Atlanta at The Meadowlands

Whichever team wins, this game may well be defined in terms of the two quarterbacks.   If Atlanta wins, Matt Ryan will be said to have finally won a “big game” and enter the group of great current QBs, while questions will be raised about where Eli Manning’s  2007 playoff magic disappeared to.  If the Giants win, Eli will solidify Giants’ fans views of him as a better clutch QB than many of his contemporaries: Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and, yes, Matt Ryan.

But this game, as are many games in this, the greatest Passing Era in the history of the NFL. really may be about whose supporting cast performs better.   First, as often is the case, the team that pressures the opponent more is likely to win the game, while the converse is true as well: whoever gives their QB the most time will probably win.  And the Giants are doing a much better job of pressuring QBs lately.  The key will be whether the Giants newly invigorate pass rush will be able to pressure Ryan before his deep threats can get deep.

Both QBs have elite receiving corps.  The one edge that the Falcons have here is that they also have a big-time pass-catching tight end.

And Atlanta has the better RB in Michael Turner, whom Atlanta will try to consistently feed. The Giants have a two-headed running monster of Bradshaw and Jacobs underperformed this year, but have played better as late.  Atlanta has a chance to win if Turner can eat up big yardage on the ground.

On the other side, the Falcons are missing their best cornerback, Brent Grimes, which means the difficult task of covering both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks will be even harder.  Based on recent stellar performances by Cruz, I’d guess the focus will be on him, giving Nicks and Manningham the chance to thrive.

An injured defense is not a good way to slow Eli Manning, who’s had his best statistical year.  However, if Atlanta can confuse Eli into a few misplaced balls, they can win.

Giants are healthier and have the home game.

Giants 34 Atlanta 27.


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