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Eyeing the Prey - Week 15 New York Giants

This week we look at the 2012 Superbowl champions, the New York Giants. The Giants have been on a remarkable victory tour crushing almost all of the formidable opponents they have faced while not even bothering to show up for some of their more mediocre opponents. Which version of the Giants will we see? And if they do decide to bring the heat can the Falcons stand up to their latest playoff tormentors?

Initial assumptions and Prior Bias

The Giants along with the Broncos and possibly the Patriots are about the most complete team in the NFL this year. Outside of inconsistent performance their only real “weakness” lies in fairly average back 7 on defense. Unfortunately, when their defensive line comes ready to play, a lot of problems are masked and the defense becomes a monster. I will be using considerably less statistical data this week, since the Giants inconsistent effort and performance means statistical information could be misleading.

Giants Offense Vs Falcons Defense

The Giants offense is similar to the Bucs offense in a lot of ways. They use their running game to move the chains and their passing game to create big plays. The Giants average 4.5 yards per carry (YPC) and 116.4 yards per game (YPG), while Eli Manning averages a healthy 7.4 yards per attempt on his passes while completing only 60.8% of his passes. Against the Bucs, the Falcons chose to concentrate on shutting down the run and force Freeman to beat them using short and intermediate passing to move the chains. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Manning is a much better QB than Freeman; and with his receiving targets, he is much more capable of moving the chains using the passing game. In addition, the Giants O-line is excellent in pass protection giving Manning plenty of time to find his receivers.

The good news for the Falcons is the injuries to Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw. Nicks is a do it all receiver for the Giants and is very important especially in his ability to move the chains for the offense. If he is limited, the Falcons could have more success with a single high safety look and 8 men in the box. Bradshaw is the other significant injury that could help the Falcons. Although, David Wilson, Bradshaw’s backup is fast and shifty, the Falcons have had much more success with speed backs considering the closing speed on this defense. The more significant tackling problems have come against physical runners like Bradshaw. Even with the injuries though, this is one of the most potent offenses the Falcons have faced all year and the Falcons defense will do well to limit them to less than 25 points in the game.

Giants Defense Vs Falcons Offense

This is where the game will be decided; specifically how the offensive line fares against the pass rushing hydra that is the Giants defensive line. The Giants defensive line has been a statistically mediocre pass rushing unit this season but I have no doubt that they are capable of being among the very best at making life hell for Matt Ryan on Sunday which means the Falcons will have to lean on the two units of their offense that have been the shakiest – the offensive line and the running backs.

The Giants defense has been atrocious against the run this season. They are allowing 4.7 YPA (29th in NFL) and 123.3 YPG on the ground and have suffered from mediocre play from the DT as well as the linebacker positions. The other significant weakness that the Falcons can exploit is in the secondary. They are allowing 63% of the passes thrown at them to be completed @ 8.1 yards per attempt. In addition, they allow TDs on 4.6% of all passes attempted (better than Eli Manning has managed). The only redeeming stat for the Giants secondary is that they are adept at picking off passes (close to twice as effective as the average NFL defense). The key here again is offensive line performance because Ryan can most likely annihilate the Giants secondary if the line can keep him upright long enough but if he is forced to dump off to his RBs or force passes in the middle of the field we could have a long day.

Special Teams

The Giants have a good special teams unit highlighted by the electric David Wilson. Matt Bosher is going to have to be on his game especially on kickoffs where he has to do better than the 3 kickoff returns per game that Atlanta allows on average. The Falcons coverage units have been vulnerable this season and if Wilson gets three decent shots he could possibly break one open.

Key Battles

No surprises here. It’s going to be between the Falcons offensive line Vs the Giants defensive line.

Moral of the story

The Giants are a bad matchup for this Falcons team. The 2010 Falcons with their run based, chew the clock away offense would match up better against this Giants team. The Falcons need to come out looking to control the game with the running game and short quick passes to put the Giants D-line on their heels. Ideally, the Falcons would run behind their tackles and right at the vaunted Giants defensive ends forcing them to pay attention to their run responsibilities. Unfortunately, I do not think this is possible with Michael Turner behind this offensive line. If the Falcons are intent on winning this game they need to commit to Jacquizz Rodgers here. His shiftiness and dual threat is essential to keeping the Giants off balance as well as pressuring their mediocre linebacker core.

This is the game I’m least confident about this season and considering we play the Superbowl champions it seems apt. The funny thing is though, I actually think we are capable of beating them in an elimination game but I am still not sure if the Falcons will bring playoff intensity to this game. Giants fans are probably frustrated by their team coming to playing only when they feel like it. Unfortunately, despite not having won anything this Falcons team has an infuriating habit of doing the same. They seemingly refuse to get serious until they are in trouble. Unfortunately, this Giants team is built to punish such behavior. Get behind and you will pay heavily. I hope the Falcons come ready to play on Sunday.

  

Stats used in this article are from ESPN.com unless stated otherwise.

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