Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants Preview

The Falcons have to find a way to win on the road. (Ann Heisenfelt)

The Falcons have to find a way to win outdoors on the road. (Ann Heisenfelt)

The Atlanta Falcons haven’t won an outdoors road game since defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-23 on November 25, 2012.

That losing streak was extended with last Sunday’s 41-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

This Sunday, the Falcons (2-2) go on the road once again to face the New York Giants, a team that has won two games in a row.

And they’re doing so after losing three starters against the Vikings. Right tackle Lamar Holmes and center Joe Hawley were placed on injured reserve and are lost for the season. Strong safety William Moore will miss at least eight weeks after being placed on injured reserve-designated to return

Peter Konz, the Falcons’ second-round pick out of Wisconsin in the 2012 NFL Draft, will get the start at center. The third-year player struggled at stints at both center and right guard and eventually lost his starting job to Hawley.

Gabe Carimi will replace Holmes. However, if Justin Blalock is unable to go after injuring his back last game, Carimi will instead slide into the left guard spot. That would leave Ryan Schraeder to start at right tackle. Or Atlanta may give Harland Gunn, who was promoted from the practice squad, a shot at left guard.

Kemal Ishmael, who was talked up during the offseason, will get the nod at strong safety. Through four games this season, he’s returned an interception 22 yards for a score to go along with 15 total tackles.

There’s probably not a worse time to face the Giants (2-2), as the team seems to have found its way the past two games after looking out of sorts through the first two.

The biggest difference is the play of Eli Manning and the offense.  Manning threw just three touchdowns and four interceptions in losses to the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals, and the Giants offense scored just 28 total points.

However, the quarterback has tossed six touchdowns and just one interception in wins over the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins. The offense’s scoring output nearly tripled with 75 points scored.

New Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has installed the West Coast offense, and that could prove to be troublesome for an already-struggling Falcons defense. With the offense demanding the quarterback throw the ball quickly, the outlook is grim for an already nonexistent Falcons pass rush that has notched all three of its sacks in just one game to get to Manning.

New York’s offense could receive a boost if first-round pick Odell Beckham makes his season debut. The wide receiver, selected 12th overall in the draft back in May, looks slated to play versus the Falcons after dealing with a hamstring injury for much of his young career. Beckham’s speed paired with Victor Cruz in the slot could be difficult to contain for Atlanta’s 30th ranked passing defense.

There’s also the Giants’ knack for finding tight ends and turning them into pass-catching threats. This year it’s Larry Donnell, who went undrafted in 2012 before being picked up by New York. Last Thursday against the Redskins he hauled in three touchdown receptions, giving him four on the year. It would behoove Atlanta to key in on the emerging Donnell.

While the Giants’ offense has been clicking, it isn’t been tested against a high-powered offense like the Falcons have. Atlanta is ranked first in the league in total offense, averaging 444.0 per game, and second in points per game with 32.8. New York has yet to go punch for punch with an offense that can seemingly score at will and it remains to be seen if that offense based on short passes will be able to keep up with Atlanta.

The Giants could opt to keep Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense off the field by emphasizing the run. Sixth-year power running back Rashad Jennings has rushed for 341 yards – good for third in the league – and a couple of towns. Two weeks ago against the Texans, he had career-highs in carries (34) and yards (176). He should have no problem finding rushing lanes against a Falcons defense that ranks 28th against the run.

A shootout seems likely for this matchup. New York could benefit from Atlanta being nowhere near the team they are in the Georgia Dome versus being on the road. At the end of the day, however, I’m sticking with my predictions and giving the nod to the Falcons in this matchup.

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