Sunday’s match-up with the New York Giants is a statement game for the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s a chance for the Falcons to avenge the 24-2 drubbing at MetLife Stadium in the wild-card round of last season’s playoffs.
It’s also a chance for the Falcons to prove they’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Last week’s ugly 30-20 loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers planted (more) doubt in the heads of pundits, despite the Falcons’ 11-2 record.
At 8-5, the Giants are sitting atop the NFC East. However, the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are each just a game behind: both teams hold a 7-6 record.
New York needs a win here to stay in the playoff race; Atlanta needs a win to help secure the top playoff seed.
Julio Jones needs just three yards to hit 1,000 receiving yards on the year. Teammate Roddy White has 1,140 yards. The last time the Falcons had two 1,000-yard receivers was in 1998 with Tony Martin and Terance Mathis.
However, even with the apparent success with the passing game, the Falcons have been struggling with consistency on offense.
Against the Panthers last week, the offense managed to compile just 35 yards in the first half. The week before, Matt Ryan had only 165 passing yards versus the New Orleans Saints.
With teams wanting to play their best football in December in January, now is not a good time for the Falcons to begin to lose their footing.
The Giants are one of those teams that can seemingly “turn it on” when it’s time to make a run. In 2007 and 2011 – the Giants’ recent Super Bowl runs – the team had to rattle off wins late in the season.
If Atlanta wants to reach the Super Bowl, they’ll have to emulate New York’s strategy.
Ryan is 32-4 at the Georgia Dome, and although he has yet to lose at home this season, he hasn’t been playing well when he’s home. He’s thrown seven touchdowns to nine interceptions, with five interceptions coming against the Arizona Cardinals.
New York’s passing defense ranks 27th in the league, so Ryan should be able to find some success against the secondary. However, if the Giants jump ahead, their pass rush can become a nightmare for the Falcons’ offensive line.
On the other side, Eli Manning has eight touchdowns to just two interceptions in the last three games.
What Atlanta has done well under head coach Mike Smith is bounce back from losses. They haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2009 – in fact, 2009 is the only year the team has ever lost back-to-back games under the current regime.
I initially had the Falcons losing this game, but last week’s loss changes that; I can’t see the Falcons losing two consecutive games. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Falcons lost – I guess I’m straddling the fence.
Points Scored: 25.9 (8th)
Total Offense: 376.2 (8th)
Passing Offense: 289.2 (4th)
Rushing Offense: 86.9 (28th)
Points Allowed: 19.9 (5th)
Total Defense: 361.9 (20th)
Passing Defense: 234.9 (16th)
Rushing Defense: 127.0 (23rd)
New York Giants:
Points Scored: 28.7 (3rd)
Total Offense: 372.9 (9th)
Passing Offense: 256.5 (9th)
Rushing Offense: 116.4 (15th)
Points Allowed: 20.8 (8th)
Total Defense: 376.2 (25th)
Passing Defense: 252.8 (27th)
Rushing Defense: 123.3 (22nd)