The upcoming matchup between the Falcons has matchups all over the place, and as a result I am analyzing potential chinks in each team’s armor. In addition to the players that need to step up here are a few of the most prominent ones:
1. Our Cover-2 Vs. Eli Manning. When we run the zone defense that Van Gorder prefers, we have to get pressure on Manning. Those zones can only hold up for so long, and a pass rush is necessary to force him into mistakes or force him to check down and bring up punting situations. The problem has recently been that we can’t get close to any pass rush against opposing quarterbacks, and as a result our secondary looks horrible. Manning is also very slippery, and is excellent at avoiding the rush in the pocket. All defensive linemen need to get a good push on passing downs to force Eli into mistakes, or the holes in the defense will get exposed.
2. Covering Victor Cruz. This guy came out of nowhere, and he is really good. Eli trusts him completely, and he has not let him down yet. Brent Grimes, when healthy, can certainly do a good job on Cruz and help contain how electric he is at receiver. However, it remains to be seen if he is completely healthy or if any of the other defensive backs can hold their own in coverage agaisnt Cruz
Note: Hakeem Nicks is a BIG physical receiver cut out of the same piece of cloth as Julio Jones. He is a handful after the catch, and good tackling will be necessary if he is to be contained as well. Follow the jump to read the next two matchups.
3. Falcons Tackles vs. Giants Defensive Ends. I personally think this is the most critical match up of the game. If the Falcons can effectively block Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora, and can keep Matt Ryan upright, then Ryan & Co. can carve the Giants defense up. If not, Ryan will not have time for routes to develop and the game may make some mistakes in the passing game. Svitek is certainly an upgrade from Baker, but he’s not elite. He will probably play better in pass protection than Clabo will, but we need both to play great for the passing game to work.
4. Running the Ball vs. Giants. This is the formula for success in the NFL and in particular the Falcons. If we can jam the ball down the throats of the Giants early, the defensive ends aforementioned will be on their heels waiting the play the run, the safeties and cornerbacks will cheat up to play the run, and the Falcons can play-action over the heads of everybody. I just said the O-Tackle play by Atlanta is the most important matchup, but really getting the running game going can make the New York pass rushing DEs obsolete.
No doubt there are several other matchups that will be relevant and affect the outcome of the game. But these keys are important, and if these things go the Falcons way, Atlanta should cruise to its first playoff win since 2004.
Have any more potentially crucial matchups? Let us know which you think are most important.