A rematch of last season’s NFC wild-card game unfolds Sunday afternoon as the desperate New York Giants head to the Georgia Dome to take on the 11-2 Atlanta Falcons.
New York crushed the Falcons in last season’s playoffs by a score of 24-2 and you have to think Atlanta has had this game circled on their calendars for a while now. That was an embarrassing outing, and despite the fact that they are coming off a dismal loss last week, expect a premium outing from Mike Smith’s squad against the defending champs. Sunday’s encounter is also an important one for Atlanta as the Falcons have an opportunity to clinch a first-round bye in this year’s post-season. One key point of concern for Atlanta entering this game is the status of their star receiver Roddy White. White has missed practise all week and his condition for the game remains in doubt with a knee injury.
For the Giants, they remain in a desperate bid to make the playoffs. Though a team with their experience should be safe, you can never be too sure when you hit December. Luckily for the G-Men, this is the month Tom Coughlin’s side always seems to get going. Veteran-laden groups know the importance of entering the playoffs on a roll, and expect more focused efforts from New York from here on out. The Giants typically thrive on the road, but it will be interesting to see if they can match the intensity of Atlanta in what could be a statement game for the Falcons. New York played a similar type of contest against the 49ers earlier in the year, and just throttled San Francisco. While that likely won’t be the case this week, Eli Manning is one of the best big-game quarterbacks in the game and anything is possible with him under centre. New York does enter this game severely thinned by injuries though. Cornerback Prince Amukamura and safety Kenny Phillips remain out against a potent Falcons’ aerial attack. Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw is also out, but David Wilson is more than capable of relieving him. It’s a big game for both sides, and could set the scene for yet another post-season clash between two of the NFC’s premier teams.
Giants vs. Falcons Betting Odds:
New York Giants +1.5 (-110)
@ Atlanta Falcons -1.5 (-110)
Over 51 (-110)
Under 51 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Giants vs. Falcons Pick:
Though my pick in this contest may not seem like an obvious one, I feel there is significant value on the Under 51 points in this contest. Both offenses have seemed a tad stagnant and out-of-sync in recent weeks, and as we’ve seen of late, these mega-hyped big games tend to fall short of offensive expectations.
Despite the state of New York’s hobbled secondary, expect a lot of running plays from scrimmage, Atlanta included. The Giants rush defense has been inexplicably brutal of late and Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers should be able to find holes against that porous unit. New York has conceded 278 yards on the ground in their past two games, and look for Mike Smith to establish the run game early and often on Sunday. In turn, this will then open up the opportunity for a big play downfield to either Julio Jones or the hobbled Roddy White.
On the other side of the ball, expect Eli Manning to be faced with a difficult Atlanta defense. Manning typically loves utilizing the middle of the field, especially with Victor Cruz. Unfortunately for the G-Men though, Atlanta does an exemplary job of typically taking away plays up the middle. Sean Weatherspoon has been brilliant for the Falcons at the linebacker position this season, and thrives in coverage. With Manning likely limited, the Giants will have to turn to the run game with rookie David Wilson. Atlanta does struggle against the run, but an increase in run plays is conducive to a play on the Under 51 points. Running plays will kill valuable clock time and keep that game clock ticking away. The Falcons rank just 22nd in the NFL in defending the run and don’t be shocked if David Wilson has another productive game on Sunday.
While both teams are too talented not to put up points, their recent forms suggest this game should be lower scoring than most would expect. Picking a winner in this contest is simply too difficult, and the best value seems to be on the Under 51 points. Expect a lot of running plays from both teams en route to a 23-20 type of affair.
PICK = Under 51 (-110)