struggle, ranking last in the league at 89.2 yards per game, but the defense is hitting its stride. DE Osi Umenyiora returned from a four-game absence to register two of New York's six sacks against Dallas. The Giants have 11 sacks in the last two games and finished the season with 48.
1. Manning set a league record with 15 fourth-quarter TD passes this season.
2. The Giants have won the last three meetings with the Falcons, including a 34-31 OT victory in 2009.
3. Atlanta’s only losses since Week 3 have come to four division winners: Green Bay, Houston and New Orleans (twice).
NFL FOOTBALL PREDICTION: Giants 27, Falcons 24. Cruz makes another game-breaking catch to keep New York's season alive.
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