1. Vic Beasley and O’Brien Schofield vs. Marshall Newhouse and Ereck Flowers – This is a huge battle that could determine the outcome of the game. Beasley and Schofield have been impressive to this point in a Falcons uniform. Against a strong Eagles offensive line, they combined for four tackles and two quarterback hits.
Marshall Newhouse is no Jason Peters, and he could really struggle against the revamped Atlanta pass rush. Newhouse was the 60th-ranked tackle in 2014 by Pro Football Focus, and the journeyman could be in for a long day. Ereck Flowers is a rookie and struggled last week. This is a crucial matchup in this game.
2. Desmond Trufant vs. Odell Beckham – We all know how good Odell Beckham Jr. is, and Desmond Trufant is likely to be the man to stop him. Don’t be surprised if Beckham receives extra attention from a safety, which the Cowboys successfully did against him last week. In last year’s game, Beckham caught four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown, but Trufant received one of his worst PFF grades of the season with minus-0.9.
If Trufant can slow down Beckham, it will go a long way to neutralizing the Giants’ offense. An elite receiver up against an elite cornerback is always going to be fun, but I don’t think Beckham will see too many one-on-ones.
Sep 13, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr (13) runs after a reception against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Tyler Patmon (26) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
3. Falcons receivers vs. Giants secondary – The Falcons offense will test out this New York defense, and there are plenty of targets for Matt Ryan. Julio Jones is the obvious one, and he will draw plenty of attention from the secondary. What will be key here is exploiting any one-on-one matchups he receives, and picking out the other receivers anytime Julio is well covered. They can’t double everyone, and Roddy White and Leonard Hankerson will need to complement Jones in the aerial attack. White did a great job in this role last week.
4. Tevin Coleman vs. Giants run defense – The Giants owned the league’s 30th ranked run defense in 2014, and while it looked solid against Dallas last week, Atlanta will test just how good it is. Tevin Coleman impressed on debut with 80 yards from his 20 carries, and the Falcons will look to establish balance on offense once again. This will mean plenty of carries for Coleman.
5. Matt Ryan vs. Eli Manning – Although these two won’t be on the field at the same time, the quarterback who performs better might just win the game. Neither was remarkable last week. Manning didn’t throw any picks, but he also didn’t throw a touchdown pass. Ryan was productive when moving the football, but a few uncharacteristic errors resulted in two interceptions.
Whichever quarterback performs better in the fourth quarter, and makes no bad calls (I’m looking at you, Eli) could lead their team to victory.